La Gattomachia (La Gatomaquia), is a burlesque epic by The Spanish playwright, poet, novelist and marine Lope de Vega (1562-1635), written in 1634 and dedicated to his son. The Spanish original is in verse and the only English version is this prose translation by Sir John Wowring, printed in The Westminster Review, 1843. The Spanish original remains popular today.

The original names of the feline cast are meant to humorous or parodies. Some are inspired by Classical era epic verse and become comedic in Lope’s mock epic. Other names were based on everyday object - food, drink, and sexual parts of the body (the latter being absent from in Bowring’s Victorian prose translation). They were words used by the lower social classes, deliberately incongruous in this feline version of “Helen of Troy.”

Don’t take the historical references literally either. Mizifouf claims to be directly descended from “Zapirou” who was on the Ark. If this was true, all cats would be descended from the cats on the Ark so it is an empty boast. In response, Marramaquiz also claims a fictitious forebear– “Mistigris” (in Bowling’s version) belonging to Alexander the Great. “Mistigris” (grey cat) is a French word indicating a common cat (alley cat). In any case, the Classical Greeks and Romans were not renowend for keeping cats. The Gatomachia is based on Helen of Troy in which several characters are offspring of the gods. The character Paris was also known as Alexander (son of King Priam and Queen Hecuba) so a better translation might be "belonging to the great Alexander" to better draw the parallel between Marramaquiz and Paris. Menelaus (Mizifouf) was Helen's (Zapaquilda) husband. Paris (Marramaquiz) abducted/eloped with her. Paris was killed by the archer Philocthetes (the son of king Poeas). Mizifouf's entourage equate to various Greek heroes from Homer's Iliad, but are given absurd or rude names, not heroic names.

Lope de Vega (1634), translated by Sir John Bowring (1843)

One word more by way of preface. Lope de Vega wrote his poem in lively, elegant verse; we present it to the reader in drab-coloured prose. The reason is simple: verse, to be tolerated, must be excellent; prose, more modest in its pretensions, is more readily received. We do not feel ourselves equal to Lope’s verse, and therefore trust to the reader’s indulgence of our prose.


I sang formerly of forests and of fields - of forests swarming with wolves, and of fields full of flocks and flowers; I who sang of war, and of the combats by which kingdoms have been lost and won, I come now to sing, on a more joyous instrument, of the sweet caresses and fatal rages of love, but I shall sing them like a man who has forgotten neither the clang of the trumpet nor the rolling of the drum. Venerable muses of Castalia, I invoke ye; inspire me! With the genius you have bestowed on me, I celebrate the wars, loves, and adventures of two valiant cats. And in such a project there is nothing to astonish. When so many men go to the dogs, why should not a poet devote himself to the cats? Has not a cat frequently consoled us for the ingratitude of princes and the inconstancy of fortune?

And thou, Don Lope, [1] if by chance the Dutch corsairs, those wild cats ever on the watch for our money, leave thee one leisure moment in those seas in which thou art at present steering, return, I intreat thee, into its scabbard thy valiant sword, - that sword with which thou leadest to the onslaught, and deign to listen to the most perfect of poems, my famous Gatomachia. As a reward, may thy fame extend from the depths of India to the country of the Laplanders! Mayest thou be rewarded by a glory equal to thy exploits!
[1: What Lope is meant here? Is it Lope de Vega himself, or his son named Lope after him? As the ‘Gatomachia’ was published in 1634, it seems at first as if the apostrophe was addressed to young Lope, then serving in the Spanish armies. But on the other hand, it is positively known that Lope de Vega. only published his poems twenty or thirty years after their composition, and this leads us to think that it was himself he was addressing, perhaps in order to announce himself in an indirect way as the author of the poem.]

A little indolence is not unsuited to heroes. The severest warrior may sometimes doff his brilliant armour, and lay down his arrogant plumes. Has not more than one painter represented the god Mars unhelmeted by the white hands of Venus?

Once more had spring appeared; the zephyr’s sweet breath warmed all nature, and Flora, with her cheek of roses and lilies, walked abroad, scattering flowers. On a fine spring morning, the beautiful Zapaquilda, more spruce and reserved than a convent puss, sat on the top of a roof inhaling the fresh air, and with enchanting indolence licking her soft coat and tail. In default of a mirror she contemplated herself in her own mind and saw herself reflected therein as perfectly charming. When well washed and in good order, she purred in an undertone some unknown air; but so sweetly and so perfectly that the Thracian musician, had he heard her, would have been jealous, and the rats and mice who listened were lulled into security by the syren strains.

At that time, Marramaquiz, a noble Roman cat, the first and largest in the world, as proud as he was amorous, with fine moustaches and eyes glittering like carbuncles, - Marramaquiz, I say, saw approaching Whisker his squire, a cat of La Mancha. Whisker informed him that the beauteous Zapaquilda had just appeared in the sunshine, more brilliant than the rose, and was purring a marvellous song with soft incomparable grace. At this news Marramaquiz became inflamed with love, for it is possible to fall in love at a distance as well as in the charmer’s presence. He announced that he was going to Zapaquilda without delay.

Marrarnaquiz was handsome; but he was nevertheless desirous of enhancing his beauty by dress. He put on small clothes which became him well, elegant shoes, and a handsome collar; took his richest sword, and threw a scarlet cloak over his shoulders according to the French fashion. [2] As to his head dress, it was composed of a graceful velvet cap, surmounted with a red, green, and grey plume, that is to say, with three parrots’ feathers. Our hero ad himself destroyed this parrot. He killed him one day as the unfortunate bird, sitting on his perch, was imprudently occupied in repeating his accustomed burden:

Who goes there? Who goes there? The king is passing, Going out hunting.

The king was Marramaquiz, who coming parrot-hunting, sprang upon and killed him.

Thus equipped, Marramaquiz was charming, and, even in the opinion of Venus, would have carried off the prize from Adonis.
[2: La capa colorada // A la Francesa. - In Spain, in the time of Lope de Vega, black was the only colour worn at court. In one of our poet’s comedies, when one of the characters admires a coloured coat, another one replies: “A coloured coat on a courtier is like a black one on a soldier. The court dress is simple and blue." - V. Las Ferias de Madrid, Jorn. ii.]

When his toilet was ended, he asked for his charger, and Whisker immediately brought him a female monkey. He sprang on its back and rode off. You might have fancied you saw the paladin Roland going to visit the beautiful Angelica.

As soon as she saw him, our wise virgin, prudent nymph! assumed a department full of gravity. She cast down her eyes, licked her lips like a greedy child who has just eaten its Manteca [buttered toast], and in order to prevent any indiscreet attack, she chastely put her tail under her, and seemed to envelope herself in a veil of modesty. She knew that a virtuous maiden must be circumspect in proportion as she is beautiful. Nevertheless, Marramaquiz spurred on his Tetuan courser, and caracoled in the presence of his beloved to prove the strength of his passion; then alighting, he advanced cap in hand towards the lady, and began to speak of love. She timidly blushed; but soon yielding to the sweet sentiment which oppressed her, she granted him some slight favours. But at the moment they were enjoying this delicious téte-a-téte, and sighing forth their mutual happiness, they suddenly heard a terrible noise: it was a clerk in the neighbourhood, who had fired off a gun, loaded with small shot, through a loophole placed at the extremity of his terrace. The monkey was wounded - wounded on that part of her body on which she was accustomed to sit, and she set off running - running away frightened, and neither pages nor footmen were able to arrest her flight.

As on a fine summer’s day, the sky becomes suddenly clouded, and torrents of rain fall, accompanied by the sinister roll of thunder, terror seizes the timid flocks which but a moment before were joyously feeding in the field; rams and ewes fly, not without leaving to the bushes a little black or white wool, and await the reappearance of the sun to gladden the face of nature before returning to their accustomed haunts; so flew our cats through passages, garrets, and gutters, mewing tragically - so flew our monkey, one hand placed on her wounded part, westward, between the two poles.

