T. S. Eliot: Old Deuteronomy

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Thomas Stearns Eliot: Old Deuteronomy
from “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats”

Old Deuteronomy’s lived a long time;
He’s a Cat who has lived many lives in succession.
He was famous in proverb and famous in rhyme
A long while before Queen Victoria’s accession.
Old Deuteronomy’s buried nine wives
And more – I am tempted to say, ninety-nine;
And his numerous progeny prospers and thrives
And the village is proud of him in his decline.
At the sight of that placid and bland physiognomy,
When he sits in the sun on the vicarage wall,
The Oldest Inhabitant croaks: `Well, of all …
Things … Can it be … really! … No! … Yes! …
Ho! hi!
Oh, my eye!
My sight may be failing, but yet I confess
I believe it is Old Deuteronomy!’

Old Deuteronomy sits in the street,
He sits in the High Street on market day;
The bullocks may bellow, the sheep they may bleat,
But the dogs and the herdsmen will turn them away.
The cars and the lorries run over the kerb,
Andthe villagers put up a notice: ROAD CLOSED –
So that nothing untoward may chance to disturb
Deuteronomy’s rest when he feels so disposed
Or when he’s engaged in domestic economy:
And the Oldest Inhabitant croaks: `Well, of all …
Things … Can it be … really! … No! … Yes! …
Ho! hi!
Oh, my eye!
I’m deaf of an ear now, but yeat I can guess
That the cause of the trouble is Old Deuteronomy!’

Old Deuteronomy lies on the floor
Of the fox and French Horn for his afternoon sleep;
And when the men say: `There’s just time for one more,’
then the landlady from her back parlour will peep
And say: `Now then, out you go, by the back door,
For Old Deuteronomy mustn’t be woken –
I’ll have the police if there’s any uproar’ –
And out they all shuffle, without a work spoken.
The digestive repose of that feline’s gastronomy
Must never be broken, whatever befall:
And the Oldest Inhabitant croaks: `Well of all …
Things … Can it be … really! … Yes! … No! …
Ho! hi!
Oh, my eye!
My legs may be tottery, I must go slow
And be careful of Old Deuteronomy!’

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