#11

One of my favorite authors is J.R.R Tolkien. Many are familiar with his works The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, both of which contain their fair share of song and verse. “The Professor” was just that, a professor of English Language and Literature at Oxford with a real passion for linguistics. While fans may know (or at least have heard of) his original work The Silmarillion, it is often a more daunting task to read through and so many do not.

It is my favorite of his works for a number of reasons. It is complex, thorough, creative, and serves as the creation myth (and much more) for his works to follow. If this wasn’t enough, he wrote several of the tales in rhyming verse. In fact, he wanted to publish it this way but was told that readers would not be interested in such a production, and so it was never finished.

What does exist is large portions of some of the same tales and lays from The Silmarillion (such as the “Lay of Leithian”, my favorite of all of his works), expanded and crafted as deftly as a medieval poet. I bring this up because I find his poetic skill to rival that of his prose at nearly every turn. Much like Pope’s Iliad, I admire the herculean task of writing such a volume of verse without it feeling repetitive or trite.

One of the things I love most in this life is cats. I love everything about them, the way they move, hunt, play, and that every cat, big or small, does these things in exactly the same way. It has been said that Tolkien did not like cats. This is based on a few off-hand comments and their portrayal, in small part, in some of the early drafts of the stories mentioned above. I will simply point to the poem “Cat”, one example of his stand-alone poetry. Regardless of how he felt about felines, one cannot help but see his understanding of them, and that means a lot to me as a fan of both.

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Cat

The fat cat on the mat
may seem to dream
of nice mice that suffice
for him, or cream;
but he free, maybe,
walks in thought
unbowed, proud, where loud
roared and fought
his kin, lean and slim,
or deep in den
in the East feasted on beasts
and tender men.
The giant lion with iron
claw in paw,
and huge ruthless tooth
in gory jaw;
the pard dark-starred,
fleet upon feet,
that oft soft from aloft
leaps on his meat
where woods loom in gloom-
far now they be,
fierce and free,
and tamed is he;
but fat cat on the mat,
kept as a pet,
he does not forget.

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