'Growltiger's Last Stand' by T.S. Eliot

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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."

His manners and appearance did not calculate to please;
His coat was torn and seedy, he was baggy at the knees;
One ear was somewhat missing, no need to tell you why,
And he scowled upon a hostile world from one forbidding eye.

The cottagers of Rotherhithe knew something of his fame,
At Hammersmith and Putney people shuddered at his name.
They would fortify the hen-house, lock up the silly goose,
When the rumour ran along the shore: GROWLTIGER'S ON THE LOOSE!

Woe to the weak canary, that fluttered from its cage;
Woe to the pampered Pekinese, that faced Growltiger's rage.
Woe to the bristly Bandicoot, that lurks on foreign ships,
And woe to any Cat with whom Growltiger came to grips!

But most to Cats of foreign race his hatred had been vowed;
To Cats of foreign name and race no quarter was allowed.
The Persian and the Siamese regarded him with fear--
Because it was a Siamese had mauled his missing ear.

Now on a peaceful summer night, all nature seemed at play,
The tender moon was shining bright, the barge at Molesey lay.
All in the balmy moonlight it lay rocking on the tide--
And Growltiger was disposed to show his sentimental side.

His bucko mate, GRUMBUSKIN, long since had disappeared,
For to the Bell at Hampton he had gone to wet his beard;
And his bosun, TUMBLEBRUTUS, he too had stol'n away-
In the yard behind the Lion he was prowling for his prey.

In the forepeak of the vessel Growltiger sate alone,
Concentrating his attention on the Lady GRIDDLEBONE.
And his raffish crew were sleeping in their barrels and their bunks--
As the Siamese came creeping in their sampans and their junks.

Growltiger had no eye or ear for aught but Griddlebone,
And the Lady seemed enraptured by his manly baritone,
Disposed to relaxation, and awaiting no surprise--
But the moonlight shone reflected from a thousand bright blue eyes.

And closer still and closer the sampans circled round,
And yet from all the enemy there was not heard a sound.
The lovers sang their last duet, in danger of their lives--
For the foe was armed with toasting forks and cruel carving knives.
Then GILBERT gave the signal to his fierce Mongolian horde;
With a frightful burst of fireworks the Chinks they swarmed aboard.
Abandoning their sampans, and their pullaways and junks,
They battened down the hatches on the crew within their bunks.

Then Griddlebone she gave a screech, for she was badly skeered;
I am sorry to admit it, but she quickly disappeared.
She probably escaped with ease, I'm sure she was not drowned--
But a serried ring of flashing steel Growltiger did surround.

The ruthless foe pressed forward, in stubborn rank on rank;
Growltiger to his vast surprise was forced to walk the plank.
He who a hundred victims had driven to that drop,
At the end of all his crimes was forced to go ker-flip, ker-flop.

Oh there was joy in Wapping when the news flew through the land;
At Maidenhead and Henley there was dancing on the strand.
Rats were roasted whole at Brentford, and at Victoria Dock,
And a day of celebration was commanded in Bangkok.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Growltiger's Last Stand: A Literary Criticism and Interpretation

In the world of literature, few names are as celebrated and revered as T.S. Eliot. The poet, playwright, and literary critic has left an indelible mark on the world of letters, and his works continue to inspire and challenge readers to this day. One of his most beloved poems is "Growltiger's Last Stand," a witty and playful tribute to the swashbuckling adventures of a pirate cat. In this 4000-word literary criticism and interpretation, we will explore the themes, imagery, and stylistic devices used in this classic work of literature.

Context and Background

Before diving into the poem itself, it's important to provide some context and background on T.S. Eliot and his literary oeuvre. Eliot was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1888 and spent much of his adult life in England, where he became a leading figure in the literary scene. He is best known for his poetry, which is characterized by its erudite allusions, complex imagery, and formal structures. Eliot's works are often associated with the Modernist movement, which sought to break away from traditional literary forms and explore new modes of expression.

