In Honor of the Illustrious Mr. Midnight

[Originally posted 09.06.2012]

I have to say, I owe an apology to our readers…or at least to our most avid reader, Mr. Midnight.

Mr. Midnight was very excited to see my post last week that drew extensively from T.S. Eliot’s essay “Tradition and the Individual Talent.” However, he was quick to point out that I had failed to make reference to his most significant work, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.
My attempt to convince Mr. Midnight that The Wasteland was, in fact, more groundbreaking was brief to say the least. I soon realized my arrogance in believing that I could possibly know more than our wise theatre cat. (I also thought it bests to concede upon noticing that he had decided to show off his luxuriously long set of claws.)
By way of apology to the illustrious guardian of Undermain Theatre, Mr. Midnight, I am posting an original poem in his honor, followed by his favorite of Eliot’s cat poems. (As Mr. Midnight is quite the critic, I am crossing my fingers in hope that he finds my composition satisfactory.)
Mr. Midnight: The Undermain Cat
Mr. Midnight is the cat at Undermain’s door.
He’s the wisest of cats, but he wants nothing more
Than to rule his domain with his mighty roar
And to remind our SM to sweep the stage floor.
Well…that’s not quite all, he’s also quite skilled
At lapping up water (once its been chilled)
And coercing the A.D. Kat (whom he considers a namesake)
To pry open a can and make him a plate.
But, in truth, Midnight has one more role to play
(Aside from telling directors what to say,
And correcting actors on each little gesture,
And giving Literary an occasional lecture.)
He resumes his sacred position each night,
Which they say is a ritual cure for stage fright,
Purring away, he curls up on the floor,
Waiting to greet each actor who walks through the door.
Finally, here is a selection from T.S. Eliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.”  As Mr. Midnight has reminded me time and again that Eliot is a far better writer than I, please do not judge my work too harshly in comparison.
Colleen Ahern, Assistant Director 
Gus: The Theatre Cat
 Gus is the Cat at the Theatre Door.
 His name, as I ought to have told you before,
 Is really Asparagus. That’s such a fuss
 To pronounce, that we usually call him just Gus.
 His coat’s very shabby, he’s thin as a rake,
 And he suffers from palsy that makes his paw shake.
 Yet he was, in his youth, quite the smartest of Cats –
 But no longer a terror to mice and to rats.
 For he isn’t the Cat that he was in his prime;
 Though his name was quite famous, he says, in its time.
 And whenever he joins his friends at their club
 (Which takes place at the back of the neighbouring pub)
 He loves to regale them, if someone else pays,
 With anecdotes drawn from his palmiest days.
 For he once was a Star of the highest degree –
 He has acted with Irving, he’s acted with Tree.
 And he likes to relate his success on the Halls,
 Where the Gallery once gave him seven cat-calls.
 But his grandest creation, as he loves to tell,
 Was Firefrorefiddle, the Fiend of the Fell. `I have played’, so he says, `every possible part,
 And I used to know seventy speeches by heart.
 I’d extemporize back-chat, I knew how to gag,
 And I know how to let the cat out of the bag.
 I knew how to act with my back and my tail;
 With an hour of rehearsal, I never could fail.
 I’d a voice that would soften the hardest of hearts,
 Whether I took the lead, or in character parts.
 I have sat by the bedside of poor Little Nell;
 When the Curfew was rung, then I swung on the bell.
 In the Pantomime season I never fell flat
 And I once understudied Dick Whittington’s Cat.
 But my grandest creation, as history will tell,
 Was Firefrorefiddle, the Fiend of the Fell.’

 Then, if someone will givve him a toothful of gin,
 He will tell how he once played a part in East Lynne.
 At a shakespeare performance he once walked on pat,
 When some actor suggested the need for a cat.
 He once played a Tiger – could do it again –
 Which an Indian Colonel pursued down a drain.
 And he thinks that he still can, much better than most,
 Produce blood-curdling noises to bring on the Ghost.
 And he once crossed the stage on a telegraph wire,
 To rescue a child when a house was on fire.
 And he says: `Now, these kittens, they do not get trained
 As we did in the days when Victoria reigned.
 They never get drilled in a regular troupe,
 And they think they are smart, just to jump through a hoop.’
 And he’ll say, as he scratches himself with his claws,
 `Well, the Theatre’s certainly not what it was.
 These modern productions are all very well,
 But there’s nothing to equal, from what I hear tell,
       That moment of mystery
       When I made history
 As Firefrorefiddle, the Fiend of the Fell.’

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