The Legend of the Cat
At Midnight's Stroke, on the First Christmas, half the world awoke.
Then out of nest and lair, came thronging to Bethlehem, the wordless folk.
Hurried the beasts of the forest, the birds of the air
To pay their Lord their homage and His Due.
And Cat came too.
Mincing on delicate feet to see the Child.
But being shy and wild,
Approached no further than the hearth, lay dumb and distant there,
While the rest knelt in praise,
the Cat by too much Glory overcome could not withdraw her gaze
from the Nativity; could only stare
through slitted eyes as things of fur and feathers (the deer beside the lion,
the pheasant, the hare
(safe in the fox's paws) bent down together.
Although their anthems lifted all around,
She, in her throat made only a trembling sound,
and could not bow her head.
Yet as morning dawned, and one by one the other creatures fled,
each to his habitat;
the eagle to his crag, and to his pond the otter, only Cat
remained beside the dying fire, unable
to quit the place that was both crib and stable.
Then Mary spoke aloud.
"Dear Cat," she said, "Dear stiff-necked, proud,
and obstinate beast, I bless you. From this hour
leave wilderness behind you. Though none shall have the power
to call you servant, yet the hearth shall bind you forever to itself.
Both fond and free, wherever Man is you shall also be.
And many a family will smile to hear you singing when you settle
Household hosannas like a pulsing kettle."
Some winter night
Observe Cat now. Her eyes will suddenly gleam yellow against the light,
Her body shudder in a forest dream.
Her claws unsheathe their sharpness. She remembers
Old times, old barbarous customs, old Decembers
Before she called the tribes of Man her friends.
But the dream ends.
Then, reassured, she curls herself along the floor
And hums her cool, domestic song.