Ode On The Death Of A Favourite Cat "A Favorite Has No Friend"
by Thomas Gray

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"A Favorite Has No Friend"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: One of Thomas Gray's closest friends was Horace Walpole (1717-1797), an extremely wealthy dilettante who is remembered as England's most famous letter writer and as the builder of Strawberry Hill, an imitation Gothic castle filled with curios and objects of art. Gray's delightful and elegant piece of light verse concerns a favorite cat belonging to Walpole, which, in its eagerness to catch a gold fish in a bowl, fell in, and after coming to the surface eight times, lost its ninth life by drowning. Gray describes the cat, named Selima, reclining on the side of the bowl, waving her tail in anticipation, stretching "in vain to reach the prize. / What female heart can gold despise?/ What cat's averse to fish?" After the cat slipped into the bowl, "She mew'd to ev'ry wat'ry god," but no one heard her cry. The final stanza suggests a moral to the tale of Selima's demise:

No Dolphin came, no Nereid stirred:
No cruel Tom, nor Susan heard.
A fav'rite has no friend.
From hence, ye beauties, undeceiv'd,
Know, one false step is ne'er retriev'd,
And be with caution bold.
Not all that tempts your wand'ring eyes
And heedless hearts, is lawful prize;
Nor all that glisters, gold.