"Growltiger's Last Stand" was first published in Eliot's collection Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, which was later adapted into the musical Cats. The poem tells the story of Growltiger, a pirate cat who terrorizes the high seas with his fearsome crew. When he falls in love with a beautiful white cat named Griddlebone, however, his luck begins to run out. He is eventually captured by a rival gang of Siamese cats and unceremoniously executed. The poem is notable for its playful tone and humorous portrayal of feline behavior, as well as its use of vivid imagery and musical language.

Themes and Motifs

One of the key themes of "Growltiger's Last Stand" is the idea of romantic love and its transformative power. Growltiger is initially depicted as a ruthless and bloodthirsty pirate, who takes pleasure in terrorizing his enemies and plundering their ships. However, when he meets Griddlebone, his entire demeanor changes. He becomes smitten with her and is willing to risk everything to be with her. This transformation is highlighted by the contrast between the "villainous" Growltiger of the first stanza and the "lovelorn" Growltiger of the second stanza:

But brave Growltiger, the Captain of the crew, Had risen from his place, and knocked Sir Henry in the gruel; And feline foes with cunning wiles Had compassed round his crew.

Then from the cats that watched the fight He came altogether slow, And said: "Oh, my Lord, apportion The prize as you think fit; but never again in this world Shall Growltiger boast his peerless might In the teeth of dogs and humans."

But when the battle was over And they turned to the foe, They saw that he would never again Be able to lead them below; For his nine lives had all been used In their service, and his eyes were close.

Here, we see that Growltiger's love for Griddlebone has rendered him vulnerable and exposed, leading to his downfall. The motif of romantic love as a transformative force is also present in other works by Eliot, such as "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" and "The Waste Land."

Another important theme in "Growltiger's Last Stand" is the idea of the hero's journey. Growltiger is portrayed as a swashbuckling hero, embarking on dangerous adventures and battling his enemies with courage and skill. However, his journey ultimately ends in tragedy, as he is defeated by his rival gang and put to death. This arc reflects the classic structure of the hero's journey, as outlined by scholars such as Joseph Campbell. The hero sets out on a quest, faces challenges and obstacles, and ultimately returns home transformed by his experiences.

Imagery and Stylistic Devices

One of the most striking aspects of "Growltiger's Last Stand" is its vivid and playful imagery. Eliot uses a range of animalistic and nautical imagery to evoke the swashbuckling world of the pirate cat. For example, in the opening stanza, he describes Growltiger's crew as "rats and ferrets, cats and kittens" and "monkeys, marmosets, and rats." This creates a sense of chaotic energy and wild abandon, as if anything could happen in this world.

Eliot also uses a range of stylistic devices to enhance the musicality and rhythm of the poem. For example, he employs alliteration and consonance to create a sense of momentum and energy. In the following lines, for instance, the repetition of the "f" sound creates a sense of whistling wind and rushing waves:

His paw was on the lever to break the banks away, He saw the water shining and waved his paw to say That this was just the life for a pirate cat.

Eliot also makes use of internal rhyme and repetition to create a sense of musicality and unity within the poem. In the following lines, for example, the repetition of the "o" sound creates a sense of foreboding and doom:

Growltiger had no eye or ear for aught but Griddlebone, And the lady seemed enraptured by his manly baritone, Disposed to relaxation, and awaiting no surprise, But the moonlight shone reflected from a thousand bright blue eyes.

Interpretation and Analysis

In "Growltiger's Last Stand," T.S. Eliot creates a playful and whimsical world of swashbuckling cats and nautical adventure. The poem is notable for its vivid and imaginative imagery, as well as its use of musical language and stylistic devices. However, beneath the surface, the poem also grapples with important themes such as romantic love, heroism, and the transformative power of experience.