Whilst these things were passing, whilst Marramaquiz continued to pay his court to the beauteous Zapaquilda, he pressing and daring, like a gallant inflamed with love, she always modest, reserved, and most charmingly disdainful; Fame, that monster with a hundred eyes and a hundred mouths, which has the privilege of passing through the three first of the four elements - air, earth, and water - in any way it pleases, and would pass through the fourth if necessary, had already flown over both hemispheres, everywhere praising the grace, beauty, and virtue of Zapaquilda - exaggerating, according to its old custom.

It said that nothing so perfect had ever before appeared on earth. At this news all the cats were moved, and all prepared to come and see her, in hopes of obtaining the sweet rewards of love. Some hastened post, by land, bringing with them nothing but feathers, a ribbon, a coat and small-clothes, in order to arrive the sooner. Others, separated from her by the vast ocean, embarked in light canoes with a splendid equipage, braving both storms and Neptune. More than one, I was informed, came incognito by some ingenious stratagem. Never in the course of centuries had such multitudes of cats been seen: there was not a roof, not a chimney-pot, on which there was not some cat in love, mewing and sighing; and more than one, I was assured, fell from the top of a house into the street, as it occasionally befalls other gallants when seeking adventures. Terror reigned among all the animals that feared our lords the cats. The pert sparrow feared to leave his nest - the green lizard peeped carefully around before he ventured out of his hole, and the rats remained concealed as if there was neither paper nor cheese in the world. Apropos of rats and paper, I must say that during this period no poet complained that an immortal poem of his own was eaten up by the mice during the night. But I must also say that this was well compensated for, and that great evils resulted from this concourse of cats. No pie, hash, or ragout was in safety in the larders; what was worse, the black pudding itself, when hung up to smoke in the large chimney, was no longer safe from the attacks of these rapacious gentry; everything which our gallants saw or smelt speedily became their prey.

With this immense concourse of cats had arrived a cat named Mizifouf, with a roguish eye, a turned-up nose, the breast and legs as white as snow, and a back as black as jet. He was renowned afar off for his elegance, his valour, and his tail; he was Mars and Apollo combined. Mizifouf, when he saw the beautiful cat, more brilliant than a newly-cleaned silver dish, adored her; from that moment thoughts of her alone filled his mind - day and night he was incessantly walking about the roof which she inhabited, with a large suite of lackeys and pages; and he did right, for by this means he won the heart of Zapaquilda. Yes, the ungrateful one loved Mizifouf, forgetting Marramaquiz and the faith she had vowed him. Oh, charm of novelty! Superior power of a strange cat with broad shoulders, curly coat, and elegant manners! After this, trust coquettish cats! But who would have expected such inconstancy from the prudish Zapaquilda? Who could have thought that she would have forsaken the valiant Marramaquiz for a cat whom she had two or three times seen prowling near her, and who had brought her a pig’s foot, some black pudding, and a few sausages?

At last, worn out with anxiety and jealousy, the unfortunate Marramaquiz fell ill. He became worse - a fever seized him. Merlin, who attended him, and was celebrated ten leagues round for his wisdom and experience - Merlin ordered bleeding. Zapaquilda heard of this - her heart was touched by it, and she came to see the gallant, although he lived in a garret the entrance to which was so steep and narrow that the carriage could not drive up to it. Having alighted, she entered, accompanied by her squire and a lady in waiting. They gazed at each other - he mewed tenderly, she assumed a graceful and coquettish attitude; then, after a few moments, she gave him, as a tonic, the leg of a goose and some other delicacies, which her attendant Busalie had brought.

Marramaquiz, in feline, language, then began his complaint, which in the vulgar tongue might be translated thus: - “Oh, beauteous Zapaquilda! wherefore didst thou so unjustly forsake me? Is, then, Mizifouf lighter and more amiable than I am? Has he more courage or a handsomer tail? Hast thou, then, forgotten that I chose thee from among all those who disputed with thee the prize for elegance and grace? . . . . Was this what a faithful lover deserved, who, during a severe winter, passed every night on the roofs surrounding thy dwelling, with his axe and sword, and whom every dawn found there covered with hoar frost, and frozen like a Spanish soldier who travels through Flanders, his musket on his shoulder! If I have not given thee damask, velvet, and rich stuffs, it is because thou hast no need of vain ornaments to enhance the charms which nature has lavished on thee. Hast thou not seen me ever eager to offer thee whatever I thought might please thee! Have I ever failed to steal for thee fish or birds, pie or sausages, from the kitchens? I feared nothing for thy sake - for thee I braved every peril. . . . Alas, and what has so entire a devotion availed me? What a destiny is mine! . . . And yet, vanity apart, I am not so ugly. Yesterday I saw myself in a pail of water which had been drawn from the well to wash the house with, and as I did so, I said - This, then, is what Zapaquilda disdains! Oh, love! wilt thou not make her repent her folly?”

The haughty sunflower, which may be considered as a giant among flowers, bends its head beneath the too powerful rays of the planet from which it derives its name; the sullen child, when it has cried sufficiently, throws itself, worn out with fatigue, into its mother’s arms. These two images may convey an idea of the state of dejection of Marramaquiz when he had ended his discourse.

Zapaquilda, alarmed at the sobs and heart-rending sighs of Marramaquiz, and fearing lest he should break some blood-vessel, kindly raised her tail and passed it twice over his face. This was enough to revive him - it would have sufficed to recover him from the arms of death; then, in a sweet and honeyed tone, she said, “Your love is very suspicious. How can you let such fancies enter your mind? Is it not an affront to me? is it not an affront to yourself? . . . Mizifouf, it is true, is most assiduous in his attentions, and speaks everywhere of his passion. But I love you - I love no one but you; and you may rely for ever on my fidelity.” Having said this, the beauteous Zapaquilda closed her rosy lips. Young ladies never speak much on such occasions, and they are right, for they do not possess the experience of married women and widows in love matters.

Meanwhile night was spreading over the sky her mantle spangled with stars, which sparkled like diamonds; the chattering birds were silent. A page then came to announce to the lady that the carriage was ready, and the two lovers separated, after politely saluting each other with their tails.

Oh, jealousy! what torments hast thou caused! When that libertine, Jupiter, transformed himself into a bull, a swan, and a golden shower, to obtain the favours of Europa, Leda, and Danae, the unhappy Juno must have been deeply mortified, and it is wonderful that she did not then commit some terrible folly. But I have here no need to trouble myself about the gods of the mythology, I have enough to do with my cats, and I return to them. The valiant Marramaquiz was beginning to get cured of the moral wounds which Mizifouf had inflicted on him; and though still pale, was prowling about on the roof of his fair ingrate. Alas! ought such coquettes ever to be trusted? What good, what reward can be expected from them?

The charming Zapaquilda was at her balcony, awaiting Mizifouf, when his page, a distant relation, named Garraf, arrived. He carried a tray covered over with a cloth in one hand, and a letter in the other. When she saw him, she raised her tail and waved it to and fro, as a sign of joy; she took the narrow gilt-edged tray, which had come direct from the East Indies, at the same time looking slyly to see if there was not some little delicacy for her, - for cats as you know, are naturally greedy, and must not be judged by their hypocritical affectation; before therefore, interrogating the page she wished to see what he brought, and the sight delighted her. It was a piece of cheese of considerable weight, garnished with eggs, bacon, and some of the fruit of those pine trees which are to be seen on the banks of the Guadarrama, on the road to the wood of Segovia. There were, moreover, as wedding presents, two of those pink ribbons with which women decorate their pet cats in imitation of ear-rings. After admiring these presents, and placing them near her, she took the letter, in which she read these words: -

“Sweet lady, sweet and beloved one, you whom I prefer to everything in this world, deign to receive this cheese and garnish, and permit me to offer you these pink ribbons in token of the sincerity of my love.”. . .

