We’re back, and it was a great success. I’ll tell you about it tomorrow – today is needed for convalescence.
Do you recognise these lines?
'TWAS on a lofty vase's side,
Where China's gayest art had dyed
The azure flowers that blow;
Demurest of the tabby kind,
The pensive Selima reclined,
Gazed on the lake below.
Her conscious tail her joy declared;
The fair round face, the snowy beard,
The velvet of her paws,
Her coat, that with the tortoise vies,
Her ears of jet, and emerald eyes,
She saw; and purr'd applause.
They are from Thomas Gray’s “On a Favourite Cat, Drowned in a Tub of Gold Fishes." You can read the rest of it here, along with his “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”, if you like.
I ask because, while we were in London, we saw the very vase on whose rim Selima had perched, and were both deeply moved. It belonged to Horace Walpole, whose cat she was. It’s in a show at the V&A.
When we got back, we asked Rachel, who didn’t know the poem. Later that evening, we spoke to my sister in CT via Skype. She had actually embarked on a PhD in Eng Lit at Yale long ago, before she chucked it in and turned to medicine. She didn’t know the poem. The next evening Rachel’s daughter Hellie came to supper, who read Eng Lit at Newcastle and now works for a literary agency. (Very happy – she’s having a great time.) She didn’t know the poem.
What is the use of a common culture, if no one knows what you’re talking about? Please, someone, tell me you recognise those words.