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loves: you win if you guessed "pets" and "museums". Also books, art history, travel, British punk, Korean kimchi, bindis, martinis, and other things TBD. I will always make it very clear if a post is sponsored in any way. Drop me a line at thepetmuseum AT gmail.com !

Saturday, October 01, 2016

ode "on a cat mummy"

In this gloriously odd vintage poem, a mummified puss leads the poet to muse upon the fall of empires and the ascendancy of Christianity.  Hang on for this ride through the ancient sands, won't you?

On a Cat Mummy.
PREPOSTEROUS cat, from Egypt's soil arisen,
Where thou hast lain beneath the sand seas flat,
The countless years had power thy face to wizen,
But not to wreck, for thou art still a cat.

I will not point at thee with jesting finger,
Nor pass thee by as though unworthy thought,
For there is much in thee to make me linger;
Those sightless eyes are with high meaning fraught.

'Tis hard indeed for modern thought or notion
To move along on ancient Koptic line,
Or hold, by any sort of weird devotion,
Grimalkin clothed in attributes divine.

We upstarts have a curious way of linking
Puss with old dames and flights upon a broom,
But Egypt's reverential mode of thinking
Ere Homer's day ran back to earlier gloom.

How very modern is our prophet Moses!
Our Christ himself but theme for recent talk,
While we are few when counted with the noses
That owned the sway of Horus and of hawk.

Five thousand years! The brain grows sick and dizzy.
But long ere then Phtah ruled beside the Nile,
And swarming millions, brown and blithe and busy,
Throve in the dreamy splendor of his smile.

Most ancient cat! When thou were swathed and twisted
In costly shroud and laid in sacred grave,
Apis and Pharaoh vainly were resisted,
And gentle Isis deigned to bless and save.

Those gods are dead, and faded is their splendor;
Their countless years are but a day that's done,
While Bethlehem's star, with radiance pure and tender,
Outshines in glory Egypt's fiercest sun.

The granite statue of sublime Rameses
On Memphis plain stands desolate to-day,
And years drift by, like summer's cloudy fleeces,
Forever changing and the same for aye.

Broad lotus leaves still on Nile's bosom quiver,
Still lives the Sphinx in many a Koptic face,
But never Pharaoh drifts across the river
In golden boat to his long resting-place.

O wondrous cat! Time leveled many a city,
Pantheons fell, great nations were forgot,
But thou wast hid, and now, in scorn and pity,
Comest to taunt me with my fleeting lot.

Out of my sight! I will no more abide thee.
Thy weird grotesqueness makes me chill and faint;
Thou art too hoar*; I cannot well deride thee,
But I will spurn thee ere I suffer taint.

Curse on those old Egyptians and their science!
Types live, and change doth keep this old world sweet.
We pass and come again: why bid defiance
To Nature, and be spurned beneath her feet?

Voices of nature join in ceaseless paean!
Death is but change and joyful motherhood;
And through the chorus whisper, Galilean,
"Why live at all except for doing good?"

*hoar: grayish-white, aged

- Horton, G. (1892). Songs of the lowly, and other poems. Chicago, F. J. Schulte & company. 124-6.  George Horton (1860-1942) was an author and journalist appointed by President Cleveland as consul to Athens.  At first glance I find his work earnestly likeable - here's the last stanza of his poem "To an English Sparrow," same book as above:

Your enemies say you're a fighter.
Ah well, what of that? So am I.
I will sing if 'tis darker or lighter
You have taught me a gay battle-cry.
When Fortune's against me, despite her
I will wait for the days that are brighter,
Singing " Cheer up! Cheer up! "
I will fight and will sing till I die.

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