Zapaquilda had proceeded thus far, when the jealous Marramaquiz who, from the summit of an adjoining roof, was contemplating this horrible treachery, suddenly appeared, and furious, seized with one paw the fatal letter, and pounced with the other on the plateful of delicacies. The unfortunate Garraf stood there stupefied, like a school-boy caught in the act by a severe master. Marramaquiz, no longer able to restrain himself, gave him two or three blows with his terrific claws, then taking him by the nape of the neck, he threw him into the air, where the unfortunate messenger turned and twisted about. So, at tennis, a vigorous and skilful player throws to a distance the ball which his bat has struck.

This done, Marramaquiz, his eyes sparkling, and foaming at the mouth, tore his rival’s letter to pieces, and threatened the terrified Zapaquilda. At the same time, as if to assuage his fury, he destroyed the garnish of bacon, eggs, and fine kernels, and cursed the hand which prepared them for that day’s dinner. Who would ever have ascribed the jealousy of love to such causes? At last, however, our cat took flight. You should have seen her run; she was so nimble that you would have compared her to that amazon who ran over a field of wheat without bending the ears as she passed (which is not one of the least suspicious stories which venerable antiquity has transmitted to us). While running, she invoked the god of love, she vowed that if she escaped safely from her terrible gallant, she would offer up to him next season a bow and arrows of costly workmanship.

As to Marramaquiz, he swore to forget the faithless one, never to see her again, and to go and question some sage in what manner he should revenge himself. But, vain oaths! love never fulfils the threats uttered in a transport of jealousy, and a crying woman is very powerful; you come to scold her, and you engage yourself deeper than ever, believing a thousand lies on the strength of one little tear.

Meanwhile the unhappy Garraf returned, lamed, to Mizifouf, with most melancholy mewing. When he saw the sad plight his page was in, Mizifouf felt a sinister presentiment, and his heart was touched: “Friend Garraf,” said he, “what is the matter? Whence comes this melancholy appearance?” . . . . Then Garraf, waving his tail slowly to show his anger, told him the whole adventure; how Marramaquiz, in his fury of jealousy, had taken from him the presents and the letter, and how the frightened Zapaquilda had run away through the garret, her tail turned up with considerable energy. He told also how he had received such a blow from the jealous one that it drew blood, and had been thrown from the roof into the street. He concluded by adding that his rival had taken an oath to punish him for having dared to address his lady, and intended, as an insult, to wear as trophies on his shoes the two ribbons which Mizifouf had sent.

I will not attempt to describe the effect of this recital upon Mizifouf. You might have thought it was Agamemnon, when he sent into Troy that famous wooden horse which contained a thousand heroes armed with steel and fire, who were to destroy the city of Priam. On hearing the excesses his odious rival had committed, Mizifouf mewed, I was almost going to say neighed, with fury; and on his side also vowed to take some terrible revenge.

Marramaquiz, in despair, was travelling towards a sombre forest, there to seek the sage Grafignant. It was the hour at which night begins to fold up her starry mantle. It was the hour at which the lovely Aurora, after stealthily quitting her old husband’s couch, sheds on our gardens those crystalline tears which the sun’s rays transform into so many diamonds. The sage, Grafignant, was an old cat with a white beard, stiff moustaches, and a venerable tail. He had one slight defect, - he squinted with one eye. But he was deeply versed in natural and moral philosophy. He lived in the depths of the wood, in the hollow of a rock surrounded by a precipice, which preserved it from wild beasts, - as is said of the cave of Polyphemus. He despised riches. He loved only the beneficent warmth of the planet which illumines the world; and, like Diogenes, would have requested Alexander to withdraw from his sun. Among other sciences, he was deeply learned in astrology. But he abstained from prophesying the future; he said that futurity was the secret of heaven, unknown to mortals. He never composed an almanack to announce that figs would be seen at Troy, grapes at Naples, and lentils at Paris; that some person of consequence would die in the course of the year, without mentioning where; and that, from the position of Venus, there would be quarrels caused by women, which is certainly nothing new.

But to return to my tale; when Marramaquiz had explained to him his situation, Grafignant told him that he ought to renounce the ungrateful Zapaquilda; that there is nothing more painful or senseless than to love without return; and that there was but one consolation and revenge, which was to transfer his affections to some other cat. At these words Marramaquiz, perceiving that he had nothing more to hope for on earth, sadly bowed down his head. Nevertheless, not to appear ungrateful to Grafignant, he gave him a sausage which he had brought, for it is a crime not to reward science, and one very often perpetrated.

On his way back, Marramaquiz, pre-occupied with Grafignant’s counsels, asked himself to which cat he should pay his addresses when he suddenly remembered the beautiful Micilda. She was the cat of a neighbouring apothecary. He had often seen her sitting on her roof, like a noble lady in her drawing room, slyly watching a nest in which some imprudent sparrows left their scarcely hatched brood. One hot morning in the month of May, at the hour when the rose leaves wither, scorched by a too powerful sun; at the hour when the Spanish cavalier takes his siesta, Micilda, seated at no great distance from the habitation of Marramaquiz, was washing her face and beautifying herself with her white paws. Marramaquiz, who was already on tolerably good terms with her, was preparing to come to the rendezvous. At that moment it so chanced that Zapaquilda arrived on the same roof. Marramaquiz, thinking this a fine opportunity for exciting her jealousy, advanced tenderly and boldly towards Micilda, whose beauty was enhanced by her modesy. He began to murmur some tender words in her ear; but, strange capriciousness of the human heart! whilst thus cruelly revenging himself on Zapaquilda, he felt the most tender sentiments for her and whilst speaking to the other, he looked at Zapaquilda with eyes in which she might have read more love than hate. As to Micilda, as her heart was still a novice, she listened with joy to the protestations of the deceiver, her tail agitated like the waves of the sea.

The indignant Zapaquilda - for the ladies, however inconstant they may be, cannot put up with indifference where they have always found respect - murmured and threatened in a low tone of voice. Micilda noticed her anger, and defied her. Every moment might be expected one of those conflicts which sometimes surprise us, between two high-born and high-bred persons. Thus, as when a bone has been thrown between two dogs, they look and growl a long while before daring to fight, and end by flying on each other, tearing and biting until a servant comes to separate them with a stick, and obliges both to leave the spoil. Much in the same fashion, in the tragic scene of which Marramaquiz was the bone of contention, did the two ladies, after looking a long while, spring on each other, scratch their faces, and tear one another’s clothes, until, exhausted with fatigue, they fell together from the top of the roof into the street; a fall I cannot think of without shuddering, for it was no less than five storeys high!

But what is Marramaquiz doing? He had proudly witnessed the combat of which he was the cause; and when he saw the cats fall, he laughed triumphantly, so great is the pleasure a jealous lover finds in revenge.


It was that period of the year when the days and nights are of equal length, and the sun scorches with its rays the Indian who formerly adored it; it was the hour at which the pale Diana, in company with the polar star, that true lighthouse to the seaman, had taken the place of the brilliant Apollo. It was at that period, at that hour, that the valiant Mizifouf traversed with a firm step his lady’s roof. She, in consequence of the accident we have mentioned, had been bled, and by the doctor’s orders had kept her bed for two whole days. During those two days the kitchen was free from any care.

Never was there a more elegant cavalier than Mizifouf. He wore a polished steel helmet, surmounted with feathers taken from a poor sparrow he had captured by his agility alone, without any stratagem. He had covered his head with a helmet because cats, although long-lived, are very tender in that part. He was provided with an axe, which was concealed by a scarlet cloak. By his side hung a brilliant sword, which he himself called the terror of cats. Thus walked the new Durandarte, announcing to the world the lady he adored. He had brought with him two musicians, who sang most sweetly, accompanying themselves on their instruments, and who, when arrived under the beautiful Zapaquilda’s balcony, commenced a ballad, which Mizifouf had composed for her; for Mizifouf, I had forgotten to tell you, was a fashionable poet, and like them, did not always understand his own writings.

