'The Old Gumbie Cat' by T.S. Eliot

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I have a Gumbie Cat in mind, her name is Jennyanydots;
Her coat is of the tabby kind, with tiger stripes and leopard spots.
All day she sits upon the stair or on the steps or on the mat;
She sits and sits and sits and sits--and that's what makes a Gumbie Cat!

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.
She is deeply concerned with the ways of the mice--
Their behaviour's not good and their manners not nice;
So when she has got them lined up on the matting,
She teachs them music, crocheting and tatting.

I have a Gumbie Cat in mind, her name is Jennyanydots;
Her equal would be hard to find, she likes the warm and sunny spots.
All day she sits beside the hearth or on the bed or on my hat:
She sits and sits and sits and sits--and that's what makes a Gumbie Cat!

But when the day's hustle and bustle is done,
Then the Gumbie Cat's work is but hardly begun.
As she finds that the mice will not ever keep quiet,
She is sure it is due to irregular diet;
And believing that nothing is done without trying,
She sets right to work with her baking and frying.
She makes them a mouse--cake of bread and dried peas,
And a beautiful fry of lean bacon and cheese.

I have a Gumbie Cat in mind, her name is Jennyanydots;
The curtain-cord she likes to wind, and tie it into sailor-knots.
She sits upon the window-sill, or anything that's smooth and flat:
She sits and sits and sits and sits--and that's what makes a Gumbie Cat!

But when the day's hustle and bustle is done,
Then the Gumbie Cat's work is but hardly begun.
She thinks that the cockroaches just need employment
To prevent them from idle and wanton destroyment.
So she's formed, from that lot of disorderly louts,
A troop of well-disciplined helpful boy-scouts,
With a purpose in life and a good deed to do--
And she's even created a Beetles' Tattoo.

So for Old Gumbie Cats let us now give three cheers--
On whom well-ordered households depend, it appears.

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Old Gumbie Cat: A Masterpiece of Poetic Imagination

When one thinks of the great poets of the 20th century, the name T.S. Eliot inevitably comes to mind. Eliot's poetry is known for its complexity, its erudition, and its ability to capture the essence of modern life. Yet, amid the towering achievements of works such as The Waste Land and Four Quartets, there is a smaller gem that is often overlooked: The Old Gumbie Cat. This charming poem, originally published in Eliot's collection Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, deserves more attention than it has received. In this essay, I will examine The Old Gumbie Cat in detail, exploring its themes, its style, and its place in Eliot's oeuvre.

A Cat Like No Other

The Old Gumbie Cat is a curious creature, even by feline standards. According to Eliot's description, she is "a cat that sits by the fire," and "takes no interest in the affairs of the day." Yet, despite her apparent indolence, she is a skilled performer, capable of entertaining the household with her antics. Eliot writes:

Her coat is of the tabby kind, with tiger stripes and leopard spots, All curled and furry soft; she sits and sits and sits and sits And that is what she does.

At first glance, it is easy to dismiss the Old Gumbie Cat as a mere curiosity, a minor player in Eliot's feline pantheon. But a closer look reveals that she is, in fact, a deeply significant figure. For one thing, she is the only cat in the poem who is not given a name. This anonymity, far from making her less important, actually heightens her significance, as it underscores her role as a representative of all cats. In other words, the Old Gumbie Cat is not just a character in the poem--she is a symbol of feline nature itself.

The Art of Cat-ness

So what exactly is the nature of cats, according to Eliot? The Old Gumbie Cat provides some clues. For one thing, she is a creature of habit, content to spend her days in idleness, as long as she is comfortable and well-fed. Yet, at the same time, she is capable of remarkable feats of agility and athleticism, as we see in her ability to dance and perform tricks. This combination of laziness and prowess is one of the hallmarks of cat-ness, according to Eliot.

Another important aspect of the Old Gumbie Cat's character is her playfulness. Unlike the other cats in the poem, who are often portrayed as haughty and aloof, the Old Gumbie Cat is always ready for a game or a joke. She is not concerned with appearances or status--she simply wants to have fun. This, too, is an essential part of cat-ness, as any cat owner can attest.

But perhaps the most important characteristic of the Old Gumbie Cat is her ability to create joy and happiness. Through her performances and her good-natured attitude, she brings delight to those around her. Eliot writes:

For she's a jolly good fellow!

