Addressing a Cat (by TS Elliott)

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Thomas Stearns Eliot, OM (26 September 1888 – 4 January 1965), better known by his pen name T. S. Eliot, was an American-born British essayist, publisher, playwright, literary and social critic and "one of the twentieth century's major poets". He moved to England in 1914 at age 25, settling, working and marrying there. He was eventually naturalised as a British subject in 1927 at age 39, renouncing his American citizenship.

Eliot attracted widespread attention for his poem "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" (1915), which is seen as a masterpiece of the Modernist movement. It was followed by some of the best-known poems in the English language, including The Waste Land (1922), "The Hollow Men" (1925), "Ash Wednesday" (1930) and Four Quartets (1945). He is also known for his seven plays, particularly Murder in the Cathedral (1935). He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948, "for his outstanding, pioneer contribution to present-day poetry".


You’ve read of several kinds of Cat,
 And my opinion now is that
 You should need no interpreter
 To understand their character.
 You now have learned enough to see
 That Cats are much like you and me
 And other people whom we find
 Possessed of various types of mind.
 For some are sane and some are mad
 And some are good and some are bad
 And some are better, some are worse —
But all may be described in verse.
 You’ve seen them both at work and games,
 And learnt about their proper names,
 Their habits and their habitat:

How would you ad-dress a Cat?

So first, your memory I’ll jog,
 And say: A CAT IS NOT A DOG.

Now Dogs pretend they like to fight;
 They often bark, more seldom bite;
 But yet a Dog is, on the whole,
 What you would call a simple soul.
 Of course I’m not including Pekes,
 And such fantastic canine freaks.
 The usual Dog about the Town
 Is much inclined to play the clown,
 And far from showing too much pride
 Is frequently undignified.
 He’s very easily taken in —
Just chuck him underneath the chin
 Or slap his back or shake his paw,
 And he will gambol and guffaw.
 He’s such an easy-going lout,
 He’ll answer any hail or shout.

Again I must remind you that
 A Dog’s a Dog — A CAT’S A CAT.

With Cats, some say, one rule is true:
 Don’t speak till you are spoken to.
 Myself, I do not hold with that –
I say, you should ad-dress a Cat.
 But always keep in mind that he
 Resents familiarity.
 I bow, and taking off my hat,
 Ad-dress him in this form: O CAT!
 But if he is the Cat next door,
 Whom I have often met before
 (He comes to see me in my flat)
 I greet him with an OOPSA CAT!
 I’ve heard them call him James Buz-James —
But we’ve not got so far as names.
 Before a Cat will condescend
 To treat you as a trusted friend,
 Some little token of esteem
 Is needed, like a dish of cream;
 And you might now and then supply
 Some caviare, or Strassburg Pie,
 Some potted grouse, or salmon paste —
He’s sure to have his personal taste.
 (I know a Cat, who makes a habit
 Of eating nothing else but rabbit,
 And when he’s finished, licks his paws
 So’s not to waste the onion sauce.)
 A Cat’s entitled to expect
 These evidences of respect.
 And so in time you reach your aim,
 And finally call him by his NAME.

So this is this, and that is that:
 And there’s how you AD-DRESS A CAT.

The Naming Of Cats by T. S. Eliot

The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn't just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I'm as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.
First of all, there's the name that the family use daily,
Such as Peter, Augustus, Alonzo or James,
Such as Victor or Jonathan, George or Bill Bailey--
All of them sensible everyday names.
There are fancier names if you think they sound sweeter,
Some for the gentlemen, some for the dames:
Such as Plato, Admetus, Electra, Demeter--
But all of them sensible everyday names.
But I tell you, a cat needs a name that's particular,
A name that's peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,
Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?
Of names of this kind, I can give you a quorum,
Such as Munkustrap, Quaxo, or Coricopat,
Such as Bombalurina, or else Jellylorum-
Names that never belong to more than one cat.
But above and beyond there's still one name left over,
And that is the name that you never will guess;
The name that no human research can discover--
But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.
When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.


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