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Washington, United States
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 !

Monday, March 16, 2009

robert w. service saw a cat with wings . . .

You never saw a cat with wings,
I’ll bet a dollar—well, I did;
’Twas one of those fantastic things
One runs across in old Madrid.
A walloping big tom it was,
(Maybe of the Angora line),
With silken ears and velvet paws,
And silver hair, superbly fine.

The rest of the poem is here. Of course Kitty doesn't really have wings. Considering that Robert W. Service is the rough-and-tumble poet behind such Yukon Gold Rush chestnuts as "The Shooting of Dan McGrew," I wondered if he'd ever been to Spain, either.

Turns out he probably had. Service (British, 1874-1958) wasn't a grizzled prospector at all. He was a bank clerk, and quite a refined-looking one at that, whose knack for writing flavorful verse about the Canadian wilderness he loved made him well-to-do. He married a Parisian woman, bought property in France, and is buried in Brittany. That's curious, isn't it? If you'd like to know more about him here's RobertWService.com, though the Wikipedia page is much more approachable.

I noticed he had originally arrived in Canada at 21, after quitting his bank job, and drifted for a while as he tried to become a cowboy. I'm glad he got free eventually from a life that must have frustrated him. The last stanza of the poem above makes it clear he knew what it was to wish and hope to be free:

And then the vision that I had
Of Tabbie soaring through the night,
Quick vanished, and I felt so sad
For that poor pussy’s piteous plight.
For though frustration has it stings,
Its mockeries in Hope’s despite,
The hell of hells is to have wings
Yet be denied the bliss of flight.

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