It's amazing: no less than three people submitted the same poem for inclusion in our feline theme - Sunil Iyengar , Uma Raman and Suresh Ramasubramanian . Herewith, Sunil's commentary:
(Poem #577) The Cat and the Moon
The cat went here and there And the moon spun round like a top, And the nearest kin of the moon, The creeping cat, looked up. Black Minnaloushe stared at the moon, For, wander and wail as he would, The pure cold light in the sky Troubled his animal blood. Minnaloushe runs in the grass Lifting his delicate feet. Do you dance, Minnaloushe, do you dance? When two close kindred meet, What better than call a dance? Maybe the moon may learn, Tired of that courtly fashion, A new dance turn. Minnaloushe creeps through the grass From moonlit place to place, The sacred moon overhead Has taken a new phase. Does Minnaloushe know that his pupils Will pass from change to change, And that from round to crescent, From crescent to round they range? Minnaloushe creeps through the grass Alone, important and wise, And lifts to the changing moon His changing eyes.
A minor poem from one of the poet's best books, "The Wild Swans at Coole" (1919), "The Cat and the Moon" requires scant comment. The furry protagonist belonged to Maude Gonne, who once was to Yeats what Beatrice was to Dante. This aspect is scarcely relevant to the poem, however, which foretells his preoccupation with phases of the moon. (Yeats' "The Vision" was published in 1925, the year after he issued a slim volume, "The Cat and the Moon and Certain Poems"). The poem adds a welcome quality to Yeats' oeuvre: an eagerness to engage with animals ("Do you dance, Minnaloushe, do you dance?"). This tone is an extension of his profound curiosity for other forms of spiritual life. To escape my vague account, see Yeats' "To a Squirrel at Kyle-na-no," short enough to be quoted in entirety: Come play with me; Why should you run Through the shaking tree As though I'd a gun To strike you dead? When all I would do Is to scratch your head And let you go. This charming reticence reminds me of an equally uncharacteristic strain in Yeats' contemporary, Robert Frost. At the head of Frost's "Collected Poems," one encounters this quiet proposal: I'm going out to fetch the little calf That's standing by the mother. It's so young It totters when she licks it with her tongue. I shan't be gone long. -- You come too. (from "The Pasture") Finally, no mock-analysis of Yeats' affection for felines can be complete without this anecdote. Swinburne died on April 10, 1909. When Yeats met his sister on the street the following day, he declared: "Now I am King of the Cats." He was, and is. Sunil Iyengar. [EndQuote] "When I play with my cat, who knows whether she isn't amusing herself with me more than I am with her?" -- Montaigne, Essays, bk. II , ch. 12.