Sunday, July 16, 2017

Poetry Sunday: Macavity: The Mystery Cat

I have long had a affinity for cats. It's something that I share with a lot of writers, both living and dead.

Among the most famous advocates of cats among the community of writers was, of course, T.S. Eliot, he who wrote Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, which Andrew Lloyd Webber later took and turned into his musical, Cats.

All of the poems in that book show a deep understanding of the often inscrutable and enigmatic personalities of cats. None more so than the one about Macavity, the Mystery Cat. Having known and cherished many mystery cats over the years, I have a particular fondness for this poem.

Macavity: The Mystery Cat

by T.S. Eliot

Macavity's a Mystery Cat: he's called the Hidden Paw—
For he's the master criminal who can defy the Law.
He's the bafflement of Scotland Yard, the Flying Squad's despair:
For when they reach the scene of crime—Macavity's not there!

Macavity, Macavity, there's no one like Macavity,
He's broken every human law, he breaks the law of gravity.
His powers of levitation would make a fakir stare,
And when you reach the scene of crime—Macavity's not there!
You may seek him in the basement, you may look up in the air—
But I tell you once and once again, Macavity's not there!

Macavity's a ginger cat, he's very tall and thin;
You would know him if you saw him, for his eyes are sunken in.
His brow is deeply lined with thought, his head is highly domed;
His coat is dusty from neglect, his whiskers are uncombed.
He sways his head from side to side, with movements like a snake;
And when you think he's half asleep, he's always wide awake.

Macavity, Macavity, there's no one like Macavity,
For he's a fiend in feline shape, a monster of depravity.
You may meet him in a by-street, you may see him in the square—
But when a crime's discovered, then Macavity's not there!

He's outwardly respectable. (They say he cheats at cards.)
And his footprints are not found in any file of Scotland Yard's
And when the larder's looted, or the jewel-case is rifled,
Or when the milk is missing, or another Peke's been stifled,
Or the greenhouse glass is broken, and the trellis past repair
Ay, there's the wonder of the thing! Macavity's not there!

And when the Foreign Office find a Treaty's gone astray,
Or the Admiralty lose some plans and drawings by the way,
There may be a scrap of paper in the hall or on the stair—
But it's useless to investigate—Macavity's not there!
And when the loss has been disclosed, the Secret Service say:
It must have been Macavity!'—but he's a mile away.
You'll be sure to find him resting, or a-licking of his thumb;
Or engaged in doing complicated long division sums.

Macavity, Macavity, there's no one like Macavity,
There never was a Cat of such deceitfulness and suavity.
He always has an alibi, and one or two to spare:
At whatever time the deed took place—MACAVITY WASN'T THERE !
And they say that all the Cats whose wicked deeds are widely known
(I might mention Mungojerrie, I might mention Griddlebone)
Are nothing more than agents for the Cat who all the time
Just controls their operations: the Napoleon of Crime!


4 comments:

  1. That's so cute! I didn't know that Lloyd Webber's Cats was inspired by poems. You always manage to teach me something, Dorothy. :-)

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    1. The texts of the songs from the musical are taken almost entirely verbatim from Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. All Webber had to do was set them to music!

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    2. Great! A new one for me too. I miss my cat. We decided we were done feeding our cats to the coyotes. I can't bear to keep a cat in the house all the time. Perhaps I will get these poems.

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    3. If you are a fan of cats, or Cats, you probably will enjoy the poems.

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