Thomas Gray

On the Death of a Favorite Cat

Poem 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 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:
   (Maligant 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 or 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.