Cats vs. Dogs: A Poem by T. S. Eliot, with Stunning Vintage Illustrations by Dame Eileen Mayo
by Maria Popova
“You now have learned enough to see That Cats are much like you and me And other people whom we find Possessed of various types of mind.” From: T.S. Eliot, ‘Cats vs. Dogs’
While researching the endlessly entertaining 1982 gem A Cat-Hater’s Handbook, I came upon Best Cat Stories (public library) — a rare 1953 anthology, long out of print, edited by Michael Joseph and featuring 19 short stories about cats by some of the era’s most celebrated authors, with delightful black-and-white illustrations by English artist Dame Eileen Mayo:
Joseph writes in the introduction:
What outsiders do not understand is that we are not just infatuated worshippers at the shrine of the cat. We can scold our cats (not that it ever does anyone any good), laugh at our cats, play with them, find faults with them, and be exasperated by their unpredictable moods. The only thing we cannot do is to live without them.
So, in compiling a book for other cat-lovers, I have tried to present the cat in all moods; to show him as a cunning rascal with a nice sense of humour…; as a creature of infinite resources and courage… ; as the victim of his own perversity…; as the disciple of witchcraft; as an animal for the loss of whom a child will shed tears of inconsolable grief; the cat in fable, superstition, comedy, tragedy; the cat we all know and can never fully understand.
…Again I must remind you that
A Dog’s a Dog — A CAT’S A CAT.
With Cats, some say, one rule is true:
Don’t speak till you are spoken to.
Myself, I do not hold with that –
I say, you should ad-dress a Cat.
But always keep in mind that he
I bow, and taking off my hat,
Ad-dress him in this form: O CAT!
Related articles you might enjoy:
- Thoughts on T.S. Eliot, Ernest Hemingway and genetics (pasteursquadrant.wordpress.com)
- The cats of the unhotel (onefinestay.com)
- TS Eliot poem hand set by Virginia Woolf fetches £4,500 at auction (theguardian.com)
- Cat vs Cat (katcameronillustration.com)
- The Naming Of Cats (junoejuno.wordpress.com)
- Additional Saturday Poem: ‘The Naming of Cats’ by T.S. Eliot. (theliterarysisters.wordpress.com)