The Ship's Cat

(Inspired by Henry Fielding)

I can’t talk long. My duty’s never done:
Masts to be marked, untested rays of sun,
Spills to be sniffed at, lapped up or rejected,
Men to be watched, tribute to be collected --
The lump of pork, the scratch between the ears.
I may go up, if no one interferes,
To the place where I can see my whole domain.
They call it crow’s nest, liars. Still, I’ve lain
Nowhere with greater pleasure. It awakes
The kitten in me when the ocean shakes.
Its crests cry for the stalk, the pounce and more;
And fish with wings, the double traitors, soar.

Once I soared too, entranced. I must admit
Some fear at first; but after I had hit
The surface and endured the ghastly soaking,
My feline sense returned and I stopped choking.
There, all around me, every kind of fish,
And some for which I’d never known to wish,
Were mine for taking. Better still than that,
Who came to show me round but the Great Cat,
Bastet herself? But just as we were swimming
To the cove where roe and cream are ever brimming,
They pulled me up and laid me on the deck,
And then they put this bell around my neck.

Now the fools won’t give me peace. From down below
They hear me and come scrambling: “Kitty, no.”
But just you wait. I’ll show them who’s in charge.
Just let them want a wind to move this barge.
They’ll go without until they let me climb.
Have you got food or what? I’m out of time.