A line from a poem I had learned in childhood kept circling through my mind yesterday, so finally I typed it into Google and came up with this. Reading it refreshed my memory--for I once had it by heart--and also brought freshly to mind the two battered little books of childrens' poems that my mother would read from at bedtime. They had lost their bindings and become loosely-folded pages by the time we out-grew those nightly sessions. Reading this poem was like seeing the face of an old friend.
When human folk put out the light
And think they've made it dark as night,
A pussycat sees every bit
As well as when the lights are lit.
When human folk have gone upstairs
And shed their skins and said their prayers,
And there is no one to annoy,
Then Pussy may her life enjoy.
No human hands to pinch or slap,
Or rub her fur against the nap,
Or throw cold water from a pail,
Or make a handle of her tail.
And so you will not think it wrong,
When she can play the whole night long,
With no one to disturb her play,
That pussy goes to bed by day.
--Oliver Heford (1863-1935)
Of course, the list of casual abuses described in the third verse gives me pause and as a small child I was aghast at the very idea of pinching my cats. But I suppose the poet meant it as a subtle rebuke with the subtext of "If you little bastards weren't so mean to Kitty, maybe she would want to play with you during the day..." It does provide the child with an idea of what sort of behavior Kitty does not appreciate and probably was instructive in that regard.
I searched for another favorite but couldn't find it on-line. It goes like this:
Do you think you’ve found a baby-jungle place?
Going through the grass, stealthily and slow,
Are you waiting to jump out and scare the folks you know?
And send them running to the house as fast as they can go?
Little Tiger Cat, it’s no use at all,
No matter what you think yourself, you’re rather tame and small,
And with all your hiding and your stem contemplation,
You cannot scare a single one of high or low station,
And so, there’s no use trying to be like your wild relation.
Isn't it funny how those poems we learn as children stick with us forever?
ETA--Thanks to Ken L. for sending me the complete lyrics of the poem!