Ode on the Death of a Favorite Cat 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 armor’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 every watery god,
Some speedy aid to send.
No dolphin came, no Nereid stirred;
Nor cruel Tom, nor Susan heard;
A favorite 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.

P.S. This poem was part of my ICSE school curriculum, taught in 8th grade…and is one of my favorite poems.

How I wonder what you are!

… flowers and clouds, and softer things
such tenderness wherewith life begins
in stately dorms or bourgeois homes,
or utterly destitute honeycombs,
and passes from versions of innocence
into states of constant sufferance,
painted with smiles and  laughs at places
also with meaning but only in traces
-in manner of fame and ranks and degrees
or heartbreak, poverty, loss and disease..
With silent craving for deliverance
from here to blissful ignorance…
we drown, float and drift onwards,
packing memories into pictures, songs, written words
– like treasures, reminders and proofs of past
we make them live longer than we last,
so we may go through them in wrinkled skins
when the counting down of days begins
to end ‘up above the world so high
like a diamond in the sky…’