This line, with its echoes of the popular song, captures the essence of the Old Gumbie Cat's appeal. She is a source of joy and camaraderie, a creature who brings people together and makes them forget their troubles, if only for a little while.

A Poem of Delight

All of these qualities--the Old Gumbie Cat's laziness, her athleticism, her playfulness, and her ability to create joy--are conveyed through Eliot's masterful use of language and form. The poem is written in rhymed couplets, with a regular meter that gives it a jaunty, almost musical feel. Eliot's language is rich and vivid, full of puns and wordplay that add to the poem's charm. Consider this passage:

Her eyes are like two greenish moons, and her teeth are like Alabaster stones, and her tongue is like A sharpened razor blade.

The absurdity of these comparisons--moons, stones, and blades are not typically associated with cats--underscores the poem's playful tone. Eliot is not trying to write a serious treatise on feline behavior; he is simply reveling in the delight that cats bring.

The poem's structure is also significant. Like many of Eliot's works, The Old Gumbie Cat is divided into sections, each of which focuses on a different cat. But unlike some of his more complex works, there is no elaborate overarching structure or theme. Instead, each section is its own self-contained miniature, a celebration of a particular cat's quirks and personality. This approach gives the poem a sense of lightness and spontaneity that is often missing from Eliot's more weighty works.


In the end, what makes The Old Gumbie Cat such a delightful work of art is its unpretentiousness. Eliot could easily have written a poem about the majesty of cats, or the profundity of their nature. But instead, he chose to focus on the simple pleasures that cats provide: their laziness, their playfulness, their ability to bring people together. In doing so, he created a work that is both entertaining and profound, a celebration of the joy that can be found in the smallest things. The Old Gumbie Cat may be a minor work in Eliot's oeuvre, but it is a masterpiece nonetheless.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Old Gumbie Cat: A Timeless Classic by T.S. Eliot

If you're a fan of poetry, then you've probably heard of T.S. Eliot. He's one of the most famous poets of the 20th century, known for his works such as The Waste Land and Four Quartets. But today, we're going to talk about one of his lesser-known works, The Old Gumbie Cat.

The Old Gumbie Cat is a poem that was first published in 1939 as part of Eliot's collection of poems, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. The poem tells the story of a cat named Gumbie, who is described as a "curious cat" and a "remarkable cat." Gumbie is not your typical cat, as he has a unique personality and a love for life that is infectious.

The poem begins with a description of Gumbie's daily routine. He sleeps all day and comes alive at night, when he goes out to explore the world around him. Gumbie is not interested in hunting mice or catching birds like other cats. Instead, he spends his time socializing with other cats and humans.

Eliot's use of language in this poem is truly remarkable. He uses a lot of playful and whimsical words to describe Gumbie's personality and actions. For example, he describes Gumbie as a "gumbie cat" and a "jellicle cat." These words are not commonly used in everyday language, but they add to the charm and uniqueness of the poem.

One of the most interesting aspects of The Old Gumbie Cat is the way Eliot portrays Gumbie's relationship with humans. Unlike other cats, Gumbie is not afraid of humans. In fact, he enjoys spending time with them and is always looking for ways to entertain them. Eliot writes:

"For he's a jolly good fellow!"

This line shows that Gumbie is not just a cat, but a friend to humans. He is a cat that brings joy and happiness to those around him.

Another interesting aspect of the poem is the way Eliot describes Gumbie's physical appearance. He is not a typical cat, as he has a "coat of the tabby kind" and "stripes all down his back." This description adds to the uniqueness of Gumbie's character and makes him stand out from other cats.

The poem also has a strong message about the importance of being yourself. Gumbie is not like other cats, but he doesn't try to be. He is happy being who he is and doesn't care what others think of him. This message is important for people of all ages, as it encourages us to embrace our individuality and not be afraid to be different.

Overall, The Old Gumbie Cat is a timeless classic that has stood the test of time. It is a poem that is both playful and meaningful, and it has a message that is still relevant today. Eliot's use of language and imagery is truly remarkable, and it is a testament to his skill as a poet. If you haven't read The Old Gumbie Cat, I highly recommend it. It is a poem that will make you smile and remind you of the joy of being alive.

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