Home  »  English Poetry I  »  292. On a Favourite Cat, Drowned in a Tub of Gold Fishes

English Poetry I: From Chaucer to Gray.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

Thomas Gray

292. On a Favourite Cat, Drowned in a Tub of Gold Fishes

’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 purr’d 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

Betray’d a golden gleam.

The hapless Nymph with wonder saw:

A whisker first, and then a claw

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

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 mew’d to every watery God

Some speedy aid to send:—

No Dolphin came, no Nereid stirr’d.

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!