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

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Old Possum's Book of Practical CatsGROWLTIGER 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 Masterpiece by T.S. Eliot

As a literary critic, it is an honor to analyze and interpret one of T.S. Eliot's masterpieces, "Growltiger's Last Stand." This poem, part of the collection "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats," has captivated readers for decades with its vivid imagery, musicality, and intricate storytelling. In this essay, I will dive into the poem's structure, themes, and literary devices, and attempt to shed light on what makes it such a timeless piece of literature.

Structure and Form

"Growltiger's Last Stand" is a narrative poem that tells the story of a brave and fearsome pirate cat's last battle against his enemies, the Siamese. The poem consists of 144 lines divided into 12 stanzas, each composed of four lines. The rhyme scheme of the poem is ABAB, which gives it a musical quality and contributes to its accessibility and memorability. The poem also features a refrain that appears at the end of each stanza, which reinforces the poem's musicality and helps the reader follow the story. The refrain, "But we are all of us weaker / at the knees than at the beginning," also has a thematic function, as it suggests the inevitability of aging and mortality, which are central themes in the poem.

The poem's structure is not linear, as it jumps back and forth between the present and the past, and includes flashbacks and digressions. This non-linear structure mirrors the chaotic and unpredictable nature of life, as well as the fragmented and nonlinear nature of memory. The poem also features a variety of literary devices, such as alliteration, assonance, repetition, and onomatopoeia, which contribute to its rhythm and musicality.


"Growltiger's Last Stand" is a poem that explores a variety of themes, such as bravery, mortality, love, and revenge. One of the central themes of the poem is the idea of heroism and bravery. Growltiger, the protagonist of the poem, is portrayed as a fearless and daring pirate cat who is willing to risk his life for his crew and his honor. The poem celebrates his courage and his willingness to stand up to his enemies, even in the face of danger and death. The poem also suggests that heroism is not just a matter of physical strength, but also of mental fortitude and determination.

Another theme that is explored in the poem is mortality and the inevitability of death. The refrain, "But we are all of us weaker / at the knees than at the beginning," suggests that aging and decline are universal and inevitable. The poem also uses the metaphor of the sea as a symbol of the passage of time and the cycle of life and death. The sea is described as both beautiful and dangerous, and is presented as a force that can give life and take it away. This theme of mortality is further reinforced by the ending of the poem, which suggests that even the bravest and most fearsome of creatures are ultimately powerless against death.

The theme of love is also present in the poem, particularly in the character of Griddlebone, the white cat who is captured by the Siamese and eventually rescued by Growltiger. Griddlebone is described as beautiful and graceful, and her presence in the poem adds a touch of romance and tenderness to the otherwise violent and chaotic story. The poem suggests that love can be a source of strength and motivation, and that even in the face of death, it can inspire acts of bravery and sacrifice.

Finally, the theme of revenge is also explored in the poem, particularly in the character of the Siamese, who are portrayed as cruel and vindictive enemies. The poem suggests that revenge can be a powerful motivator, but also that it can lead to destructive and self-destructive behavior. Growltiger's desire for revenge ultimately leads to his downfall, as he underestimates the Siamese and is eventually defeated by them.

Literary Devices

"Growltiger's Last Stand" is a poem that is rich in literary devices and techniques, which contribute to its musicality, imagery, and storytelling. One of the most prominent devices used in the poem is alliteration, which is the repetition of consonant sounds at the beginning of words. For example, in the first stanza, the line "Growltiger was a Bravo Cat" features alliteration in the words "Growltiger" and "Bravo." This device not only adds to the poem's musicality but also helps to create vivid and memorable images in the reader's mind.

Another device used in the poem is assonance, which is the repetition of vowel sounds within words. For example, in the line "The Siamese came creeping, / upon Growltiger's ship," the repeated "e" sound helps to create a sense of stealth and danger, as well as contributing to the poem's musicality.

Repetition is another device used in the poem, particularly in the refrain, "But we are all of us weaker / at the knees than at the beginning." This repetition helps to reinforce the poem's thematic concerns with mortality and aging, as well as adding to its musicality and structure.