Zapaquilda was at her window, defended against the cold air by a hood in which the careful hand of Busalie had wrapped her. She listened to the music with a disdainful air. In the midst of the ballad she interrupted the musicians to order them to sing a joyous Xacara [3] and they sang the newest of the kind. Alas! the grave and heroic are not appreciated now! It is a universal folly, and even the most affected cats only like Xacaras. After this, the musicians sang the exploits of a famous bandit, for such are the heroes our poets celebrate; and they must do it if such is the will of the public. Woe to him who does not minister to the pleasures of this capricious tyrant! Were he a Virgil he must expect to die in a hospital! Whilst these things were passing, Marramaquiz was reposing on his couch, made of the skins of rabbits who but a short time before joyfully nibbled the wild thyme; but cruel death spares no one here below. When I say that Marramaquiz was reposing I make a mistake. The cares of love kept him in continual anxiety, and after several hours’ wakefulness he sprang from his couch. He arose with the same sentiments which prompted Count Claros [4] in similar circumstances, armed himself in haste, and went prowling about the environs to see if some Moor did not appear on the frontier. He soon perceived that he was not mistaken; and, in truth, it is very rare that our presentiments deceive us.
[3. The Xacara was the air of a dance. 4. The loves and the jealousy of Count Claros have been celebrated in the romances of chivalry.]

How shall I paint to you what he felt on beholding Mizifouf and Zapaquilda téte-a-téte? He sighed and murmured, like a slender reed bent by the wind; and he felt himself by turns scorched with heat and frozen with cold: various and singular effects of one and the same cause! Confounded, distracted, he gazed at Zapaquilda, who spoke from her window to her lover, regardless of the dawn, which had already driven away night from the sky, except in the horizon, where still lingered one diamond in the corner of her mantle. He saw the musicians singing and playing on their guitars with as little precaution as if they had been in the midst of the fields.

All lovers have the same improvidence; all fall into the same perils by their own faults. It was thus that Mark Antony forgot himself at the feet of Cleopatra, a charming nymph of Memphis, never reflecting in his blindness that Caesar might come at any moment and disturb his pleasures. The resemblance is exact in all points. Marramaquiz was a Roman, like Caesar; he was no less brave and valiant than Caesar; and on due consideration of his merits, he might have been called the Caesar of the gutters.

“Ah!” Mizifouf was saying with a sweet purr, “ah! charming friend, when will our wedding-day arrive, that day on which I shall call you wife! On that day I shall for the first time bless my fate. But alas! ladies, your species is cruel. Jupiter, who metamorphosed himself into a bull, an eagle, and a swan, to seduce rebellious nymphs, never dreamt of transforming himself into a cat. He did well!”

To all this the lady replied in a tender and plaintive voice, “Oh! would to heaven that to-morrow was the day of these long-desired nuptials! But this infamous, perfidious, jealous Marramaquiz is the obstacle to my happiness. It is not for myself, certainly, that I fear; but, believe me, as soon as he heard of my marriage, he would be transported with fury, and I should tremble for your life; for he is as brave as he is strong, and his wounded pride would render him unmanageable. Would it not be better to rid ourselves of him by poison?”

“What,” replied Mizifouf, furious, “is it for such as he that I am obliged to renounce your hand! Is it he, madam, who opposes my happiness. Is he then, perchance, more valiant than I? Are his claws sharper, and do his teeth cut better? Am I not Mizifouf? Are you, then, ignorant that I am descended in a direct line from the famous Zapirou, who, after the waters of the deluge had subsided, became the procreator of our whole race? But you love him, deceitful one; you love Marramaquiz; or, at least, you dread that chicken-hearted villain who is only valiant in the kitchen. I mistake; there is one exploit in his life; he has struck my squire, Garraf, a young cat just arrived from his village, and whose chin can hardly boast of down! Is not this a famous Scipio, a valiant Hannibal, a redoubtable Cid, to delight these eyes! Ah! if I had been on the roof at that moment, I swear to you that he should not have carried off, as he did, the presents I sent you. And you wish me to get rid of him by poison! . . . No, no! that death should be reserved for kings, and for princes, placed by their birth above all human laws; but it would be too much honour for a miserable tom-cat, whose ears I will bring you at the first opportunity, and whose skin will make me a dressing-gown this winter.”

Have you not sometimes seen the bull of Parama armed with his terrible crescent, his eye on fire, and his mouth foaming, rush furiously on the Andalusian or Valencian cavalier, it matters not which (a bull never inquires the country), and bury eight or twelve inches of his horns into the entrails of the horse through its gilded harness, whilst the innocent quadruped looks tranquilly on at his approach, thinking that the other wants to play with him. Such was Marramaquiz when he rushed furiously on Mizifouf.

“Infamous Mizifouf!” cried he, “none but women are privileged to speak ill of the absent. I am Marramaquiz, I am more noble than every other cat, beginning with thee. If thou art descended from Zapirou, I reckon among my ancestry the famous Mistigris, the cat of Alexander the Great. I can show my genealogy traced on coloured parchment. My arms are two petitoes saltier on a field of gules, on a poppy-coloured ground. My exploits have not been performed in obscure kitchens, but in the face of the sun and in the open fields. I have not fought with squires and pages, but with the best lances among the Moorish cats. At Granada I killed the famous Stealall, a large Abencerragian cat; at Cordova I killed the brave Mureif in a duel; with one blow I broke Glontonnet’s jaw, and with one back stroke I cut off one of Friponneau’s ears, because they had both dared to flirt with a certain Miza whom I was courting. I do not mention a thousand other exploits; how I cut off the tail of the great Drippingpan, so feared among cats, and put out the eye of the young and handsome Garride, the sole hope of a noble family. But of what use is it to recall my exploits? Whilst I am talking, time flies. Besides, thy Zapaquilda, that ingrate who betrayed me for thy sake, will soon see who I am. The roof on which we stand will be the theatre of a bloody tragedy. In one word, thou shalt die. And when I have run thee through with my sword, I will cut off thy head and bear it as a trophy to Micilda - to Micilda, who shines among cats as Venus among the stars - to Micilda, my love, my blessing, my delight, for whom I have forgotten an ingrate who did not deserve the heart of a eat like me!”

So saying, he drew his sword from its scabbard, and both commenced the combat by addressing the most insulting epithets to one another. The terrified Zapaquilda then took flight, leaving on the field of battle the hood with which she had covered her head to avoid the dangerous effects of the cold air. As to the musicians, as soon as they saw the flash of swords they took to their legs, according to their noble custom. They said, in their own defence, that they must place their instruments in safety, and that if they came to a serenade with the idea that at any moment they might be forced to have their throats cut, their voices would be sensibly affected by it. This was their reply to ill-natured persons who suspected their courage.

But Gourougouz, a cat of the, holy brotherhood, who was making his rounds at that hour, happened to pass with his alguazils. At the sound of weapons he approached, and seeing our Caesars fighting, ordered his attendants to separate them, which they did, but not without some trouble. He then asked for their swords, which they both gave up, for it is the custom of high-born people to respect the law. Then, having in vain solicited them to shake hands, and finding them much irritated against each other, he decided on taking them both to prison.

At that moment the sun was rising in the east, illuminating the variegated flowers which are the pride and ornaments of the verdant fields.


One sometimes meets with people who maintain that love is not so powerful but that it can be governed by the will. Such people are nothing but presumptuous ignoramuses. Love, by its mysterious power, reigns here on everything of which the visible world consists; it penetrates, vivifies, and animates everything which possesses one of the three souls of which the philosopher speaks. Is it not wonderful to see two African palm trees when the sun has gilded their fruit, love each other, attracted by a sympathy of which they are unconscious, and form, so to speak, the desire for a calm union. If it is so with vegetables, still more so with animals. All, without exception, love: the quadruped in his forest, the bird in the air, and the fish in his moist element. But, begging the quadrupeds, birds, and fishes’ pardon, no species among them can, for love, be compared to cats. Cats are a true emblem of love. You think I jest. Well, then, on some fine winter night, go out upon the frozen roofs, on which the cold wind blows, and you will there see a concourse of assiduous tom-cats, who have come to pay their respects to some pretty pussy, who sits among them like a queen in the midst of her court, and replies disdainfully to the tender mewings of her adorers; in which she reminds me of the beautiful Angelica, insensible to the vows of Ferragus and Roland, who, to prove their passion, travelled, about, running through Spaniards and Frenchmen, too happy if they obtained a look from the ungrateful fair one.

