Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat, Drowned in a Tub of Gold Fishes

1 'Twas on a lofty vase's side,
2 Where China's gayest art had dyed
3 The azure flowers, that blow;
4 Demurest of the tabby kind,
5 The pensive Selima reclined,
6 Gazed on the lake below.
7 Her conscious tail her joy declared;
8 The fair round face, the snowy beard,
9 The velvet of her paws,
10 Her coat, that with the tortoise vies,
11 Her ears of jet, and emerald eyes,
12 She saw; and purred applause.
13 Still had she gazed; but 'midst the tide
14 Two angel forms were seen to glide,
15 The genii of the stream:
16 Their scaly armour's Tyrian hue
17 Through richest purple to the view
18 Betrayed a golden gleam.
19 The hapless nymph with wonder saw:
20 A whisker first and then a claw,
21 With many an ardent wish,
22 She stretched in vain to reach the prize.
23 What female heart can gold despise?
24 What cat's averse to fish?
25 Presumptuous maid! with looks intent
26 Again she stretched, again she bent,
27 Nor knew the gulf between.
28 (Malignant Fate sat by, and smiled)
29 The slippery verge her feet beguiled,
30 She tumbled headlong in.
31 Eight times emerging from the flood
32 She mewed to every watery god,
33 Some speedy aid to send.
34 No dolphin came, no Nereid stirred:
35 Nor cruel Tom, nor Susan heard.
36 A favourite has no friend!
37 From hence, ye beauties, undeceived,
38 Know, one false step is ne'er retrieved,
39 And be with caution bold.
40 Not all that tempts your wandering eyes
41 And heedless hearts, is lawful prize;
42 Nor all that glisters gold.


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About this text

Title (in Source Edition): Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat, Drowned in a Tub of Gold Fishes
Author: Thomas Gray
Themes: advice; moral precepts; animals; death
Genres: ballad metre; ode; Song to David-stanza; fable; mock heroic

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Source edition

Gray, Thomas, 1716-1771. Thomas Gray: English poems. Web. Oxford: Thomas Gray Archive, 2002. http://www.thomasgray.org/texts/poems.shtml

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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.

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