Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Nor all that Glisters Gold

Thomas Gray's 'Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat, Drowned in a Tub of Gold Fishes" is one of my favorite poems. One of the most interesting aspects of this poem is that it is an a cat. An ode is usually a serious poem exalting somebody important, so the fact that he writes this poem to a cat is humorous in some ways. His description of the cat can also be seen as how he portrays women: vain, shallow, and weak.
Stanzas 4 and 5 in particular reflect this view, as he describes Selima the cat as a "hapless nymph" who is drawn to her own reflection in the pond, drawing a comparison to Narcissus, whose vanity led to his drowning, and this is much the same way Selima goes. I particularly like the lines "What female heart can gold despise? / What cat's averse to fish?" Gray also compares her to a "Presumptuous maid," as if she has stepped out of line, and needs to be taught a lesson. My favorite stanza of the entire poem is the last one, where Gray teaches a lesson, presumably to the "beauties undeceived." His over-arching theme though, is not to be deceived by appearances, and that which may appear beautiful is only an illusion.

1 comment:

  1. I also enjoyed this poem immensely. I think it is interesting how gender roles are slowly changing since Milton. Assuming the cat represents women in society, this poem reflects a slightly wanton foolishness, rather than the scheming, manipulative character we saw in Eve.