Thursday, February 11, 2010

Thomas Gray's, "Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat," is a curious poem. The prefatory letter to Horace Walpole suggests that the poem is meant to mock Walpole's love for his animal. Perhaps it was jealousy of Walpole's election to the royal society, or perhaps they are friends and he is merely poking fun of Walpole, but Gray takes delight in making fun of the cat. He even begins by pointing out that he has no idea which of Walpole's cat died in a most unfortunate drowning accident and goes on to say that the poem is one of his best literary achievements.

Clearly he finds the death of the cat quite humorous as he goes on to describe the cat's unfortunate drowning accident:

Presumptuous maid! with looks intent 25
Again she stretched, again she bent,
Nor knew the gulf between.
(Malignant Fate sat by, and smiled)
The slippery verge her feet beguiled,
She tumbled headlong in.

In no way should one take Gray's account seriously, however I would like to discover his intent. Was Gray being malicious in his mockery or was he merely having a laugh with a friend?

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