Sunday, April 09, 2017

NPM 2017 Day Nine: To a Cat

For National Poetry Month this year I am sharing poetry that celebrates my late sister-in-law and what it means to be human. These daily posts focus on traits that Pam exuded—empathy, kindness, caring, friendship, gentleness and love.


A number of years ago we stopped in Connecticut to stay with Pam overnight before heading to a family reunion in Rhode Island. The cat scared the every living daylights out of William, who was 8 at the time. Pam couldn't stop apologizing for the cat. I dismissed her apologies, knowing that's just who Shadow was. I knew William would get over it. Still, I wondered what it was she saw in that cat. I couldn't sleep that night, so I decided to quietly make my way to the kitchen for tea. When I got to the bottom of the stairs, I saw Pam sitting on the couch in a dimly lit room, whispering quietly to the cat on her lap. This poem helps me understand her love for that darn cat.

To a Cat 
by Algernon Charles Swinburne

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

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

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

Read the poem in its entirety.

I'll leave you today with this parting shot.
There are two means of refuge from the misery of life — music and cats. ― Albert Schweitzer
Thank you for reading. I hope to see you here again tomorrow.


  1. It makes me smile that Pam was so fond of her hell-raiser. And I haven't thought of this Swinburne since college! We read this one and Christopher Smart's psalm to his precious Jeoffry.

  2. I adore Smart's poem, especially this bit:
    For there is nothing sweeter than his peace when at rest.
    For there is nothing brisker than his life when in motion.

    And I love that it was written in the 18th century! It still resonates today.