...it's not dark yet, but it's gettin' there...

January 19, 2005

Wednesday Is Poetry Day

Better late than never, but this one is worth the wait. It's by Eighteenth Century English poet, Thomas Gray. Like many a favorite poem, it's about temptation and desire.

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!

That was a fun one, wasn't it? Did you catch that not-so-hidden reference to nine lives in the penultimate stanza?

Posted by annika, Jan. 19, 2005 |
Rubric: Poetry


Not to mention that the final line is perhaps the most misquoted one in English lit. Who uses "glisteRs" anymore?

Great choice.

Posted by: Hugo on Jan. 20, 2005

I'm so rusty on my Greek mythology that I missed half the poem. However, last I checked, "Tom" and "Susan" were not Greek names. Do they refer to anything in particular? And did George Martin insert backwards masking into the Finnish mix of the alternate take of "Love Me Do"? I'm overanalyzing, and will stop now...

Posted by: Ontario Emperor on Jan. 21, 2005

It's not Wednesday yet, but I rediscovered a favorite of mine recently. This year commemorates 20 years since "Brothers in Arms" was released, supposedly the first album to ever sell a million copies.

Here I am again in this mean old town
And you're so far away from me
And where are you when the sun goes down
You're so far away from me


So far away from me
So far I just can't see
So far away from me
You're so far away from me

I get so tired when I have to explain
When you're so far away from me
See you've been in the sun
and I've been in the rain
And you're so far away from me

Posted by: Mark on Jan. 24, 2005

My favorite Gray is probably "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard".
The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave, Awaits alike the inevitable hour.
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

General Wolfe, the conquerer of Quebec, is supposed to have spent the better part of a week on board ship moping over this poem. Not long after that, his path of glory led to a grave as well.

Posted by: Dr_Funk on Jan. 25, 2005