Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The "Cat" Poem

In the comments box of this post, Enbrethiliel asks which poem hints at Gilbert and Frances' ownership of cats? So, here goes. This is from the Collected Works Volume XB.
Ballade of the Returning Husband (page 394-5)

Happy who like Ulysses, yea that lord,
That found his home at least, returning tall
And terrible, he found his wife and board
Profaned by suitors swaggering in the hall,
But I, I do not find my wife at all.
I find no suitors even whom I might stab,
But only Her whom Not a Man we call
(I hear the ticking of the taxicab.)

I walk about the flat and wave my sword,
I sing my simple songs, I bleat and bawl,
Till Mrs. Whitehouse looks a little bored
And all my strains on Bonrick seem to pall.
I listen for your fluttering foot-fall
Bending the grass no deeper than Queen Mab,
And like the throb of conscience under all
I hear the ticking of the taxicab.

I came to answer questions, my mind stored
With business answers bright and practical,
But you, you fled and left me--blast you, Maud,
Thus to be out when your relations call.
Farewell--farewell--I leap from life's great wall.
Go bury me beneath a marble slab--
I hear the trumpets of death and courage call.
I hear the ticking of the taxicab.


Princess, you hear Watt's voice all musical,
Or Dent, with all the devil's gift of gab,
But I, I hear a music sweet and small,
I hear the ticking of the taxicab.
(about 1904)

Notes: Not-a-Man, Mrs. Whitehouse, Bonrick and Maud were names of cats. Queen Mab is the Fairy Queen responsible for human dreams, Watt is A.P. Watt, Chesterton's literary agent, and Dent was a publishing house, notes thanks to Denis Conlon.

1 comment:

  1. +JMJ+

    Thank you so much, Nancy! This is one I haven't read before.


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