Saturday, September 10, 2016

Cats: a poem and a painting

                                                  Cat and Yellow Butterfly
                                           Hsu Pei-hung, Chinese, (1895-1953)
                 Garden Lion 
O Michael, you are at once the enemy
And the chief ornament of our garden,
Scrambling up rose-posts, nibbling at nepeta,
Making your lair where tender plants should flourish,
Or proudly couchant on a sun-warmed stone.

What do you do all night there,
When we seek our soft beds,
And you go off, old roisterer,
Away into the dark?

I think you play at leopards and panthers;
I think you wander on to foreign properties;
But on winter mornings you are a lost orphan
Pitifully wailing underneath our windows;
And in summer, by the open doorway,
You come in pad, pad, lazily to breakfast,
Plumy tail waving, with a fine swagger,
Like a drum-major, or a parish beadle,
Or a rich rajah, or the Grand Mogul.

-- Mary Ursula Bethell --
New Zealand, (1874-1945)

Just a slight change of pace.  The poem and the painting remind me of Molly and Dusky, both of whom have moved on to wherever they go after their stay with me:  Molly for about 16 years and Dusky about three weeks shy of 18 years.  Both had very active fantasy lives as I watched them out in the front and back yards.

Note:  Both the poem and the painting are featured in Art and Nature: An Illustrated Anthology of  Nature Poetry  


  1. no day is a waste if you learn something... nepeta=catmint... we had cats; where ever Molly and Dusky are, i hope Probably and Chunky are there also...

  2. Mudpuddle,

    Thanks for the translation: I'd been meaning to look up nepeta but forgot.

    It is said that in an infinite universe, all things are possible. So, perhaps they are and perhaps we may be fortunate enough to join them. I'd prefer an heaven with cats and pets to one with harps, streets of gold, and all that singing (one of the few times I agree with Mark Twain).

  3. i really like that painting; the cat's eyes are looking directly at the butterfly; it's paws have the claws spread out, ready to grab; the ears are a little peculiar, but maybe that's the way chinese cats are?

    1. Mudpuddle,

      Good observations! I hadn't noticed those details, just the overall posture suggesting intense interest. It's hard to tell about those ears, though. Could they be laid back while he is on the prowl?

    2. i think you're right; looking closely, the black is only part of the ears: the outside is white....

    3. Mudpuddle,

      His patchy coloring makes it difficult to really focus on him, which I guess makes for good camouflage.

  4. Regrettably, we have four cats -- my wife's rescue project -- and when they vex me most I turn to T. S. Eliot's collection of cat poems, the ones that morphed into a Broadway extravaganza. I prefer Eliot to Broadway. I recommend the cat poems. I prefer them to my wife's rescues.

    1. FOUR!! my gosh; you could form a cat kingdom of your own!

    2. I blame my wife. She is the Saint Francis of the county. No stray animal can escape her grasp. The four cats are feral, which she trapped (and took to the vet for the obligatory treatments and alterings), and now they live on our enclosed patio in back. Joy!

    3. R.T.,

      Poems are marvelous, but they can't match a purring cat curled up in one's lap. Trust me--I have experience.

    4. Mudpuddle,

      There already is a cat kingdom, but RT didn't form it.

    5. R.T.,

      "I blame my wife. She is the Saint Francis of the county."

      You are indeed blessed and most fortunate among men.

  5. And there is this:

    1. R.T.,

      Thanks for the link. It's a great poem.