Louis Wain (1860 – 1939) was an English artist famous for the thousands of sketches and paintings of cats displaying human behaviour. They enchanted the Victorians who were more likely to see cats as a mildly irritating tool of pest control. Some of his art is too saccharine and cutesy for my liking, but I love this painting in which a feline bachelor party is clearly approaching an advanced stage of debauchery. I bet there’s catnip in those cigars!
I want him to have another living summer,
to lie in the sun and enjoy the douceur de vivre –
because the sun, like golden rum in a rummer,
is what makes an idle cat un tout petit peu ivre –
I want him to lie stretched out, contented,
revelling in the heat, his fur all dry and warm,
an Old Age Pensioner, retired, resented
by no one, and happinesses in a beelike swarm
to settle on him – postponed for another season
that last fated hateful journey to the vet
from which there is no return (and age the reason),
which must come soon – as I cannot forget
– Gavin Ewart
Despite the promising start, 2021 turned out to be pretty much a lockdown-ridden sequel to 2020. But once again, my little fluffball remained blissfully ignorant of the COVID-19 crisis and just enjoyed his chance to pester me while I was working from home.
She sights a Bird – she chuckles –
She flattens – then she crawls –
She runs without the look of feet –
Her eyes increase to Balls –
Her Jaws stir – twitching – hungry
Her Teeth can hardly stand –
She leaps, but Robin leaped the first –
Ah, Pussy, of the Sand,
The Hopes so juicy ripening –
You almost bathed your Tongue –
When Bliss disclosed a hundred Toes –
And fled with every one –
– Emily Dickinson
One of my favourite cat-related pieces of art is this famous Russian “lubok” print from the 18th century, which may or may not be a satire of Peter the Great. I’ve loved it since childhood, but thanks to the Ye Olde Russian text I never realised that it is in fact a tad rude. It translates something like:
The Cat of Kazan, mind of Astrakhan, reason of Siberia,
he lived sweet, ate sweet, and farted sweet.
We don’t know who our daddy was,
Don’t know, and we don’t care.
But everyone who sees us says
He must have had red hair!