National Poetry Month, day 16: Another cat poem

The other day, I posted two poems about cats. In comments, a fine reader asks: Are you familiar with the Hamlet Soliloquy done from the point of view of a cat?

I had to admit that I was not, so off to Google I went, and I found it! Apparently this comes from a book called Poetry For Cats, The Definitive Anthology of Distinguished Feline Verse, by Henry Beard. I will have to add that to my Books To Seek Out list! For now, here are the existential thoughts of Hamlet’s cat.

To go outside, and there perchance to stay
Or to remain within: that is the question:
Whether ’tis better for a cat to suffer
The cuffs and buffets of inclement weather
That Nature rains on those who roam abroad,
Or take a nap upon a scrap of carpet,
And so by dozing melt the solid hours
That clog the clock’s bright gears with sullen time
And stall the dinner bell. To sit, to stare
Outdoors, and by a stare to seem to state
A wish to venture forth without delay,
Then when the portal’s opened up, to stand
As if transfixed by doubt. To prowl; to sleep;
To choose not knowing when we may once more
Our readmittance gain: aye, there’s the hairball;
For if a paw were shaped to turn a knob,
Or work a lock or slip a window-catch,
And going out and coming in were made
As simple as the breaking of a bowl,
What cat would bear the household’s petty plagues,
The cook’s well-practiced kicks, the butler’s broom,
The infant’s careless pokes, the tickled ears,
The trampled tail, and all the daily shocks
That fur is heir to, when, of his own free will,
He might his exodus or entrance make
With a mere mitten? Who would spaniels fear,
Or strays trespassing from a neighbor’s yard,
But that the dread of our unheeded cries
And scratches at a barricaded door
No claw can open up, dispels our nerve
And makes us rather bear our humans’ faults
Than run away to unguessed miseries?
Thus caution doth make house cats of us all;
And thus the bristling hair of resolution
Is softened up with the pale brush of thought,
And since our choices hinge on weighty things,
We pause upon the threshold of decision.

If you’re familiar with the state of affairs at the end of Hamlet (spoiler: a good bit of the cast is dead on the stage floor when the curtain comes down), you may wonder just how Hamlet’s cat would respond. Well, it’s a cat. A recent comic by Sarah Andersen probably illustrates perfectly what Hamlet’s cat would do:

(Full comic, contrasting “cat people” with “dog people”, here.)


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