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Short poem

Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909)

To a Cat

              1Stately, kindly, lordly friend,
              2    Condescend
              3Here to sit by me, and turn
              4Glorious eyes that smile and burn,
              5Golden eyes, love's lustrous meed,
              6On the golden page I read.

              7All your wondrous wealth of hair,
              8    Dark and fair,
              9Silken-shaggy, soft and bright
            10As the clouds and beams of night,
            11Pays my reverent hand's caress
            12Back with friendlier gentleness.

            13Dogs may fawn on all and some
            14    As they come;
            15You, a friend of loftier mind,
            16Answer friends alone in kind.
            17Just your foot upon my hand
            18Softly bids it understand.

            19Morning round this silent sweet
            20    Garden-seat
            21Sheds its wealth of gathering light,
            22Thrills the gradual clouds with might,
            23Changes woodland, orchard, heath,
            24Lawn, and garden there beneath.

            25Fair and dim they gleamed below:
            26    Now they glow
            27Deep as even your sunbright eyes,
            28Fair as even the wakening skies.
            29Can it not or can it be
            30Now that you give thanks to see?

            31May not you rejoice as I,
            32    Seeing the sky
            33Change to heaven revealed, and bid
            34Earth reveal the heaven it hid
            35All night long from stars and moon,
            36Now the sun sets all in tune?

            37What within you wakes with day
            38    Who can say?
            39All too little may we tell,
            40Friends who like each other well,
            41What might haply, if we might,
            42Bid us read our lives aright.

            43Wild on woodland ways your sires
            44    Flashed like fires:
            45Fair as flame and fierce and fleet
            46As with wings on wingless feet
            47Shone and sprang your mother, free,
            48Bright and brave as wind or sea.

            49Free and proud and glad as they,
            50    Here to-day
            51Rests or roams their radiant child,
            52Vanquished not, but reconciled,
            53Free from curb of aught above
            54Save the lovely curb of love.

            55Love through dreams of souls divine
            56    Fain would shine
            57Round a dawn whose light and song
            58Then should right our mutual wrong --
            59Speak, and seal the love-lit law
            60Sweet Assisi's seer foresaw.

            61Dreams were theirs; yet haply may
            62    Dawn a day
            63When such friends and fellows born,
            64Seeing our earth as fair at morn,
            65May for wiser love's sake see
            66More of heaven's deep heart than we.


60] Assisi's seer: St. Francis of Assisi.

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Swinburne's Collected Poetical Works, 2 vols. (London: William Heinemann, 1924): II, 1093-95.
First publication date: 30 December 1893
Publication date note: The Athenaeum (Dec. 30, 1893): 914; then Astrophel and Other Poems (): 197-201.
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO (1999).
Recent editing: 2:2002/5/2

Rhyme: aabbcc

Other poems by Algernon Charles Swinburne