At its core, "Growltiger's Last Stand" is a cautionary tale about the dangers of letting love blind us to the risks and consequences of our actions. Growltiger is so smitten with Griddlebone that he is willing to risk everything to be with her, even though he knows that his pirate lifestyle is putting him in danger. This blindness ultimately leads to his defeat and death, suggesting that love can be a double-edged sword that both empowers and deludes us.

Additionally, the hero's journey arc of the poem speaks to the transformative power of experience. Growltiger sets out on a quest, faces challenges and obstacles, and ultimately returns home transformed by his experiences. However, in his case, this transformation is ultimately for naught, as he loses everything in the end. This suggests that the hero's journey is not necessarily a guaranteed path to success, but rather a risky and uncertain path that can lead to both triumph and tragedy.

Overall, "Growltiger's Last Stand" is a delightful and thought-provoking poem that showcases T.S. Eliot's mastery of language and form. Its playful tone and imaginative imagery make it a joy to read, while its deeper themes and motifs provide a rich vein of meaning for readers to explore. Whether you are a fan of cats, pirates, or poetry in general, this classic work of literature is sure to delight and inspire you.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Growltiger's Last Stand: A Tale of Love, Loss, and Redemption

T.S. Eliot's "Growltiger's Last Stand" is a classic poem that tells the story of a pirate cat named Growltiger and his final battle against his enemies. The poem is part of Eliot's collection of poems called "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats," which was later adapted into the famous musical "Cats." "Growltiger's Last Stand" is a powerful and emotional poem that explores themes of love, loss, and redemption.

The poem begins with a description of Growltiger, a fierce and feared pirate cat who sails the seas with his crew of cats. Growltiger is described as a "bravo cat" who is "bold as a bandicoot." He is a ruthless and cunning pirate who is feared by all who know him. However, despite his fearsome reputation, Growltiger is also a romantic at heart. He is in love with a beautiful white cat named Griddlebone, who is described as "fair as a lily, and gentle as a dove."

The poem then takes a dark turn as Growltiger's enemies, a group of Siamese cats, attack his ship. The battle is fierce and brutal, and many of Growltiger's crew are killed. Growltiger himself is wounded and captured by the Siamese cats. He is taken to their temple, where he is tortured and humiliated. The Siamese cats force him to perform humiliating acts, such as dancing on a tin plate and wearing a hat with a bell on it.

Despite his humiliation, Growltiger remains defiant. He refuses to give up his pride and dignity, even in the face of his enemies. He sings a song of defiance, declaring that he will never surrender to the Siamese cats. His song is a powerful and emotional moment in the poem, as it shows the strength and courage of his character.

However, the poem takes another turn as Griddlebone appears in the temple. She has come to rescue Growltiger, and she uses her beauty and charm to distract the Siamese cats. While they are distracted, Growltiger manages to escape. He and Griddlebone flee the temple and make their way back to their ship.

The poem ends with a bittersweet moment as Growltiger and Griddlebone sail away into the sunset. Growltiger is wounded and scarred from his battle with the Siamese cats, but he is also redeemed. He has found love and companionship in Griddlebone, and he has regained his pride and dignity. The poem ends with the lines:

"And Growltiger had wiped out his crew, In a minute or two, with a stroke or two, The crew of the vessel he'd only begun To enjoy himself, and admire the sun, And his sentimental taste had been Snuffed out by a Siamese cat."

These lines are a poignant reminder of the cost of war and violence. Growltiger has lost his crew and his ship, and he has been scarred by his battle with the Siamese cats. However, he has also found love and redemption in Griddlebone. The poem is a powerful reminder that even in the darkest of times, there is always hope for redemption and love.

In conclusion, "Growltiger's Last Stand" is a classic poem that explores themes of love, loss, and redemption. It tells the story of a fierce pirate cat who is humiliated and tortured by his enemies, but who refuses to give up his pride and dignity. The poem is a powerful reminder that even in the darkest of times, there is always hope for redemption and love.

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