Poem – A – Day: The Naming of Cats by T. S. Eliot

Cuddle KittensMy sister, who is very active with local feral cat Trap/Neuter/Return efforts through an organization called Guardians of Rescue, recently rescued some kittens from a shed that was being torn down. Since these little babies are really too young to be away from their mother, there is a lot of very hands-on work, care, and effort involved in keeping them healthy and thriving until we can find homes for them. Today, my sister asked me to take some pictures of the little guys and I was lucky enough to get some really cute shots – so cute that today’s post is going to have a kitty-theme.

Hungry KittensSo I needed a suitably cat-ish poem to post today and decided on T. S. Eliot’s “The Naming of Cats” from his book, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.  One of the very cool things about this book of poems is that the musical, Cats, was based on it. I never saw that show. It closed before I was old enough to catch many Broadway shows but someday I plan on reading the rest of Old Possum and then seeing if I can hunt up a recording of the show just to see how the two compare.

 The Naming of Cats
T S Elliot

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, or 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
Effanineffable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.

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About Ciarrai

Hi. My name is Kerry but here online I tend to go by the Gaelic version of my name, Ciarrai. I am a woman in my mid-30's who lives on Long Island, NY, with my husband, Rob, several guitars, a Nikon D40, more yarn, beads and books than I care to admit to and a cat who has a million nicknames and quite a few theme songs. I have a B.A. in Psychology and have recently returned to college to pursue a teaching degree so that I can eventually get a job as a High School English teacher. In addition to my major obsessions (Reading, Beading, Knitting, Music and Photography), I also enjoy playing Board Games, going to Renaissance Faires, Museums and Broadway Musicals.
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