The Old Woman and her Cats
Who friendship with a knave hath made,
Is judged a partner in the trade.
The matron who conducts abroad
A willing nymph, is thought a bawd;
And if a modest girl is seen
With one who cures a lover's spleen,
We guess her not extremely nice,
And only wish to know her price.
'Tis thus that on the choice of friends
Our good or evil name depends.
A wrinkled hag, of wicked fame,
Beside a little smoky flame
Sate hovering, pinched with age and frost;
Her shrivelled hands, with veins embossed,
Upon her knees her weight sustains,
While palsy shook her crazy brains:
She mumbles forth her backward prayers,
An untamed scold of fourscore years.
About her swarmed a numerous brood
Of cats, who, lank with hunger, mewed.
Teased with their cries, her choler grew,
And thus she sputtered: 'Hence, ye crew.
Fool that I was, to entertain
Such imps, such fiends, a hellish train!
Had ye been never housed and nursed,
I, for a witch had ne'er been cursed.
To you I owe, that crowds of boys
Worry me with eternal noise;
Straws laid across, my pace retard,
The horse-shoe's nailed (each threshold's guard),
The stunted broom the wenches hide,
For fear that I should up and ride;
They stick with pins my bleeding seat,
And bid me show my secret teat.'
'To hear you prate would vex a saint;
Who hath most reason of complaint?'
Replies a cat. 'Let's come to proof.
Had we ne'er starved beneath your roof,
We had, like others of our race,
In credit lived as beasts of chase.
'Tis infamy to serve a hag;
Cats are thought imps, her broom a nag;
And boys against our lives combine,
Because, 'tis said, you cats have nine.'