[Page 194]


1 WANTON droll, whose harmless play
2 Beguiles the rustic's closing day,
3 When, drawn the evening fire about,
4 Sit aged crone and thoughtless lout,
5 And child upon his three-foot stool,
6 Waiting till his supper cool,
7 And maid, whose cheek outblooms the rose,
8 As bright the blazing faggot glows,
9 Who, bending to the friendly light,
10 Plies her task with busy slight;
11 Come, shew thy tricks and sportive graces,
12 Thus circled round with merry faces.
13 Backward coiled and crouching low,
14 With glaring eyeballs watch thy foe,
[Page 195]
15 The housewife's spindle whirling round,
16 Or thread or straw that on the ground
17 Its shadow throws, by urchin sly
18 Held out to lure thy roving eye;
19 Then stealing onward, fiercely spring
20 Upon the tempting faithless thing.
21 Now, wheeling round with bootless skill,
22 Thy bo-peep tail provokes thee still,
23 As still beyond thy curving side
24 Its jetty tip is seen to glide;
25 Till from thy centre starting far,
26 Thou sidelong veer'st with rump in air
27 Erected stiff, and gait awry,
28 Like madam in her tantrums high;
29 Though ne'er a madam of them all,
30 Whose silken kirtle sweeps the hall,
31 More varied trick and whim displays
32 To catch the admiring stranger's gaze.
33 Doth power in measured verses dwell,
34 All thy vagaries wild to tell?
[Page 196]
35 Ah no! the start, the jet, the bound,
36 The giddy scamper round and round,
37 With leap and toss and high curvet,
38 And many a whirling somerset,
39 (Permitted by the modern muse
40 Expression technical to use)
41 These mock the deftest rhymester's skill,
42 But poor in art though rich in will.
43 The featest tumbler, stage bedight,
44 To thee is but a clumsy wight,
45 Who every limb and sinew strains
46 To do what costs thee little pains;
47 For which, I trow, the gaping crowd
48 Requite him oft with plaudits loud.
49 But, stopped the while thy wanton play,
50 Applauses too thy pains repay:
51 For then, beneath some urchin's hand
52 With modest pride thou takest thy stand,
53 While many a stroke of kindness glides
54 Along thy back and tabby sides.
[Page 197]
55 Dilated swells thy glossy fur,
56 And loudly croons thy busy pur,
57 As, timing well the equal sound,
58 Thy clutching feet bepat the ground,
59 And all their harmless claws disclose
60 Like prickles of an early rose,
61 While softly from thy whiskered cheek
62 Thy half-closed eyes peer, mild and meek.
63 But not alone by cottage fire
64 Do rustics rude thy feats admire.
65 The learned sage, whose thoughts explore
66 The widest range of human lore,
67 Or with unfettered fancy fly
68 Through airy heights of poesy,
69 Pausing smiles with altered air
70 To see thee climb his elbow-chair,
71 Or, struggling on the mat below,
72 Hold warfare with his slippered toe.
73 The widowed dame or lonely maid,
74 Who, in the still but cheerless shade
[Page 198]
75 Of home unsocial, spends her age
76 And rarely turns a lettered page,
77 Upon her hearth for thee lets fall
78 The rounded cork or paper ball,
79 Nor chides thee on thy wicked watch,
80 The ends of ravelled skein to catch,
81 But lets thee have thy wayward will,
82 Perplexing oft her better skill.
83 Even he, whose mind of gloomy bent,
84 In lonely tower or prison pent,
85 Reviews the coil of former days,
86 And loathes the world and all its ways,
87 What time the lamp's unsteady gleam
88 Hath roused him from his moody dream,
89 Feels, as thou gambol'st round his seat,
90 His heart of pride less fiercely beat,
91 And smiles, a link in thee to find,
92 That joins it still to living kind.
93 Whence hast thou then, thou witless puss!
94 The magic power to charm us thus?
[Page 199]
95 Is it that in thy glaring eye
96 And rapid movements, we descry
97 Whilst we at ease, secure from ill,
98 The chimney corner snugly fill
99 A lion darting on his prey,
100 A tiger at his ruthless play?
101 Or is it that in thee we trace
102 With all thy varied wanton grace,
103 An emblem, viewed with kindred eye,
104 Of tricky, restless infancy?
105 Ah! many a lightly sportive child,
106 Who hath like thee our wits beguiled,
107 To dull and sober manhood grown,
108 With strange recoil our hearts disown.
109 And so, poor kit! must thou endure,
110 When thou becomest a cat demure,
111 Full many a cuff and angry word,
112 Chased roughly from the tempting board.
113 But yet, for that thou hast, I ween,
114 So oft our favoured play-mate been,
[Page 200]
115 Soft be the change which thou shalt prove!
116 When time hath spoiled thee of our love,
117 Still be thou deemed by housewife fat
118 A comely, careful, mousing cat,
119 Whose dish is, for the public good,
120 Replenished oft with savoury food.
121 Nor, when thy span of life is past,
122 Be thou to pond or dung-hill cast,
123 But, gently borne on goodman's spade,
124 Beneath the decent sod be laid;
125 And children shew with glistening eyes
126 The place where poor old pussy lies.


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About this text

Title (in Source Edition): THE KITTEN.
Genres: comic verse

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Source edition

Baillie, Joanna, 1762-1851. Fugitive Verses. By Joanna Baillie, author of “Dramas on the Passions,“ etc. London: Edward Moxon, Dover Street. MDCCCXL., 1840, pp. 194-200.  (Page images digitized from a copy in the Bodleian Library [40.17].)

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Typography, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation have been cautiously modernized. The source of the text is given and all significant editorial interventions have been recorded in textual notes. This ECPA text has been edited to conform to the recommendations found in Level 5 of the Best Practices for TEI in Libraries version 4.0.0.

Other works by Joanna Baillie