The poem also features a variety of metaphors and similes, which help to create vivid and memorable images in the reader's mind. For example, the sea is described as a "green glass goblin," which helps to create a sense of danger and unpredictability. The Siamese are described as "grim and grey," which reinforces their menacing and unyielding nature.

Finally, the poem also features a variety of onomatopoeic words, which imitate the sounds that they describe. For example, the line "And his claws were like razors" creates a sense of sharpness and danger through the use of onomatopoeia.


"Growltiger's Last Stand" is a poem that defies easy interpretation, as it is both a celebration of heroism and bravery and a meditation on mortality and the inevitability of death. The poem invites the reader to reflect on the nature of heroism and bravery, and to question whether it is possible to be truly brave in the face of death and decline.

At the same time, the poem also suggests that love and companionship can be a source of strength and motivation, and that even in the face of death, it is possible to find meaning and purpose. The character of Griddlebone, in particular, represents this idea, as she inspires Growltiger to rescue her and to fight for his crew and his honor.

Ultimately, "Growltiger's Last Stand" is a poem that celebrates life and courage, but also acknowledges the fragility and transience of existence. It is a testament to T.S. Eliot's skill as a poet and storyteller, and a reminder of the power of literature to capture the complexities and contradictions of human experience.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry is a form of art that has been used for centuries to express emotions, tell stories, and convey messages. One of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, T.S. Eliot, was a master of this craft. His poem "Growltiger's Last Stand" is a classic example of his ability to create vivid imagery and convey complex emotions through his writing.

"Growltiger's Last Stand" is a poem that tells the story of a pirate cat named Growltiger. The poem is written in the form of a ballad, which is a type of poem that tells a story in a song-like manner. The ballad form is perfect for this poem because it allows Eliot to create a sense of rhythm and repetition that adds to the overall effect of the story.

The poem begins by introducing us to Growltiger, a fierce and feared pirate cat who sails the seas with his crew of feline buccaneers. Eliot's use of language is masterful in this opening stanza, as he describes Growltiger's ship as "a battered old barge" and his crew as "a rabble of cats." These descriptions immediately create a sense of danger and excitement, setting the stage for the story to come.

As the poem continues, we learn more about Growltiger and his exploits. He is described as a "brave old tar" who has fought many battles and conquered many foes. Eliot's use of language is again impressive here, as he describes Growltiger's battles in vivid detail. We can almost see the pirate cat as he "clawed his way through the enemy hordes" and "lashed them till they howled for mercy."

Despite his fearsome reputation, however, Growltiger is not invincible. The poem takes a darker turn as we learn that he has a weakness for a beautiful white cat named Griddlebone. Eliot's use of language here is particularly effective, as he describes Griddlebone as "a fluffy and white" creature who "purred with delight" at Growltiger's advances. This description creates a sense of innocence and vulnerability that contrasts sharply with the violence and danger of the rest of the poem.

As the story progresses, we see Growltiger's downfall. He is lured into a trap by his enemies, who have set a trap for him and Griddlebone. The scene that follows is one of the most powerful in the poem, as Growltiger is attacked by his enemies and left to die. Eliot's use of language here is particularly effective, as he describes the scene in graphic detail. We can almost feel the pain and fear that Growltiger experiences as he is "clawed and bitten" by his enemies.

Despite the darkness of the poem, however, there is a sense of redemption at the end. As Growltiger lies dying, Griddlebone comes to his side and comforts him. Eliot's use of language here is particularly moving, as he describes Griddlebone's "gentle touch" and "soft purr" as she comforts the dying pirate cat. This scene creates a sense of tenderness and compassion that contrasts sharply with the violence and danger of the rest of the poem.

In conclusion, "Growltiger's Last Stand" is a powerful and moving poem that showcases T.S. Eliot's mastery of the ballad form. Through his use of vivid imagery and powerful language, Eliot creates a story that is both exciting and heartbreaking. The poem is a testament to the power of poetry to convey complex emotions and tell compelling stories, and it remains a classic example of Eliot's skill as a poet.

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