Dec. 8th, 2011

lady_branwyn: (Default)
An elegy for Mike the Cat who guarded the British Museum for many years. The last four lines are widely quoted, but I finally found the entire poem on the amazing Purr-n-Fur.org.uk website.

TO THE MEMORY OF
"MIKE,"
THE MUSEUM CAT.
Died Jan. 15, 1929,
Aged Twenty Years.

All ye that learnèd hours beguile
In the Museum’s dingy pile,
And daily through its portals pass,
And marked the cat upon the grass
That sat — alas, he sits no more! —
Give ear a moment, I implore,
And mourn the fate of poor old Mike!
When shall we ever see his like?
No fate untimely snatched away
This pussy-cat Methuselah;
When Death removed him, he had near
Accomplishèd his twentieth year:
For since we are a learned crew
In the Museum — Michael knew
Of Argus, that famed hound of old
Who lived through hunger, heat and cold;
And when his lord came home at last,
When twenty years were well-nigh past,
Looked up, and wagged his tail, and died:
But Michael, stiff with feline pride,
Vowed, by a dog he’d not be beat,
And set himself to cap that feat.
He’d sit and sun himself sedately,
No Sphinx or Sekhmet looked more stately;
He cared not in the very least
For human being, bird or beast;
He let the pigeons eat their fill,
Nor even one was known to kill;
But scared them if they stayed too nigh
By the sole terror of his eye.
To public, and officials too,
He showed the scorn which was their due:
And if perchance some forward minx
Dared to go up and stroke the Sphinx —
Her hand shot back, all marked with scores
From the offended Michael’s claws.
And he who writes these lines, one day
Ventured a compliment to pay,
And for reply received a bite —
No doubt you’ll answer, "Serve him right!"
So out of all the human crew
He cared for none — save only two:
For these he purred, for these he played,
And let himself be stroked, and laid
Aside his anti-human grudge —
His owner — and Sir Ernest Budge!
A master of Egyptian lore,
No doubt Sir Ernest had a store
Of charms and spells decipherèd
From feline mummies long since dead,
And found a way by magic art
To win that savage feline heart.
Each morn Sir Ernest, without qualms,
Would take up Michael in his arms;
And still remained his staunchest friend,
And comforted his latter end.
Old Mike! Farewell! We all regret you,
Although you would not let us pet you;
Of cats the wisest, oldest, best cat,
This be your motto — Requiescat!

F. C. W. Hiley

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December 2011

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