Gentle Reader, I can recite this week’s offering from memory; I declaim to general acclaim. It’s an old favorite, and the origin of the phrase “Not all that glitters is gold.” I present Thomas Gray’sOde on the Death of a Favorite Cat, Drowned In A Tub of Goldfishes* ‘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, The coat that with the tortoise vies, The ears of jet, the 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 armour’s Tyrian hue Though richest purple to the view Betrayed a golden gleam. The hapless nymph with wonder saw; A whisker first, 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 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 stirred; Nor cruel Tom, nor Susan heard; A Favourite has no friend! From hence, ye beauties, undeceived, 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.
* I feel that I should note that it isn’t that Gray doesn’t know how to properly use semi-colons – it’s just that they were new and fashionable and their modern usage hadn’t been quite nailed down, yet. Really.