Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat Drowned in a Tub of Goldfishes

By Thomas Gray 1716–1771 Thomas Gray
’Twas on a lofty vase’s side,
Where China’s gayest art had dyed
   The azure flowers that blow;
Demurest of the tabby kind,
The pensive Selima, reclined,
   Gazed on the lake below.

Her conscious tail her joy declared;
The fair round face, the snowy beard,
   The velvet of her paws,
Her coat, that with the tortoise vies,
Her ears of jet, and emerald eyes,
   She saw; and purred applause.

Still had she gazed; but ’midst the tide
Two angel forms were seen to glide,
   The genii of the stream;
Their scaly armour’s Tyrian hue
Through richest purple to the view
   Betrayed a golden gleam.

The hapless nymph with wonder saw;
A whisker first and then a claw,
   With many an ardent wish,
She stretched in vain to reach the prize.
What female heart can gold despise?
   What cat’s averse to fish?

Presumptuous maid! with looks intent
Again she stretch’d, again she bent,
   Nor knew the gulf between.
(Malignant Fate sat by, and smiled)
The slippery verge her feet beguiled,
   She tumbled headlong in.
Eight times emerging from the flood
She mewed to every watery god,
   Some speedy aid to send.
No dolphin came, no Nereid stirred;
Nor cruel Tom, nor Susan heard;
   A Favourite has no friend!

From hence, ye beauties, undeceived,
Know, one false step is ne’er retrieved,
   And be with caution bold.
Not all that tempts your wandering eyes
And heedless hearts, is lawful prize;
   Nor all that glisters, gold.

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Poet Thomas Gray 1716–1771

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Augustan

Subjects Arts & Sciences, Relationships, Humor & Satire, Living, Pets, Sorrow & Grieving, Death

Poetic Terms Elegy

 Thomas  Gray

Biography

Thomas Gray is generally considered the second most important poet of the eighteenth century (following the dominant figure of Alexander Pope) and the most disappointing. It was generally assumed by friends and readers that he was the most talented poet of his generation, but the relatively small and even reluctantly published body of his works has left generations of scholars puzzling over the reasons for his limited production . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Arts & Sciences, Relationships, Humor & Satire, Living, Pets, Sorrow & Grieving, Death

POET’S REGION England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Augustan

Poetic Terms Elegy

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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