On The Naming of Cats
First of all, there’s the name
that the family use daily,
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,
But all of them sensible everyday names.
But I tell you,
a cat needs a name that’s particular,
A name that is 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, Quazo or Coripat,
Such as Bombalurina, or else Jellyrum–
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 will never guess;
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 rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought,
of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.
Thomas Stearns Eliot
(b. on Sep 26, 1888 in St. Louis, Missouri, U. S. A.; d. Jan 4, 1965)
Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats is a collection of whimsical poems by T. S. Eliot about feline psychology and sociology, published by Faber and Faber. It is the basis for the record-setting musical Cats.
The poems were written during the 1930s and included by Eliot, under his assumed name “Old Possum,” in letters to his godchildren. They were collected and published in 1939 with cover illustrations by the author, and quickly re-published in 1940, illustrated in full by Nicolas Bentley. It has also been published in reillustrated versions by Edward Gorey (1982) and Axel Scheffler (2009).
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