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The Retired Cat - Poem by William Cowper

A poet's cat, sedate and grave
As poet well could wish to have,
Was much addicted to inquire
For nooks to which she might retire,
And where, secure as mouse in chink,
She might repose, or sit and think.
I know not where she caught the trick--
Nature perhaps herself had cast her
In such a mould [lang f]philosophique[lang e],
Or else she learn'd it of her master.
Sometimes ascending, debonair,
An apple-tree or lofty pear,
Lodg'd with convenience in the fork,
She watch'd the gardener at his work;
Sometimes her ease and solace sought
In an old empty wat'ring-pot;
There, wanting nothing save a fan
To seem some nymph in her sedan,
Apparell'd in exactest sort,
And ready to be borne to court.

But love of change, it seems, has place
Not only in our wiser race;
Cats also feel, as well as we,
That passion's force, and so did she.
Her climbing, she began to find,
Expos'd her too much to the wind,
And the old utensil of tin
Was cold and comfortless within:
She therefore wish'd instead of those
Some place of more serene repose,
Where neither cold might come, nor air
Too rudely wanton with her hair,
And sought it in the likeliest mode
Within her master's snug abode.

A drawer, it chanc'd, at bottom lin'd
With linen of the softest kind,
With such as merchants introduce
From India, for the ladies' use--
A drawer impending o'er the rest,
Half-open in the topmost chest,
Of depth enough, and none to spare,
Invited her to slumber there;
Puss with delight beyond expression
Survey'd the scene, and took possession.
Recumbent at her ease ere long,
And lull'd by her own humdrum song,
She left the cares of life behind,
And slept as she would sleep her last,
When in came, housewifely inclin'd
The chambermaid, and shut it fast;
By no malignity impell'd,
But all unconscious whom it held.

Awaken'd by the shock, cried Puss,
"Was ever cat attended thus!
The open drawer was left, I see,
Merely to prove a nest for me.
For soon as I was well compos'd,
Then came the maid, and it was clos'd.
How smooth these kerchiefs, and how sweet!
Oh, what a delicate retreat!
I will resign myself to rest
Till Sol, declining in the west,
Shall call to supper, when, no doubt,
Susan will come and let me out."

The evening came, the sun descended,
And puss remain'd still unattended.
The night roll'd tardily away
(With her indeed 'twas never day),
The sprightly morn her course renew'd,
The evening gray again ensued,
And puss came into mind no more
Than if entomb'd the day before.
With hunger pinch'd, and pinch'd for room,
She now presag'd approaching doom,
Nor slept a single wink, or purr'd,
Conscious of jeopardy incurr'd.

That night, by chance, the poet watching
Heard an inexplicable scratching;
His noble heart went pit-a-pat
And to himself he said, "What's that?"
He drew the curtain at his side,
And forth he peep'd, but nothing spied;
Yet, by his ear directed, guess'd
Something imprison'd in the chest,
And, doubtful what, with prudent care
Resolv'd it should continue there.
At length a voice which well he knew,
A long and melancholy mew,
Saluting his poetic ears,
Consol'd him, and dispell'd his fears:
He left his bed, he trod the floor,
He 'gan in haste the drawers explore,
The lowest first, and without stop
The rest in order to the top;
For 'tis a truth well known to most,
That whatsoever thing is lost,
We seek it, ere it come to light,
In ev'ry cranny but the right.
Forth skipp'd the cat, not now replete
As erst with airy self-conceit,
Nor in her own fond apprehension
A theme for all the world's attention,
But modest, sober, cured of all
Her notions hyperbolical,
And wishing for a place of rest
Anything rather than a chest.
Then stepp'd the poet into bed,
With this reflection in his head:MORAL


Beware of too sublime a sense
Of your own worth and consequence.
The man who dreams himself so great,
And his importance of such weight,
That all around in all that's done
Must move and act for him alone,
Will learn in school of tribulation
The folly of his expectation.


