Wednesday, March 9, 2011

"The Cat And The Sea"

I am here to report that Life does indeed imitate Art.  I take my afternoon walks along a bluff above Puget Sound.  On most days, the Olympic Mountains (sometimes their snowy heights, sometimes only their tiered, green-blue foothills) can be seen across the water to the west.  A few days ago, I saw a black cat sitting in a field with the Sound as a backdrop.  He or she was likely out on the prowl from one of the nearby houses.  And here is the Art (set in March as well):

   The Cat and the Sea

It is a matter of a black cat
On a bare cliff top in March
Whose eyes anticipate
The gorse petals;

The formal equation of
A domestic purr
With the cold interiors
Of the sea's mirror.

R. S. Thomas, Poetry for Supper (1958).

                                   Richard Eurich, "Cornwall" (c. 1958) 


From My Easy Chair said...

The artwork is lovely. Cornwall is a place that I have yet to visit.

Wonderful images in the poem. I'm wondering what "it" in the first line could refer to.

Stephen Pentz said...

Thank you for dropping in again, From My Easy Chair. As for the "it" in the first line: given the usual drift of Thomas's poetry, I would say (and this may sound a bit grand) that "it" may refer to the relationship between us, God, and reality -- Thomas, a cantankerous and questioning minister, was ever preoccupied with this admittedly large question. This "it" comes up quite often in his poetry.

From My Easy Chair said...

Interesting. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Bit late posting this, but back in the early 90s we studied RS Thomas in A level English and being in Holyhead were lucky enough to have him come in and talk to us about his poems. This particular one had been baffling us so someone asked him what it was about. He replied it was about a cat, looking at the sea! Of course. Then again he could have been teasing us...

Anyway he was a wonderful man and there was no sign if his famous cantankerousness that day.

Stephen Pentz said...

Anonymous: it's never too late to comment! Thank you very much for visiting.

I love hearing your story about Thomas: wonderful! I suspect that, similarly to Larkin, Thomas began to play to people's caricature of him (particularly those in the media). Thus, I am delighted -- and not surprised -- to hear that he left you with a fond memory. You are very fortunate.

As for his description of what "The Cat and the Sea" means: I think that it is absolutely perfect! We have had way too much critical and interpretative nonsense in our time -- we don't need to have the cat and the sea turned into some sort of arcane symbols. A cat beside the sea is more than enough. Best to leave it at that, I think.

Again, thank you very much.