Familiarity Dangerous

As in her ancient mistress’ lap,
The youthful tabby lay,
They gave each other many a tap,
alike dispos’d to play.

But strife ensues. Puss waxes warm
And with protruded claws
Ploughs all the length of Lydia’s arm,
Mere wantenness the cause.

At once, resentful of the deed,
She shakes her to the ground
With many a threat that she shall bleed
With still a deeper wound.

But, Lydia, bid thy fury rest!
It was a venial stroke;
For she that will with kittens jest,
Should bear a kitten’s joke!

by William Cowper (1731 – 1800)
Translated from a Latin poem by Vincent Bourne (1695-1747)


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