Shelley Sunday: ‘Verses On a Cat’ (Shelley’s earliest known poem, c. 1800)

Verses On A Cat

by Percy Bysshe Shelley

I.

A cat in distress,
Nothing more, nor less;
Good folks, I must faithfully tell ye,
As I am a sinner,
It waits for some dinner
To stuff out its own little belly.

II.

You would not easily guess
All the modes of distress
Which torture the tenants of earth;
And the various evils,
Which like so many devils,
Attend the poor souls from their birth.

III.

Some a living require,
And others desire
An old fellow out of the way;
And which is the best
I leave to be guessed,
For I cannot pretend to say.

IV.

One wants society,
Another variety,
Others a tranquil life;
Some want food,
Others, as good,
Only want a wife.

V.

But this poor little cat
Only wanted a rat,
To stuff out its own little maw;
And it were as good
Some people had such food,
To make them hold their jaw!

——————————————-

Image Source: Scan of Shelley’s earliest known poem – the cat illustration and the transcription were both made by his sister, Elizabeth. Shelley’s Ghost. Bodleian Library, Oxford.

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