But what can be compared to the patience of a tom-cat in love, who, concealed in a gutter, there bravely awaits the coming of the dawn, calling on his beloved with plaintive accents, regardless of the snow which falls on him like silver moths; his devotion is the more admirable, as he mostly has neither cloak, gloves, nor hat to defend him from the inclemency of the season.

You no doubt remember that our two cats, Marramaquiz and Mizifouf, had been led to prison for not choosing to be reconciled, when their duel was interrupted by the holy brotherhood, to which they-had spoken with some haughtiness. Zapaquilda and Micilda went to see the prisoners, and they set out, their faces concealed by a crape mantilla, according to custom. Our cats met in the prison. Each one fancied that the other came there to see her lover (so frequently does jealousy deceive us!), and with this idea they commenced observations by darting at each other, beneath their veils, looks of fire similar to those flashes which traverse thick clouds before a storm. Oh! to have seen them rise on their toes and stretch forward their heads as if to assure themselves of the legitimacy of their suspicions, whilst each endeavoured to conceal herself from the eyes of her rival: wishing to declare themselves and yet not daring to do so! For as jealousy is not a noble feeling, those who suffer it take pains to dissemble; for, in proportion as true love is a noble feeling, so does jealousy announce a weak mind, although, in my opinion, true love is never exempt from jealousy. This is what mythology has perfectly understood, when it shows us Aurora jealous of Procris, and causing the eternal grief of Cephalus.

At last, after long suffering and hesitation, they advanced towards each other, stood still with emotion, then advanced, approached, and at the moment that Micilda raised Zapaquilda’s veil, the latter scratched her rival's face. Never did. Fatima and Xarifa commit such excesses when quarrelling for the heart of the Abencerrage Abindarraez [5]. Their fury soon increased: they fell upon, ill-treated, tore, and almost flayed each other, as, at the commencement of winter, we see the rough autan, with its pitiless breath, despoil the vine of its last leaves. In short, after many gashes and blows dealt with their hooked claws, they fainted away, pretending to be dead, bleeding, and with disordered head dresses.
[5. The loves of Abindarraez have been celebrated in the Moorish romances.]

This adventure was not calculated to abridge the period of our two heroes’ imprisonment; but as in time all things alter, and even evil is converted into good, they were restored to liberty. Gourougouz came one morning to announce that they might return to their respective lodgings. Jealousy dwelt in the hearts of Marramaquiz and Mizifouf - Marramaquiz especially was tormented by it. In vain did his friends counsel him to forget an ungrateful one and be happy in the love of Micilda; he could not banish the thought. In vain was Micilda lovely and graceful; he thought only of Zapaquilda, whose image love had imprinted on his soul; in vain he endeavoured to conceal his preoccupation, his grief betrayed him, and his thinness still more so. Behold him, his head hung on one side, his ribs almost bare, his cheeks sunk - it is thus death is represented.

Whilst Marramaquiz was thus visibly falling away, Mizifouf, thinking himself for ever free from that rival, egged one of his friends, named Slyboots, who had been a cat in an inn, to demand Zapaquilda of her father Grimaon, and Slyboots acquitted himself adroitly of the commission, not without lauding to the skies the good qualities, talent, and merits of his friend. Grimaon was a cat of good understanding and good manners, with a black coat and white beard. In his youth he had been attached to a poor hidalgo whom I need not name, to whom he acted as harrier, and never, it is said, did a rabbit on the banks of the Maucanares escape him. At night, at the same time, he took the place of light for his master, and so thoroughly, that one night, when he had curled himself up as usual on the hearth, a servant came in, and seeing his eyes sparkling among the cinders, took them for small live coals, and, without evil intention, put a light to them, with which she nearly put out one of his eyes. This was the greatest adventure of his life. As he was charming to everybody, everybody loved him; he therefore listened with friendliness to the overtures which were made him, and even evinced that he should be flattered to have such a son-in-law: and the better to prove his satisfaction, he offered to give his daughter, as a dowry, a wicker basket which served him as a bed, six pocket-handkerchiefs for sheets, several fragments of old counterpanes for carpets, two salted pigs’ feet, and four almost entire cheeses; a captive she-monkey that belonged to him, and spoke and even understood the language of the cultists,[6] and a thousand other things which have a certain value. Slyboots was enchanted; the settlements were signed and the wedding day fixed.
[6. The cultists were a class of affected and conceited writers, against whom Lope always waged war.]

Meanwhile, what was Marramaquiz doing? Ignorant of what was concocting against his happiness and glory, and in a bitterly sweet frame of mind, he was playing at ball with a mouse which he had taken at the moment she was trotting from an escritoire, which contained the productions of a poet, to a trunk which held some eatables. It is thus that misfortunes always occur when least expected, for we can reckon upon nothing in this world. Sometimes Marramaquiz pretended to go away, and after giving the little beast fresh hopes, he pounced on her and stopped her; sometimes he threw her into the air and seized on her in the middle of her journey like a. bird shot flying; sometimes, with a friendly hand, he gave her gentle blows on her nose and ears. Whilst he amused himself thus, Whisker, his squire, appeared, out of breath, dismayed, bringing him the news of the intended marriage of Mizifouf and Zapaquida. At this news - on hearing that he was about to lose for ever his beloved, Marramaquiz stood confounded, and let fall the mouse, which ran off with all speed, blessing its good fortune. But mortification, fury, and rage succeeded the first astonishment, and flying upon Whisker, he gave him with his left hand a blow which disfigured the poor squire - the usual reward of whoever brings bad news. Oh, love! to what excesses wilt thou not lead a noble cavalier. And, after such examples, what tolerably reasonable page or squire can trust to the favour of the great? If they are happy in their loves, they caress you, lavish friendly epithets upon you, and load you with presents; but if their loves do not run smoothly, nothing remains for you but abuse, rebuffs, and blows.

After letting the mouse escape and dismissing the beaten squire, Marramaquiz, mad with love and jealousy, concealed himself in the most retired corner of the house, and resolving to die, threw himself with desperation on his bed; then changing his mind, in a transport of fury he climbed in an instant to the highest point of the roof, then almost directly he descended into the kitchen, where, regardless of Marina, the servant of the licentiate, he made a fearful noise. He was naked, and reminded one of the paladin Roland, who commenced vagabondizing in a state of complete nudity as soon as he had read the insolent provocations of the Moor, written on the bark of trees. He broke the pots and jugs, threw down the iron kettle, and seizing a piece of bacon which weighed at least half a pound, he swallowed it whole. A partridge hung up by the beak met his eye, he sprung on it and plucked it; however high anything was placed he reached it and threw it down. The kitchen resounded with the fall of saucepans, recently-scoured gridirons, and stewpans; nothing escaped his fury. At last, unconscious of what he was about, he sprung from the top of a shelf into an iron pot full of water, which had just been taken off the fire, and in one bound sprang out of it, as Roland did out of the river in which he had plunged the haughty Rodomontus.

At this noise the licentiate hastened to the spot, and seeing him, fancied it was the doing of some neighbour who, being troubled with mice, had prepared some treacherous mess to poison them, which had by mistake killed his cat instead of the rats. And truly the licentiate was not far wrong, for jealousy is a deadly poison, which in one second freezes up the veins and heart and attacks the source of life; and I should prefer a strong dose of arsenic or hemlock to a scruple of jealousy. In short, grieved to see a cat that had grown up in his house in this state, he sent to his friend the apothecary for two ounces of thebiaque, the best antidote I know of, and gave it to Marramaquiz: he, with praiseworthy courage, took the drink his master offered him, and having swallowed it he fell into a profound sleep.


Noble Spanish soldiers, who, at this time sailing either in the Indian ocean, or in the cold northern seas, asking of every passing cloud news of your beautiful Spain, where you have left your loved one, perhaps you are astonished that a licentiate, a man of grave studies, should devote his time to singing about cats; and in truth I also might have struck up the arma virumque cano, and sang to my lyre of one of those valiant warriors, the glory of Spain. But what would you have? I was asked for a poem of less pretensions, and I determined on celebrating the wars of amorous cats!

