Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Swift's raining cats and dogs

AS we continue to be doused in 50 shades of rain, I am reminded of one of my favourite writers, Jonathan Swift, and his musings on precipitation – Description of a City Shower, written in 1710 and published in The Tatler.

Swift begins: "Careful observers may foretell the hour (by sure prognostics) when to dread a shower" and then reveals the identify of his 18th century weather forecaster: "While rain depends, the pensive cat gives o'er her frolics and pursues her tail no more."

Swift memorably characterised the harbinger of ill-weather as "a sable cloud ... that swilled more liquor than it could contain. And like a drunkard gives it up again" and finishes with a veritable lashing of the populace below by "drown'd puppies" and "dead cats".

So now we know where "raining cats and dogs" came from.

MARK LAWLER

Belfast

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