Esteemed American poet T. S. Eliot had a deep love of cats, evidenced in his 1939 collection of humorous poems Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats . The whimsical work was originally composed to amuse his godchildren and friends, but became admired by feline fanciers the world over (inspiring the Andrew Lloyd Webber Cats). Open Culture featured an audiobook version of Eliot’s poems on their website this week, with readings from the author himself. In the spirit of Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, we collected ten other poems for pussycats — tributes to their mystique and reflections on their place in our (lesser) human lives.
Charles Baudelaire, “The Cat“
In reverie they emulate the noble mood Of giant sphinxes stretched in depths of solitude Who seem to slumber in a never-ending dream
Edward Lear, “The Owl and the Pussycat“
The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five-pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
“O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
What a beautiful Pussy you are!”
William Carlos Williams, “Poem“
As the cat climbed over the top of
the jamcloset first the right forefoot
Margaret Atwood, “February“
Cat, enough of your greedy whining and your small pink bumhole. Off my face! You’re the life principle, more or less, so get going on a little optimism around here.
Emily Dickinson, “A little Dog that wags his tail“
The Cat that in the Corner dwells Her martial Day forgot The Mouse but a Tradition now Of her desireless Lot
Sylvia Plath, “Ella Mason and Her Eleven Cats“
Once we children sneaked over to spy Miss Mason Napping in her kitchen paved with saucers. On antimacassars Table-top, cupboard shelf, cats lounged brazen, One gruff-timbred purr rolling from furred throats: Such stentorian cats!
Pablo Neruda, “Cats Dream“
I have seen how the cat asleep Would undulate, how the night flowed Through it like dark water and at times, It was going to fall or possibly Plunge into the bare deserted snowdrifts.
Sometimes it grew so much in sleep Like a tiger’s great-grandfather, And would leap in the darkness over Rooftops, clouds and volcanoes.
W. B. Yeats, “The Cat and the Moon“
The cat went here and there And the moon spun round like a top, And the nearest kin of the moon, The creeping cat, looked up. Black Minnaloushe stared at the moon, For, wander and wail as he would, The pure cold light in the sky Troubled his animal blood.
Rainer Maria Rilke, “Black Cat“
as if awakened, she turns her face to yours; and with a shock, you see yourself, tiny, inside the golden amber of her eyeballs suspended, like a prehistoric fly.
Jorge Luis Borges, “To a Cat”
More remote, even, than the Ganges or the setting sun, yours is the solitude, yours the secret. Your haunch allows the lingering caress of my hand. You have accepted, since that long forgotten past, the love of the distrustful hand. You belong to another time. You are lord of a place bounded like a dream.