Everything was ready for the wedding; the relations, friends, and neighbours were invited, and the absent had been written to. At last the day arrived which was to crown the hopes of the two lovers. But how often has a vase full of some delicious liquid received a fatal blow at the very moment that an eager mouth was opening to imbibe it.

Furious, and alone, Marramaquiz bewailed his fate on the summit of the roofs on which he had taken up his abode. Like Philomela, who in the roves weeps for him she has lost in sad and harmonious melodies, which soften tender hearts, he laments and sings at the same time. But I am wrong, the bird sings, the cat only mews.

By Grimaon’s order a vast granary had been prepared for the party. It was magnificent - around the room were arranged the portraits of all those who had formerly distinguished themselves among this warlike race, which is what I very much approve of - there is nothing like the portraits of great men for inspiring great actions. On one side of the room was placed, for the happy pair, a handsome raised floor, with a very elegant little balustrade, pretty little cushions, and in front two magnificent arm chairs. A cultist would have been in ecstasies at these preparations, which would have inspired him with some incomprehensible verses.

Longer shadows already began to fall from the high mountains and spread over the valleys; already in the cities silence and quiet were succeeding to noise and bustle: it was the hour when gallants prepare their weapons to seek adventures - it was the hour when the watch sets forth to keep the peace among the gallants. At that hour the room commenced filling with joyous guests. First entered Malingrin, whose elegance and bonnes fortunes were everywhere renowned; his mistress for the time being was named Laura, whom he loved with greater passion than Petrarch loved his fair; after him came Grumbler, dressed all in black, probably to indicate the usual state of his mind; Destroyer, who possessed an uncommon appetite and stomach; Fly-catcher, who had come from Andalusia stage by stage through the Sierra Morena, to see the flowery banks of the Tagus, under the care of his father, the respectable Guifguif; Cheeser and Tear-in-pieces, two very fashionable young men; Instep and Heel, the cats of a shoemaker, and a thousand others.

How can one thus neglect the principals for the accessories? How could I speak of the cavaliers and not mention the ladies, who on this memorable day rivalled each other in dress and grace? I shall begin by the beautiful Laura, of whom I have already spoken, and who had put on her most becoming toilette to please Malingrin; you would also have remarked Minette and Columbine, town cats, who came under the chaperonage of Puss the discreet, their mother; Dainty-lip, a young widow, pretty and bold, who had too much reputation to have much virtue; Griselda, equally admired for her wit and beauty; and Velvet-paw, the most charming cat in all Castile.

Having taken their places, the ball commenced. Fly-catcher and the amiable Columbine opened it by dancing a galliard; after them Tear-in-pieces and Dainty-lip advanced, provided with noisy castanets, and danced a chaconne - it was even declared that Dainty-lip gently shook her apron with her hands in dancing, which, they say, somewhat shocked the cats of a certain age. At this moment Zapaquilda entered, led by her mother, Dame Golosilla. Here, Muses, I again invoke ye! Inspire your disciple - put eloquence and poetry in my pen and lend me the talent of great painters. Oh, how beautiful was Zapaquilda that day! how elegant and distinguée her dress! On her head shone a wreath of spring roses; to her ears were fastened white satin ribbons; a pearl necklace adorned her throat; she wore a gown of brocade, marvellously embroidered; finally, her feet were cased in pattens with gold fringes. But her dress was outshone by her personal charms. What touching modesty! and at times how her eyes beamed, revealing, in spite of herself, the hopes which possessed her! . . . When she came into the room everyone rose, and the oldest cats admired her, like Helen in the Trojan senate. Grumbler alone, who loved to criticize everything, remarked to his neighbour the costliness of Zapaquilda’s dress, saying that it was not to be wondered at that so many men refused to marry when they could not find a dowry which enabled them to hear such expenses. After bowing to the principal persons present, Zapaquilda sat down, and the dancing recommenced. But this amusement was soon to be tragically interrupted.

In the midst of the fete, Marramaquiz, impelled by his frantic love, suddenly entered the room. The dances instantly ceased. All looked at each other with astonishment, at seeing a cat come to a wedding with his sword drawn. As for Zapaquilda, her emotion at this sight was overpowering. She communicated her fears to her friends. She rightly thought that Mizifouf was the only one who had strength to turn Marramaquiz out, and, unfortunately, Mizifouf was not yet arrived. Amidst the general astonishment Marramaquiz glanced withering looks at the assembly, increased the terror of all minds, and uttered these terrible menaces: -

“Vile assembly of braggarts, more perfidious and treacherous than Dutchmen and Moors! squadrons of chicken hearts! junta of miserable insects! vile inhabitants of kitchens, who, far from the wars, ignobly pass your lives amidst pots and pans! you who are made only to bear kicks from servant maids, and to lick up the gravy left in the plates: you who pass your winters under cinders in the corner of the hearth! - I am Marramaquiz, - Marramaquiz, who has the courage of the lion and the claws of the tiger, - Marramaquiz, the terror of the world, and through whom these infamous nuptials will become the nuptials of another Hippodamia to your eternal shame!”

O, Muses! this cat had certainly read Ovid. He thus announced that he intended to take Hercules as a model; and, in fact, a number of centaur cats perished that day by his hand. How shall I paint the furious excesses into which his insensate jealousy betrayed him? Tamerlane in China, the famous Roman, Scipio, in Carthage and Numantia, never made greater havoc. He went striking right and left, wounding and killing. Fly-catcher looked at him and was knocked down with one blow. Grumbler murmured, and he fell down lifeless. A blow fell on Clawall, a great duck and rabbit hunter, and he fell with his head against a stone and mewed his last. Several cats of rare courage endeavoured to defend the raised floor; in one moment they were dispersed, and the boards covered with the wrecks of their dress: everywhere were strewed gloves, shoes, collars, cuffs, ribbons, necklaces, earrings, &c. Malingrin, full of courage and gallantry, endeavoured to protect and lead away the bride; Marramaquiz seized him as Hercules seized Lycas, and threw him through a loop-hole into the street. No, Achilles did not kill more warriors when, on learning the death of Patroclus, he rushed like a hedgehog in the midst of the Trojan army; Nero did not hear with greater pleasure the cries of terror and despair in burning Rome! At last, seeing Zapaquilda, who, flying, already thought herself safe, he rushed towards and stopped her. “Where goest thou, deceiver?”

“Alas,” answered she, “I fly from thy fearful sword, which thirsts for my death, as it does for the death of my husband. But, cruel Polyphemus, if he dies I follow him!”

“What! beauteous ingrate, is it thus thou speakest to me? It is I, foolish and audacious cat, it is I alone who am your husband. As to the insolent creature you lament, if he dares present himself before me, thou shalt see how I will kill and skin him and give his hide to my friends to make them muffs for the winter.”

“Well then, know, pitiless tyrant,” said she, “if thou deprivest me of a beloved husband, I shall kill myself with my own hands.”

“Thy husband!” he exclaimed; “thou shalt not see him more! Thou art mine, thou art my conquest!"

So saying, he seized and carried her off, as Paris carried off Helen, and Pluto Proserpine. Zapaquilda called out, “Mizifouf! Mizifouf!” . . . Nothing stopped Marramaquiz; neither the tears of the lady nor the kicks she gave him while struggling; he did not even notice that she dropped one of her shoes in the struggle. He reached his house without meeting any obstacle, took her to the top of it, and shut her up in a tower, which he alone knew of, like Galvan de-Moriane.

Such are the pleasures of the world! Thus has ended many a day which commenced under the most fortunate auspices!


