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Happy Birthday, T S Eliot: Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats Told Via GIFs

Poet TS Eliot had a cheery side. That’s right! The author of The Wasteland and The Hollow Men didn’t only write cryptic, gloomy verse. Spoiler alert: He was a cat person.

books Updated: Sep 26, 2017 14:01 IST
Supriya Sharma
Supriya Sharma
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
T S Eliot,Happy Birthday,Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats T S Eliot
T S Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats is better known in its musical avatar as the long running CATS, produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Thomas Stearns Eliot is also the author of a fun collection of cat poems that he wrote for his godchildren. His Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, published in 1939, is better known in its musical avatar as the long running CATS, produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

The Possum in the title is Eliot himself and on his 129th birthday, we celebrate his quirkier side with his – and the Internet’s favourite creatures – cats! And hey, there’s a perfect GIF for each of his cat poems!

The Gumbie Cat (or Jennyanydots) lazes around all day. She moonlights as a life coach, enlightening mice and cockroaches. Under her watch, mice are trained in music and crochet, and the roaches as disciplined as a group of boy scouts.

But when the day’s hustle and bustle is done,

Then the Gumbie Cat’s work is but hardly begun.

And when all the family’s in bed and asleep,

She tucks up her skirts to the basement to creep.

Growltiger is the xenophobic gangster who is ambushed by Siamese rivals while on a date and forced to walk the plank

GROWLTIGER was a Bravo Cat, who lived upon a barge;

In fact he was the roughest cat that ever roamed at large.

From Gravesend up to Oxford he pursued his evil aims,

Rejoicing in his title of “The Terror of the Thames.”

The Rum Tum Tugger seems to be a distant cousin of the Grumpy Cat, for he fusses, sniffs and sneers, and “doesn’t care for a cuddle.”

The Rum Tum Tugger is a Curious Cat:

If you offer him pheasant he would rather have grouse.

If you put him in a house he would much prefer a flat,

If you put him in a flat then he’d rather have a house.

Jellicle Cats are the feline version of the Cullens. Black and white, they hide from sunlight to emerge at night and dance away under the Jellicle Moon.

Jellicle Cats are roly-poly,

They know how to dance a gavotte and a jig.

Until the Jellicle Moon appears

They make their toilette and take their repose

Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer are the rogue cats responsible for all thefts and acts of vandalism. And it is hard to tell one from the other

Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer had a very

unusual gift of the gab.

They were highly efficient cat-burglars as well,

and remarkably smart at smash-and-grab.

Old Deuteronomy is an ancient, much-married cat with a large progeny, who is respected by one and all.

Old Deuteronomy’s lived a long time;

He’s a Cat who has lived many lives in succession.

He was famous in proverb and famous in rhyme

A long while before Queen Victoria’s accession.

The awefull battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles

Pekes and Pollicles, two warring dog tribes, get into a nasty street fight when the big police dog is away. The uproar scares the neighbours and stops all traffic till the Great Rumpus Cat comes to their rescue

His eyes were like fireballs fearfully blazing,

He gave a great yawn, and his jaws were amazing;

And when he looked out through the bars of the area,

You never saw anything fiercer or hairier.

Mr. Mistoffelees is a master conjurer who can put even the greatest magicians to shame.

He can pick any card from a pack,

He is equally cunning with dice;

He is always deceiving you into believing

That he’s only hunting for mice.

Then there is Macavity, head of the cat mafia, who gets the Scotland Yard’s knickers in a knot

And whatever time the deed took place--MACAVITY WASN’T THERE!

And they say that all the Cats whose wicked deeds are widely known

Are nothing more than agents for the Cat who all the time

Just controls their operations: the Napoleon of Crime!

Gus is an ageing theatre artiste fallen on rough times. He’s happy to regale you with stories from his past (provided you pay for drinks).

And he says: “Now then kittens, they do not get trained

As we did in the days when Victoria reigned.

They never get drilled in a regular troupe,

And they think they are smart, just to jump through a hoop.”

Bustopher Jones is a fashionista, who struts around in white gaiters and well-tailored suits.

He’s the Cat we all greet as he walks down the street

In his coat of fastidious black:

No commonplace mousers have such well-cut trousers

Or such an impreccable back.

Skimbleshanks is the dour, efficient cat supervising operations of the Night Mail. He keeps passengers safe and coaches clean and mice-free.

You can play no pranks with Skimbleshanks!

He’s a Cat that cannot be ignored;

So nothing goes wrong on the Northern Mail

When Skimbleshanks is aboard

First Published: Sep 26, 2017 09:53 IST