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On the Death of a Favourite Cat, Drowned in a Tub of Gold Fishes
by Thomas Gray

English poet. His best known work is Elegy Written in a Country Church-Yard (written 1750, published 1751) where Gray celebrates the life of the "common man" in a way that anticipates Wordsworth. His first published work was Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College (1747), followed by Ode on the Spring and Sonnet on the Death of West. He wrote two Pindaric Odes The Progress of Poetry (1754) and The Bard (1757). He had an interest in Old Norse and Welsh poetry which produced The Fatal Sisters and The Descent of Odin (1768), and some of his letters also remain.

Gray had small output but was a dominant poet of the mid-eighteenth century pre-romantic era.


On the Death of a Favourite Cat, Drowned in a Tub of Gold Fishes
by 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 stretched, 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 ev'ry wat'ry god
Some speedy aid to send.
No dolphin came, no nereid stirred;
Nor cruel Tom, nor Susan heard.
A fav'rite 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 wand'ring eyes
And heedless hearts is lawful prize;
Nor all that glisters, gold.


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