When the haughty pagan, Rodomontus, learnt that Mandricardus had carried away the beautiful Doralice, on the 16th day of August, as Ariosto tells us (for Ariosto is the most exact of poets), we are told that Rodomontus broke forth in strange discourses, which would have softened hearts of bronze or marble. He arrogantly vowed never to go and see either bullfights or fencing matches, even were Sacripant and Roger to order him to do so; never to eat sitting; never to gallop without a bell to his horse’s breast; never to pay or listen to one of his creditors, however great their civility; never to lend without security and large interest; finally, never to paint Queen Cleopatra without her asp. And, although Homer does not mention it, I am sure that the fierce Atrides, Menelaus, said no less after the abduction of his wife, the perfidious Helen, cursing the shepherd Paris, who, on Mount Ida, had given the apple to the queen of Acidalia.

But you will ask the meaning of this preamble. It means that Mizifouf, on learning the abduction of his wife, the Helen and Doralice of cats, flew into an inconceivable fury, and throwing off his cap, swore to the ravisher a bloody vengeance.

And as Mizifouf’s friends reproached him for not having arrived at the wedding in time, he excused himself by saying that he lived at a great distance from his shoemaker, who had not kept his word, and at last brought a pair of shoes a great deal too narrow. Shoemakers are the causes of great sufferings! Besides, I own I should have been curious to see a cat in pumps. It must have been charming. It would doubtless have cured the fits of melancholy to which I am subject. But let us leave these puerile details, and put no childishness in the account of a fatal adventure, which required a Marini or a Tasso, those two suns of the modern Helicon, instead of an ignorant Spanish poet. I shall only say that the unfortunate Mizifouf, incessantly thinking of his honour and his puss, wept, lamented, cried out for vengeance, and meanwhile, in his rage, he tore what the cultists called the clothing of the hand, that is, his gloves.

Whilst the friends and relations of Mizifouf were consulting on the means of punishing so cruel and daring an outrage, Marramaquiz was endeavouring, in a thousand ways, to soften the obdurate heart of Zapaquilda. She did nothing but weep, and her tears increased her charms, as they say of Aurora. Can you imagine anything more touching than a young beauty, who, silent, and her head hung down, lets her tears trickle down like pearls on her rosy cheeks? Zapaquilda’s grief disturbed Marramaquiz, and day and night he sought something which might please and touch her. He knew not what to invent. He used coaxing, caressing, even the nonsense which nurses talk to children when suckling or endeavouring to quiet them: My love, my angel, my little king, my blessing, my Gonzales - but the latter only when the child’s name is Gonzales; it would be absurd if he were called Lope or Fernando, for the first way of being understood by a child is to call it by its name! This was not all - as soon as the sun began to gild the horizon with its rays, poor Marramaquiz, inspired by his love, bravely set out, fearless of the cross-bow, for the adjacent forest, sought the rabbit in the depths of the earth, where it concealed itself, seized it and brought it to the ungrateful fair one. There was no piece of beef or game in the kitchen, which if Marina turned her head, did not instantly disappear, to be carried on the roof, without the thief being heard, he was so light and active! He even went so far as to take things out of the saucepan; a wing off a fowl on the spit; and when he scalded or scratched himself, he only said, ffouffou! ffouffou! like cats in general. Oh, power of love! he even ventured several times to take fish out of the frying pan without a spoon!

“Is it possible,” said he in a plaintive Voice (for he had read the Eclogues of Theocritus and Virgil) - “is it possible, cruel Galatea, that thou art insensible to my prayers, and that the fire which consumes me has no power to melt thee? Ah! thou requirest my death - thou wishest to sacrifice me to Mizifouf, thy Adonis. But know this, thou shalt never see the insolent villain, never shall he press thee to his bosom! . . . And why shouldst thou regret him? Since thou hast been my captive he has not made a single attempto see thee! . . . As for me, Micilda loved me, Micida sought me, and for thy sake I returned her love with scorn, although she was a cat of rare modesty, living retired, and who would not have prepared a clandestine marriage through the medium of a complacent friend, with love letters and nocturnal rendezvous. Such is she whom I left for thee, whilst thou hast abandoned me for a coward, who does not deserve the love of the lowest of cats.”

“Marramaquiz,” answered she, “these words are useless; I have given my heart to him who appeared most worthy of it; I shall be faithful to him to the grave. Thy deceitful protestations will not persuade me, and I do not fear thy menaces.”

“What obstinacy,” replied Marramaquiz. “Couldst thou not spare me these insults? Well, then, I will conquer thy severity by devotion and submission; and when thou seest that I, who am so proud, lay my pride at thy feet, thou wilt understand the greatness of my love.”

Such were the habitual conversations between Marramaquiz and Zapaquilda; and if her constancy and virtue are worthy of admiration, the reserve, dignity, and generosity of the unfortunate lover are no less so.

Meanwhile Mizifouf assembled his friends and relations at Grimaon’s house, complaining of the conduct of the common enemy. He spoke of Marramaquiz in the same way that the Christian Powers speak of the Turks; and to excite them again the villain, he exaggerated the account of the cruel manner in which his wife, his Helen, had been treated. All being secretly assembled in his father-in-law’s granary, and being seated, Mizifouf, in broken voice, thus addressed the noble junta:

“Friends and relatives, I shall not employ vain eloquence to point out to you the misfortune which you have witnessed, and of which, according to custom, I was the last to be informed. Do you need words to rouse you? Do noble hearts require long speeches? The paleness of my face and my sighs will tell more than I can, and a silent grief is not less eloquent than Demosthenes, especially when speaking before an assembly which, for wisdom, can only be compared to the Roman senate. My wife has been carried off, and I demand vengeance!”

The assembly was moved, and most of the cats gave Mizifouf unequivocal proofs of real sympathy.

After this first movement, a cat named Big-belly spoke. He was a cat of consummate prudence and venerable aspect. We must add, that his baldness was not caused by the disease called scald head, but by a blow given him by a servant one day, when, profiting by her looking off one moment from some tripe she was cleaning, he seized hold of one end and carried it up on the roof, so that the other end remained in the kitchen, thus forming a long cord, by means of which one might have found one’s way about the house, like the thread of the Cretan labyrinth.

Big-belly rose and said, with a grave and majestic air, “It is with reason, my friends, that you testify such sympathy to Mizifouf, and you owe help and protection to a stranger who has left his native land to live amongst us as a brother; and even if not for his sake, you ought to prove to the world, by some striking example, that beauty is not to be outraged with impunity."

To which Kiddy, speaking like a young cat as he was, answered, “If this concerned me personally,” said he, boastingly, “Marramaquiz would already have suffered the punishment he deserves, for I would have torn out his eyes with my claws.”

But Fighter looked fixedly at him, and said, “It would be better to send a challenge, according to the manners of Castile, to the most valiant cat who ever ran in the gutters.”

“That is not my opinion,” said Sharp. “Is it not folly to expose one’s life against an individual who has behaved improperly? and is it not established that there should be no challenge in cases of treachery? My advice is that the injured one should take a crossbow - that, armed thus, he should at night await the offender at the corner of a roof, and there kill him, without compromising himself.”

“Yes,” instantly replied Scratcher, who was a very distinguished cat. “Yes, this revenge would be excellent, if certain. But there is no reckoning on it with so careful a cat as Marramaquiz. In my opinion it would be better to bring the ravisher to justice, and proceed legally against him; doubtless death would be the reward of his crimes.”

“That would be called cowardice,” instantly replied Biter. “Besides, what is the use of a law-suit in cases like this. Is there not always a deal of idle gossiping which a man must avoid? And who does not know the interminable length of law-suits? We lose patience and life before judgment is passed. I therefore think the best justice is the one we get for ourselves by sword and pistol.”

“Biter has spoken well,” immediately said Foxy, after making the customary salutation to the assembly. “It would be folly in us to have recourse to law, and we should be mad, with the popular feeling so strong against us, to exhibit the spectacle of a cat dragged to the scaffold, and hung like ordinary criminals. On the other hand, has Mizifouf the strength of the Moor Mouza, that you counsel him to fight a duel with so fearful an adversary? I must beg pardon of Fighter and Scratcher if I do not share their opinion My advice is, that we should make common cause with the party injured, and that, to succeed in an enterprise of such importance, we should raise an army. When we have assembled sufficient infantry and cavalry we will besiege the traitor in his domains; we will cut off from him all assistance, or what is better still, by storming the ramparts which protect him, we shall compel him to surrender, and when we have him, we will punish him as he deserves. Therefore let the banners be waved, the drum beat to arms, the trumpet be sounded, and a bloody war be proclaimed. It was thus Menelaus recovered his wife in the midst of Troy in flames.”

