#ClassicPoetry – #T.S.Eliot – #TheNamingOfCats

Time for another “classic” poem, though this one was written much more recently than some I’ve shared. Still, it has a certain sound and rhythm to it that I think harkens back to another era and makes it worth sharing. Besides, I suspect that anyone who’s a cat lover will enjoy it as much as I do!


The Naming of Cats

by T. S. Eliot

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, 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.


T. S. Eliot
1888–1965

Thomas Stearns Eliot was born in St. Louis on September 26, 1888, and lived there during the first eighteen years of his life. He attended Harvard University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in three years and contributed several poems to the Harvard Advocate. From 1910–11, he studied at the Sorbonne, then returned to Harvard to pursue a doctorate in philosophy. After graduating, he moved back to Europe and settled in England in 1914. The following year, he married Vivienne Haigh-Wood and began working in London, first as a teacher, and later for Lloyd’s Bank.

It was in London that Eliot came under the influence of his contemporary Ezra Pound, who recognized his poetic genius at once, and assisted in the publication of his work in a number of magazines, most notably “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” which appeared in Poetry magazine in 1915. Eliot’s first book of poems, Prufrock and Other Observations, was published in London in 1917 by The Egoist, and immediately established him as a leading poet of the avant-garde. With the publication of The Waste Land (Boni & Liveright) in 1922, now considered by many to be the single most influential poetic work of the twentieth century, Eliot’s reputation began to grow to nearly mythic proportions. By 1930, and for the next thirty years, he was the most dominant figure in poetry and literary criticism in the English-speaking world.

As a poet, Eliot transmuted his affinity for the English metaphysical poets of the seventeenth century (notably, John Donne) and the nineteenth-century French Symbolist poets (including Charles Baudelaire and Jules Laforgue) into radical innovations in poetic technique and subject matter. His poems, in many respects, articulated the disillusionment of a younger post-World War I generation with the values and conventions—both literary and social—of the Victorian era. As a critic, he had an enormous impact on contemporary literary taste, propounding views that, after his conversion to orthodox Christianity in the late 1930s, were increasingly based in social and religious conservatism. His major later poetry publications include Four Quartets (Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1943) and Ash Wednesday (Faber & Faber, 1930). His books of literary and social criticism include Notes Towards the Definition of Culture (Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1949); After Strange Gods (Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1934); The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism (President and Fellows of Harvard College, 1933); and The Sacred Wood (Methuen & Co., Ltd., 1920). Eliot was also an important playwright, whose verse dramas include the comedy The Cocktail Party (Faber & Faber, 1950); The Family Reunion (Faber & Faber, 1939), a drama written partly in blank verse and influenced by Greek tragedy; and Murder in the Cathedral (Harcourt, Brace & Company, 1935).

Eliot became a British citizen in 1927. In 1948, he received the Nobel Prize for Literature. Long associated with the publishing house of Faber & Faber, he published many younger poets, and eventually became director of the firm. After a notoriously unhappy first marriage, Eliot separated from his first wife in 1933 and married Valerie Fletcher in 1956.

T. S. Eliot died in London on January 4, 1965.


And there you have today’s offering.
Hope you enjoyed it!

41 thoughts on “#ClassicPoetry – #T.S.Eliot – #TheNamingOfCats

  1. Lovely! One of my favourite books as a child was Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. I still have it, although it’s a bit battered now. Eliot’s more famous for his serious, complex poetry but this shows up his lighter side and his playfulness with the sounds of words. It was so good to read this one again. Many thanks, Marica! ♥♥

    Liked by 1 person

    • He’s always been one of my favorites, too, Gwen, and I’m delighted to know you feel the same way. Being a person who has never once (in nearly 79 years) lived in a house without a cat or two, you know how much I love Eliot’s thoughts on them. (Yes, there will be more TSE here and there in the weeks ahead, on cats and other topics.)

      Thanks so much for stopping by today and taking a moment to share your thoughts. In all its varied forms and shapes, poetry makes Life so much better, doesn’t it?

      Have a great Tewe’s Day, my friend! 😀 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    • Ooooooh! I love your granddaughter’s name choice! Since I have at least one cup of Earl Grey every morning, I think I may have to name our next gray cat the same thing. Very clever! And I’m so glad you enjoyed today’s post, Darlene. T. S. Eliot can’t be beat for his creative and moving way with words, that’s for sure.

      Thanks so much for stopping by today to let me know your thoughts (and to share the kitty named Earl Grey). Hope your day is downright super! 😀 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    • Glad you enjoyed it. If you haven’t read Eliot before, I hope you’ll enjoy seeming more of him mixed into this series from time to time. He’s kind of amazing, I think. Thanks so much for stopping by today and taking a moment to say hello. Hope you have a super Tewe’s Day! 😀 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  2. That was a fun, whimsical poem, Marcia, and thanks for sharing some of Eliot’s history too. I loved his imagination and a favorite of mine was “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.” I had an illustrated version that I read to my daughter when she was small. Thanks for sharing another classic poet. I don’t think he’ll ever go out of style. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I hadn’t seen this before, Marcia, but I sure enjoyed it. When we adopted Bond, I wanted to name him Loki (trust me, it totally suited him), but I was outvoted. His name at the shelter was Brad, but since that was the name of my son’s best friend, it just would have been weird. And he didn’t look anything like a Brad. Have a great week!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad you enjoyed this one, Teri. Eliot will be back in the weeks ahead, with more amusing poetry, as well as his more serious work. I’ve always enjoyed him, and it’s fun sharing his work here. And Bond is a much better name for a cat than Brad, IMO. But you can’t go by me. We have four, named Harry & Murphy (from the Dresden Files) and Rhy and Kell from V. E. Schwab’s Darker Shade of Magic series. 😊

      Thanks for stopping by today, and do stay tuned for at least one more Eliot poem about cats. 😁

      Liked by 1 person

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