Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat, Drowned in a Tub of Gold Fishes

by Thomas Gray
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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 195

The primary character in this poem is the favorite cat of the title. The speaker is obviously extremely fond of her female cat, using human terms such as "presumptuous maid" to describe her and praising her "velvet" paws and tabby fur. The cat is unable to resist the fish she sees swimming in the pond; she falls in, and although she emerges eight times, mewing to be helped, there is no saving her—she has reached for "gold" which is not hers to take, and as such succumbs to a watery fate in the pond. In the end, the poor cat, the speaker's "nymph," is drowned.

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The only other characters in the poem, aside from the narrator—who appears to have observed this situation, but does not actually place himself within the tableau he describes—are the fish themselves. The speaker describes them as "genii" in a stream, with "scaly armor" which glistens like gold under the water. The appeal of the fish proves beyond the cat's power to resist.

The speaker also mentions, in passing, Tom and Susan, who do not come to the cat's aid, but no further information is given about them.

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