Foxy had hardly done speaking, when the entire assembly rose at once, saying that Mizifouf’s cause was theirs, and that all would die to revenge him.

Mizifouf thanked the assembly with visible emotion, and, after embracing Foxy, he departed instantly to busy himself about recruiting. And now, oh love! thou mayest give up thy place to Mars. Seest thou not Tisiphone and her sisters brandishing their flaming torches which light up the horizon with sinister brilliancy? And, more, ever, art thou not desirous to know the effects of a passion which thou hast inspired?


To arms! war! carnage! such were the cries which were echoed in the camp of our Grecian cat against the Trojan cat Marramaquiz as fire long repressed bursts forth with greater violence in the spot where it was first kindled. Banners violently shaken by impatient hands troubled the repose of the air; but in their continual motion it was impossible to distinguish either their colours or arms. The noisy drum and sonorous trumpet answered each other, and this music roused and increased in all minds the desire to fight.

Already moved the soldiers clad in brilliant armour, and better still, in invincible courage. See those warlike faces under their helmets shaded with floating plumes. See in what order those soldiers advance, sword by side and lance or musket on shoulder, so that the second line place their feet in the impressions which the first line has left, and so on to the end. The infantry brought with it some pieces of artillery to make a breach in the walls. These cannons were formed of the shin bone of an ox, and had been brought into the camp, not by innkeeper’s cats, that would have been suspicious, but by pastrycook’s cats. The cannons were rolled in little wheel-barrows, and the artillerymen destined to attend them walked a few steps behind, match in hand.

Arrived under the walls of the place, Mizifouf surveyed the camp. His breastplate was the shell of a tortoise, which, notwithstanding the proverb, had been found by death without leaving his house. He wore a beaver hat with a turned-up brim, shaded by two feathers, one black and one green, typical of mourning and hope. With his right hand he held his terrible sword; with his left he carefully governed a superb courser, which needed neither bit nor spur, and which, full of blood and mettle, seemed rather to fly than gallop. There is nothing new in a horse’s flying; - is not the horse Pegasus represented with wings? and is not the hippogriff of Ariosto half a horse?

Marramaquiz, acquainted with what was plotting against him, had assembled all the cats of his acquaintance. Unfortunately, he did not hear of it till too late, and when reviewing his troops, he found himself powerless against so many enemies. He walked up and down the room in every direction, more sad and anxious than a poet who has seen his own comedy damned, or his rival’s succeed; whilst Zapaquilda, to whom Fame has brought word that her husband was coming to deliver her, showed more joy than a poet who has heard his best friend’s piece hissed. Nevertheless, the hero did not neglect his means of defence; he appeared on the walls preparing everything for the siege, instructing some, encouraging others, and by his orders the ramparts were covered with valiant soldiers, who moved amidst floating banners. Have you sometimes seen at the beginning of autumn, when the labourers are cleaning their tubs and wine presses, the steeple of a village surrounded with vineyards become covered with thousands of thrushes, which are at that season fatter than ever, and are preparing to descend upon the country? Such was the effect produced by the cats upon the tower.

At last the signal for the assault was given. The besiegers lowered their visors, and advanced in order to the foot of the tower to the sound of the trumpet and drum, which increased the ardour of these valiant heroes. The fiery coursers which conduct the sun’s car had passed mid-day. Mizifouf alighted from his horse, and standing beneath a tree - it matters little what tree - he addressed these words to his courageous followers, who listened attentively: -

“Generous friends, witnesses of my injury and grief, it is useless for me to endeavour to excite in your minds the feelings of honour which animates mine, and which alone has prompted me to so daring an enterprise. Like me you all know what honour is, and what it requires. He lied who said - for who would dare write it? - that a glorious retreat makes amends for a whole life-time: I maintain, on the contrary, that a life-time is glorified by a noble death. It is the privilege of noble minds to sigh after grand exploits; their reward is glory, and you will some day obtain that reward. Could your enemies frighten high-born cats like you? Are they not as cowardly as they are treacherous? Are they not half defeated by the knowledge only of my being your commander? Therefore fight valiantly, I shall set you the example; and do not be uneasy because you have no ladders to scale the walls. You do not need them, you can climb like cats.”

So saying, and brandishing the lance which he held in his muscular hand, he marched straight to the wall, and transfixed six of his enemies, Marauder, Short-ears, Blacky, Crooked-leg, Mew mew, and Hypocrite, who insolently provoked him, thinking themselves sheltered behind a rampart. At the same time his soldiers, full of courage and inflamed by his eloquence and example, imitated him; and it was beautiful to see them scale the tower by means of their claws, which were more tenacious than the hooks of a cloth shearer. They all climbed up, unmoved by the fate awaiting them. One was hardly down before a thousand others took his place; as soon as one reached the top of the wall, the stroke of a sword made him lifeless. Another at the foot of the tower was crushed by a stone, which thus became his tombstone. Projectiles of all kinds fell fast, like hail in a storm; there died the intrepid Galvan and the talented Foxy, both worthy of a better fate, if death on the field of battle were not the most glorious death for warriors.

Jupiter, from his starry throne, contemplated this bloody combat and fearing, lest after so fierce a struggle this round machine would be unpeopled of cats, he considered what remedy to provide against such a misfortune. “By Jupiter!" said he, “it is not fit that such a war should be prolonged, it is quite enough that the abduction of Helen caused the ruin of Troy. I must prevent the cats from destroying one another; otherwise the rats would increase without end, eat up the terrestrial globe, and inflated by success, would then attempt, like new Titans, to scale Olympus.” Having said this, he assembled thick clouds, and caused the day to he succeeded by thick and sudden darkness. The cats, unable to recognise each other, cease fighting. [7]
[7. Jupiter’s intervention is imitated from the ‘Batrachomyomachia,’ in which he episode was parodied from he ‘Iliad.’]

The next day and the following ones the struggle recommenced with equal constancy on both sides; the besiegers always vigorous in attacking, the besieged immovable in defending. But as the siege became protracted, victuals became scarce. It went so far that Zapaquilda no longer had sufficient nourishment; her charm disappeared, and the roses which bloomed in her cheeks were replaced by a death-like paleness.

Marramaquiz seeing her fall away, and inspired by love, went out unobserved in quest of a few sparrows, through a loop-hole which opened on to the roofs. He was accompanied by Wide-awake only, a page in whom he had entire confidence, and whom he required to carry the produce of his sport. But, oh sad fate! whilst from the edge of a roof he watched a singing thrush, death was watching him. No one can escape his destiny. But alas! that heroes, who have a thousand times faced death on the field of battle, should perish victims of some vulgar accident. . . . A prince who was shooting birds called martinets (would to heaven those birds had never existed!) having fired a shot from a cross-bow at some distance, our cat instantly fell; and thus died the wisest and most valiant cat that ever existed. Thus was he for ever lost to war and councils. He remained stretched on the roofs without sepulture; preserving after death that air of ferocity which in life had terrified his enemies, and showing a sort of pride that he had died, as he deserved, struck by a royal hand.

Wide-awake, pale and trembling, brought the fatal news to the town. On hearing it, the besieged mewed sadly, and you would have seen them tearing out their beard and hair as the German soldiers do when they have lost one of their chiefs. But however, driven by famine, they surrendered to Mizifouf, a victor without a victory, who liberally distributed among them fish and cheese. As for Zapaquilda, after embracing her old father, who was bathed in tears, she threw herself into the arms of her husband. And to celebrate anew the interrupted marriage, they sent for a company of actors, who on an improvised theatre represented this adventure, of which the fortunate catastrophe delighted all the spectators.


You are visitor number