Verse > Anthologies > Harvard Classics > English Poetry I: From Chaucer to Gray
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   English Poetry I: From Chaucer to Gray.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
292. On a Favourite Cat, Drowned in a Tub of Gold Fishes
 
Thomas Gray (1716–1771)
 
 
’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,        5
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,        10
Her ears of jet, and emerald eyes—
She saw, and purr’d applause.
 
Still had she gazed, but ’midst the tide
Two angel forms were seen to glide,
The Genii of the stream:        15
Their scaly armour’s Tyrian hue
Through richest purple, to the view
Betray’d a golden gleam.
 
The hapless Nymph with wonder saw:
A whisker first, and then a claw        20
With many an ardent wish
She stretch’d, in vain, to reach the prize—
What female heart can gold despise?
What Cat’s averse to fish?
 
Presumptuous maid! with looks intent        25
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!        30
 
Eight times emerging from the flood
She mew’d to every watery God
Some speedy aid to send:—
No Dolphin came, no Nereid stirr’d.
Nor cruel Tom nor Susan heard—        35
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        40
And heedless hearts, is lawful prize,
Nor all that glisters, gold!
 

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