We’ve compiled a meow-vellous list of classic poems today, all about cats! From Baudelaire to Edward Thomas, let’s see how our favourite furry feline has inspired some of literature’s most compelling figures.
The Flowers of Evil by Charles Baudelaire
Charles Baudelaire was a French poet best known for The Flowers of Evil. Having led his life as a free-spirited dandy and bohemian, his work contained controversial subjects – which led to six of his poems being banned for almost 100 years.
Forbidden poetry has to be good, am I right? Here’s a poem in his book that was not banned, about his love for mysterious cats.
All ardent lovers and all sages prize,
— As ripening years incline upon their brows —
The mild and mighty cats — pride of the house —
That like unto them are indolent, stern and wise.
The friends of Learning and of Ecstasy,
They search for silence and the horrors of gloom;
The devil had used them for his steeds of Doom,
Could he alone have bent their pride to slavery.
When musing, they display those outlines chaste,
Of the great sphinxes — stretched o’er the sandy waste,
That seem to slumber deep in a dream without end:
From out their loins a fountainous furnace flies,
And grains of sparkling gold, as fine as sand,
Bestar the mystic pupils of their eyes.
Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot
T. S. Eliot must have loved cats — he wrote an entire book about them! Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats is the ultimate poetry collection for readers and cat lovers alike. It was enjoyed so widely that it even inspired the famous musical, Cats.
Each chapter in this book is dedicated to a different kind of cat with its own personality. It is light, lyrical and clearly written with a sense of joy. This book will definitely brighten your day — good thing we have it in the library. 😉
Here’s the starting poem of the book, enjoy!
The Naming of Cats
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.
A Cat by Edward Thomas
On a very different note, the next selected cat poem may be a little… dark. It is by Edward Thomas, who is known for writing about nature in a detached and unsentimental manner. His main subject is the English countryside, and he is revered for his intense observations of it.
In the meantime, here’s a poem about his mixed feelings about cats as a victim and predator.
She had a name among the children;
But no one loved though someone owned
Her, locked her out of doors at bedtime
And had her kittens duly drowned.
In Spring, nevertheless, this cat
Ate blackbirds, thrushes, nightingales,
And birds of bright voice and plume and flight,
As well as scraps from neighbours’ pails.
I loathed and hated her for this;
One speckle on a thrush’s breast
Was worth a million such; and yet
She lived long, till God gave her rest.