The Naming of Cats
T. S. Eliot
We love dogs — but cats permit us to love them, and shouldn’t we be grateful for that?
T. S. Eliot was, to my mind, the greatest modernist poet in English. You might think that The Waste Land, on the dilapidation of post-war European culture, was thousands of lines long, so much does the poet compress into short scenes brilliantly drawn, and so potent with memories are the flotsam and jetsam of ancient songs he scatters upon the dirty banks of the Thames. Such a poet can never be merry, can he? Ah yes, yes he can, because even when Eliot was crying, “Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song,” his heart was yearning for the peace that passes understanding, and he would soon find an earnest of that peace, when he became a Christian believer and stunned his jaded fellow modernists into silence. “How can we invite Tom to dinner now?” said Virginia Woolf.
Well, unlike Woolf, there always was in Eliot a streak of sheer fun longing to break out, and that’s what he permit…
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