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Milk for the Cat -- Harold Monro

Guest poem sent in by Anustup Datta
(Poem #727) Milk for the Cat
 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.
-- Harold Monro
A very well-known poem, and probably the most popular piece of work Monro
has produced. The beauty lies in the detail and the empathetic observation.
Not a great deal to say about form here, but this is one of those poems that
you suddenly find yourself smiling about. And if you're a feline-fancier,
you're probably purring by now. It has got that indescribable feeling of
what the Teutons call gemutlichkeit, of which 'cosiness' is a hopelessly
inadequate translation.

The Columbia Encyclopaedia has this to say about Monro -

Harold Monro

  1879?1932, English poet, b. Belgium. In 1911 he founded the Poetry Review
  and the following year established the Poetry Bookshop, which became a
  refuge and intellectual center for poets. His Poetry and Drama (1913), a
  successor to the Poetry Review, was discontinued during World War I, but
  Monro reestablished it as Chapbook (1919?25). Both periodicals had great
  influence on the poetical work of the time. His own work, first published
  in 1906, includes Children of Love (1914) and Elm Angel (1930).

  Works : His Collected Poems (introd. by T. S. Eliot, 1933); J. Grant,
  Harold Monro and the Poetry Bookshop (1967).

Harold Monro was associated with the Georgian Poetry school of antebellum
England, of which the Brittanica says -

Georgian poetry

  A variety of lyrical poetry produced in the early 20th century by an
  assortment of British poets, including Lascelles Abercrombie, Hilaire
  Belloc, Edmund Charles Blunden, Rupert Brooke, William Henry Davies, Ralph
  Hodgson, John Drinkwater, James Elroy Flecker, Wilfred Wilson Gibson,
  Robert Graves, Walter de la Mare, Harold Monro (editor of The Poetry
  Review), Siegfried Sassoon, Sir J.C. Squire, and Edward Thomas. Brooke and
  Sir Edward Marsh, wishing to make new poetry accessible to a wider public,
  with Monro, Drinkwater, and Gibson, planned a series of anthologies. To
  this series they applied the name "Georgian" to suggest the opening of a
  new poetic age with the accession in 1910 of George V.

  Five volumes of Georgian Poetry, edited by Marsh, were published between
  1912 and 1922. The real gifts of Brooke, Davies, de la Mare, Blunden, and
  Hodgson should not be overlooked, but, taken as a whole, much of the
  Georgians' work was lifeless. It took inspiration from the countryside and
  nature, and in the hands of less gifted poets, the resulting poetry was
  diluted and middlebrow conventional verse of late Romantic character.
  "Georgian" came to be a pejorative term, used in a sense not intended by
  its progenitors: rooted in its period and looking backward rather than
  forward.

Regards,
Anustup

Links:

We've run one previous poem by Monro: poem #594

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