This newsletter does not come to you from me alone. I have an amazing assistant, Cheryl Hill, without whose technological and editorial skills I could not send out my newsletter in the form it is.
She is not a huge fan of poetry, but she is a cat-tragic, so this month I have chosen a poem that I think she will love because it features her favourite animal – the cat!
Milk for the Cat by Harold Monro
When the tea is brought at five o’clock,
And all the neat curtains are drawn with care,
The little black cat with bright green eyes
Is suddenly purring there.
At first she pretends, having nothing to do,
She has come in merely to blink by the grate,
But, though tea may be late or the milk may be sour,
She is never late.
And presently her agate eyes
Take a soft large milky haze,
And her independent casual glance
Becomes a stiff, hard gaze.
Then she stamps her claws or lifts her ears,
Or twists her tail and begins to stir,
Till suddenly all her lithe body becomes
One breathing, trembling purr.
The children eat and wriggle and laugh;
The two old ladies stroke their silk:
But the cat is grown small and thin with desire,
Transformed to a creeping lust for milk.
The white saucer like some full moon descends
At last from the clouds of the table above;
She sighs and dreams and thrills and glows,
Transfigured with love.
She nestles over the shining rim,
Buries her chin in the creamy sea;
Her tail hangs loose; each drowsy paw
Is doubled under each bending knee.
A long, dim ecstasy holds her life;
Her world is an infinite shapeless white,
Till her tongue has curled the last holy drop,
Then she sinks back into the night,
Draws and dips her body to heap
Her sleepy nerves in the great arm-chair,
Lies defeated and buried deep
Three or four hours unconscious there.
This poem was clearly written by a man who has lived with cats and knows their ways. He depicts the daily wait for the milk, the feeding and then the deeply satisfied sleep afterwards of a black cat with green eyes.
It’s an evocative snapshot, written with a lovely fluidity and empathetic observation. It’s a poem to make any cat-fancier purr with satisfaction.
Harold Monro (1879 – 1932) was an English poet, born in Brussels. He owned the Poetry Bookshop in London and was a helpful friend to many other poets – it is said that few people did as much for the advancement of 20th century poetry as he did.
I hope you like it, Cheryl – it comes with a million thanks!
You can listen to two different versions of the poem here: