Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat Drowned in a Tub of Goldfishes

Original Text: 
Robert Dodsley, A Collection of Poems by Several Hands (London: R. Dodsley, 1748). B-10 9141 Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto).
2Where China's gayest art had dy'd
3      The azure flow'rs that blow;
4Demurest of the tabby kind,
5The pensive Selima, reclin'd,
6      Gazed on the lake below.
7Her conscious tail her joy declar'd;
8The fair round face, the snowy beard,
9      The velvet of her paws,
10Her coat, that with the tortoise vies,
11Her ears of jet, and emerald eyes,
12      She saw: and purr'd applause.
13Still had she gaz'd; but 'midst the tide
14Two angel forms were seen to glide,
15      The Genii of the stream;
17Thro' richest purple to the view
18      Betray'd a golden gleam.
19The hapless Nymph with wonder saw:
20A whisker first and then a claw,
21      With many an ardent wish,
22She stretch'd in vain to reach the prize.
23What female heart can gold despise?
24      What cat's averse to fish?
25Presumptuous Maid! with looks intent
26Again she stretch'd, again she bent,
27      Nor knew the gulf between.
28(Malignant Fate sat by, and smil'd)
29The slipp'ry verge her feet beguil'd,
30      She tumbled headlong in.
31Eight times emerging from the flood
32She mew'd to ev'ry wat'ry god,
33      Some speedy aid to send.
35Nor cruel Tom, nor Susan heard.
36      A Fav'rite has no friend!
37From hence, ye Beauties, undeceiv'd,
38Know, one false step is ne'er retriev'd,
39      And be with caution bold.
40Not all that tempts your wand'ring eyes
41And heedless hearts is lawful prize,


1] First published, anonymously, in Dodsley's A Collection of Poems by Several Hands, 1748; addressed to a cat belonging to the poet's friend Horace Walpole, to whom Gray sent a copy, March 1, 1747. Back to Line
16] Tyrian hue: purple (see next line). The ancient city of Tyre in Phoenicia was famous for its purple dye. Back to Line
34] Dolphin. The allusion is to the story of the poet Arion, who was rescued from drowning by dolphins charmed with his song.
Nereid: a sea-nymph. Back to Line
42] A proverbial expression. Cf. Chaucer, Canon's Yeoman's Tale, 243-44: "But al thyng which that shineth as the gold/Nis nat gold, as that I have herd it told." Cf. also Spenser, The Faerie Queene, II, viii, 14: "Yet gold all is not, that doth golden seeme." Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
G. G. Falle
RPO Edition: 
3RP 2.218.