The poem Macavity – The Mystery Cat
by T S Eliot
Introduction … This poem is best known of T.S. Eliot’s ‘Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats’. This is the only book Eliot wrote for younger audience.
Macavity is, in all likelihood, a notorious, but extremely wily and villainous human being given to committing daring crimes. The most efficient detective agencies fail to apprehend him, although they are sure the crime is committed by Macavity.
Poem … 1st stanza …
Macavity’s a Mystery Cat: he’s called the Hidden Paw–
For he’s the master criminal who can defy the Law.
He’s the bafflement of Scotland Yard, the Flying Squad’s despair:
For when they reach the scene of crime–Macavity’s not there!
Explanation … Macavity is agile, cunning, and a master of deceit. Soon after a crime is reported, the Scotland Yard and the Flying Squad swing into action to catch him, but he succeeds in throwing them off his trail.
Poem … 2nd stanza ….
Macavity, Macavity, there’s no on like Macavity,
He’s broken every human law, he breaks the law of gravity.
His powers of levitation would make a fakir stare,
And when you reach the scene of crime–Macavity’s not there!
You may seek him in the basement, you may look up in the air–
But I tell you once and once again, Macavity’s not there!
Explanation … Macavity breaks laws with virtual impunity, because he manages to evade arrest by the anti-crime establishment. He is gifted with the power to defy the forces of gravity. He uses this asset to accomplish his hideous plans. He flees the spot of the crime with alarming ease and speed, outsmarting the police. In all cases, his lightening speed of escape frustrates the police.
Poem … 3rd Stanza …
Macavity’s a ginger cat, he’s very tall and thin;
You would know him if you saw him, for his eyes are sunken in.
His brow is deeply lined with thought, his head is highly doomed;
His coat is dusty from neglect, his whiskers are uncombed.
He sways his head from side to side, with movements like a snake;
And when you think he’s half asleep, he’s always wide awake.
Explanation … Macavity is scrawny, with deeply set eyes. He appears to be immersed in his scheming always. His forehead’s contracted muscles show his thoughtful mood, as do his brows. He wears an un-kempt coat, apparently a result of his trying to avoid the glare of the mainstream society. His whiskers are not trimmed and combed. Engrossed in his criminal plans, he sways his head often. His gait is serpentine, possibly a sign of his absent-mindedness.
Poem.. 4th Stanza …
Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macavity,
For he’s a fiend in feline shape, a monster of depravity.
You may meet him in a by-street, you may see him in the square–
But when a crime’s discovered, then Macavity’s not there!
Explanation … Macavity is devilish, vile and a threat to society. He moves around in the alleys and the squares. But, when a crime is committed, he just vanishes in to thin air.
Poem … 5th Stanza …
He’s outwardly respectable. (They say he cheats at cards.)
And his footprints are not found in any file of Scotland Yard’s.
And when the larder’s looted, or the jewel-case is rifled,
Or when the milk is missing, or another Peke’s been stifled,
Or the greenhouse glass is broken, and the trellis past repair–
Ay, there’s the wonder of the thing! Macavity’s not there!
Explanation … Macavity maintains a façade of innocence and decency. He does not cheat while playing cards and there is no dossier of his in the archives of the Scotland Yard. However, when crimes like looting of a food store, or break-in at the jeweller’s, stealing of milk, breaking of greenhouse galas, it becomes clear that these are the handiwork of no one other than Macavity. Surprisingly, in none of these cases, Macavity is caught.
Poem .. 6th Stanza …
And when the Foreign Office finds a Treaty’s gone astray,
Or the Admiralty lose some plans and drawings by the way,
There may be a scap of paper in the hall or on the stair–
But it’s useless of investigate–Macavity’s not there!
And when the loss has been disclosed, the Secret Service say:
“It must have been Macavity!”–but he’s a mile away.
You’ll be sure to find him resting, or a-licking of his thumbs,
Or engaged in doing complicated long division sums.
Explanation .. Even in very serious cases like the loss of papers relating to a Treaty at the Foreign Office, or loss of Royal Navy’s plans and drawings, some related papers are discovered in the vicinity of the crime, but Macavity seems to have been nowhere near the crime when the heist happened. Secret Service agents clearly see Macavity’s hands in the crime, but Macavity, the master dodger, is found to be too far away from the spot to be implicated in the crime. To the anguish of the agents trailing him, he would be found to be quietly resting in a different location licking his thumbs or doing some calculations.
Poem … 7th Stanza …
Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macacity,
There never was a Cat of such deceitfulness and suavity.
He always has an alibit, or one or two to spare:
And whatever time the deed took place–MACAVITY WASN’T THERE!
And they say that all the Cats whose wicked deeds are widely known
(I might mention Mungojerrie, I might mention Griddlebone)
Are nothing more than agents for the Cat who all the time
Just controls their operations: the Napoleon of Crime!
Explanation … It is evident that Macavity was a criminal plotter who could manipulate other criminals like Mungojerrie or Griddlebone. He was the remote control of myriad crimes who effortlessly threw sands in the eyes of the investigators. He was a trickster, plotter, and manipulator, all rolled into one. A repugnant criminal, he could be called the ‘Napoleon of Crime’.
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