Comments about The Retired Cat by William Cowper

  • Rookie - 20 Points Ian Fraser (2/17/2009 4:45:00 PM)

    I have a special fondness for the work of William Cowper as I spent most of my childhood very close to Olney, where he wrote most of work.The house in which he lived is still there, substantially unchanged and is well worth a visit for an insight into middle-class country life 250 years ago.I have chosen this poem of his rather than the rather gloomy and depressive late poems such as 'The Castaway' or any of the hymns, as I find their Calvinism rather oppressive, famous though some of them are. Cowper is sometimes described as a pre-romantic.But the vast majority of his writing falls much more easily into the classical tradition of moralism.This is a fine example of a style very popular in the 18th century, the mock heroic. In it Cowper lifts a very common everyday incident, a cat sleeping in a drawer, into a wonderful mini-epic of charming, self-deprecating ironic moralising. Cowper wrote several poems about pets including the splendid 'Colubriad' which is unfortunately not printed here, which recounts the titanic struggle of his pet cat with a snake... (Report) Reply

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Poems About Cat

  1. 51. The Retired Cat , William Cowper
  2. 52. ****paradise-Patsy The Cat , Coach Roth
  3. 53. Cat Among The Pigeons , Herbert Nehrlich
  4. 54. Cat Nap , Linda Hepner
  5. 55. All My Cat Wants Is Food (Attempted Humor) , Sarah Sisson
  6. 56. Cat, Cat, Pussy Cat , gajanan mishra
  7. 57. Like A Cheshire Cat , Ernestine Northover
  8. 58. A Cat Is A Cat , Karin Holloway
  9. 59. The Cat & I , Dónall Dempsey
  10. 60. The Fable Of 'Belling The Cat', Modern V.. , Sidi J. Mahtrow
  11. 61. Curiosity Killed The Cat , Audrey Heller
  12. 62. A Cat Nudges Me , john tiong chunghoo
  13. 63. Black Cat Crossed Her Path On Friday The.. , Ted Sheridan
  14. 64. Cat , Gary McPhail
  15. 65. A Cat Called Tiger , john tiong chunghoo
  16. 66. A Black Cat Crossed My Path , Connie Webb
  17. 67. Alternative Voicing: The Cat In The Hat .. , Professor Poetry Hound
  18. 68. Johnny Cat That Talking Cat. , Michael Gale
  19. 69. Cat Nap , ivor or ivor.e hogg
  20. 70. The Cat And My Hat , David Darbyshire
  21. 71. The Cat , Arynn D. Akins
  22. 72. If I Were A Jibjib Cat , Tan Pratonix
  23. 73. How To Be A Cat , Hans Ostrom
  24. 74. The Cat Or Count... , Tsira Gogeshvili
  25. 75. Where's That Cat? , Michael Gale
  26. 76. Schroedinger's Cat , gershon hepner
  27. 77. Have You Ever Seen A Cat That Could Dance? , Kenny Love
  28. 78. A Cat Cry , Otteri Selvakumar
  29. 79. Kitty Cat Heaven , Aldo Kraas
  30. 80. Scaredy Cat (Children) , C.J. Heck
  31. 81. Wicked Kitty Cat , Pirate Love Magic Man
  32. 82. ''Let The Cat Die'' , Barbara Attaway
  33. 83. No More Cat , James Mills
  34. 84. Cat Girl , Adryan Rotica
  35. 85. My Cat Is A Happy Cat , s./j. goldner
  36. 86. A Cat Is Always A Cat , Edward Kofi Louis
  37. 87. The Cat , Charles M Moore
  38. 88. Pantomime – Red Skelton And His Cat , Sidi J. Mahtrow
  39. 89. The End Of The Cat , Herbert Nehrlich
  40. 90. My Cat , Sylvia Chidi
  41. 91. Stray Cat , Theresa Ann Moore
  42. 92. Cat Nap , David Taylor
  43. 93. An Offended Cat , john tiong chunghoo
  44. 94. My Cat The Acrobat , Theresa Ann Moore
  45. 95. Cat And Mouse , Jeremy Williams
  46. 96. Cat Envy , Sonya Florentino
  47. 97. Cat: Wild Cat , Michel Galiana
  48. 98. Arnie The Cat , Gerard Heathcote
  49. 99. When My Cat Came For Tea- Fun , Lisa Cresswell Wilkinson
  50. 100. The Cat Still Wander Free , Francis Duggan
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