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Saturday, October 20, 2012

Night and the Cat

Geordie is a mature cat now, about seven and a half years old. It has been interesting, observing him gain hunting prowess through the years. Success in hunting did not come naturally to him. He had to work at it. Now he is at the pinnacle of his instinctive powers.  And he eats all that he kills.  Lately, Geordie has insisted on going out at twilight and not coming back until morning. I always thought this was "the dangerous time" because of coyotes; but when three of our cats were killed by a coyote in May, it was always in the late morning while they were hunting in the pasture. So, I let Geordie have his way. Maybe it is safer to hunt at night and sleep all day.

This overwhelming desire of his reminded me of a poem by Elizabeth Coatsworth, published in 1950 in a rather rare little book titled Night and the Cat.  I collect children's cat books and, fortunately, picked this up at a library sale for fifty cents. The poem is

                                                   On a Night of Snow

Cat, if you go outdoors, you must walk in the snow.
You will come back with little white shoes on your feet,
little white shoes of snow that have heels of sleet.
Stay by the fire, my Cat.  Lie still, do not go.
See how the flames are leaping and hissing low.
I will bring you a saucer of milk like a marguerite,
so white and so smooth, so spherical and so sweet --
stay with me, Cat.  Outdoors the wild winds blow.

Outdoors the wild winds blow, Mistress, and dark is the night,
strange voices cry in the trees, intoning strange lore,
and more than cats move, lit by our eyes' green light,
on silent feet where the meadow grasses hang hoar --
Mistress, there are portents abroad of magic and might,
and things that are yet to be done.  Open the door!

Artist: Lionel Lindsay

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