Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, EPITAPH ON A CAT, by JOACHIM DU BELLAY



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EPITAPH ON A CAT, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Life I can no longer live
Last Line: Wage unceasing war on rats.
Alternate Author Name(s): Du Bellay, Joachim
Subject(s): Animals; Cats


LIFE I can no longer live,
Magny! if you bid me give
Cause of my despairing pain,
Of no losses I complain,
Rings or money, or of purse.
What then? Oh, 'tis something worse!
Three days since did Death destroy
My chief treasure, love, and joy.
What? The thought fresh grief doth wake,
'Tis as though my heart would break:
So to write or speak I dread--
Belaud, my grey cat is dead.
Belaud, who may well be said
Fairest work by nature made
'Mong the total race of cats;
Belaud, lethal foe of rats;
Belaud, with such charms as nigh
To earn immortality.
First of all, then, let me say,
Belaud was not wholly grey
As cats which in France are born,
But like those which Rome adorn.
Silvery grey, and softer far
Than or silk or satin are.

Small his head and teeth; his eyes
Shot no glance which terrifics,
But whose pupils, greenish-blue,
Somewhat imitate the hue
Which, through rain, the varied bow
'Thwart the heavenly arch doth throw.

Head to match his size appears,
Slim his neck, and short his ears,
And beneath his ebon nose
Mouth like a small lion shows;
And around his mouth there grew
A small beard of silvery hue,
Nature there had seemed to place
To defend his pretty face.
Small his paws, his legs were slim,
Like soft mittens smooth and trim;
Soft his throat was, and his tail
Long as those which monkeys trail,
Barred its length with many a band,
The fair work of Nature's hand.

Such Belaud! dear animal!
Who from head to foot was all
Of such beauty that I ween
Like of him was never seen.
Greater woe was ne'er conceived,
Loss that ne'er can be retrieved.
My sad heart is wrung. I wis
That e'en Death, although she is
Like a bear for cruelty,
Yet, had she ta'en pains to see
Such a cat, how fierce soe'er,
She had felt obliged to spare,
And my sad life would not now
Hatred still to live avow.

But stern Death did ne'er survey
All the pretty tricks and play
Of my Belaud, nor the grace
Of his every movement trace:
How he deftly scratched or leapt,
How he turned about or crept,
Or a rat caught, and awhile
Let it go, but then with guile
Quickly caught again, and so
Oft would take, oft let it go.

Often, with his dainty paw,
Would he gently stroke his jaw;
Or the rogue would slily sit
On my bed, or seize a bit
I was eating, yet he ne'er
Would offend or roughly tear,
But amused attention claims
By a thousand tricks and games.

Oh, Good Lord, what pleasant fun
'Twas to watch my Belaud run
Swiftly for a ball of thread,
Or when chose his merry head
After his own tail to race
Round and round in wheeling chase,
Like a garter fasten it
Round his legs as he did sit,
And so solemn looked, as he
Might a Sorbonne doctor be!
Or at times (a pretty sight)
He would make pretence to fight,
But soon, as again caressed,
All feigned anger he repressed.

Belaud's sport no malice hid,
Belaud never mischief did,
Nor worse crime, than but to seize
And bear off a scrap of cheese,
Or a linnet eat, whose song
Vexed him. This no doubt was wrong.

But we men, Magny, are not
Perfect in all points, I wot.
Belaud went not night and day,
As some cats do, after prey,
And for nought but eating care.
His expenditure was spare,
Small his appetite, and he
Took his diet frugally.

Belaud was my favourite,
Belaud my companion quite,
In my room, at bed and board,
Closer friendship did afford
Than by any dog is lent.
He by night ne'er howling went,
Like those dreadful cats who wake
Sleepers and night hidcous make.

Oh, my little Belaud! would
To heaven I had wit so good,
And a style of such high worth,
As to blaze thy merits forth;
Then, Belaud, I swear and vow,
That in verse as fine as thou,
You should live on earth, while cats
Wage unceasing war on rats.





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