The Cat and the Moon

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This poem on one level celebrates a cat playing and dancing in the moonlight in an almost childlike way. On a deeper level, it can be seen as suggesting forces at work in life, instinctual, mystical and spiritual, that exist beyond many simple rational views, and how relationships and perception are a changing mixture of the objective and subjective.

The playful, delightful and yet evitable symbolic poem works on several levels. It can be seen simply as a celebration of the cat and the moon, an almost childlike poem (in style and theme) that draws similarities and distinction between these two objects. There is a delight about the poem, and in its conception of a mysterious symmetry in the end between two things in nature that seem so different. There is a kind of childlike appreciation of the moods of the cat, and its energies- proudly independent yet connected in some unconscious, intuitive way with the moon and its phases- a way that is pleasingly semi-magical and mysterious, free from rational explanation yet potent and 'real' in a different way. Yeats was always fascinated with the occult and all things supernatural. The moon has always been a potent symbol, not least of love, but also of the female, and the opposite kind of world and truth to that of the sun and daylight. What is perhaps expressed most strongly at the end of the poem is a sense of relationship- relationship between the changing dilating pupils of the cat's eyes and phases of the moon. There is almost a mystical sense of communication between creature and the moon, between life and the universe at the end in the 'changing moon' reflected in the cat's 'changing eyes'.

At first ignored by the cat, the cat and the moon become mirrors of each other at the end- perhaps in the same way as Yeats' ideas of real and supernatural worlds share links and connection that are felt in intuited rather than can be known as simply quantifiable things.

If the poem speaks of hidden rhythms and secret parallels in the natural worlds of animal, man and moon, suggesting a wider sense of nature than may exist in some conventional philosophy , the fact that Minnalouche was Maud Gonne's cat invites us to imagine that this poem may also recreate the dynamic of human relationships.

The initially unregarded moon, the coming into awareness of it, the sharing of the dance, the change of the moon and further movement of the cat with the final comtemplation and recognition of similarities in difference could be a metaphor for human relationships…


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