Ode To The Cat

Poem By Pablo Neruda

The animals were imperfect,
long-tailed,
unfortunate in their heads.
Little by little they
put themselves together,
making themselves a landscape,
acquiring spots, grace, flight.
The cat,
only the cat
appeared complete and proud:
he was born completely finished,
walking alone and knowing what he wanted.

Man wants to be fish or fowl,
the snake would like to have wings
the dog is a disoriented lion,
the engineer would like to be a poet,
the fly studies to be a swift,
the poet tries to imitate the fly,
but the cat
only wants to be a cat
and any cat is a cat
from his whiskers to his tail,
from his hopeful vision of a rat
to the real thing,
from the night to his golden eyes.

There is no unity
like him,
the moon and the flower
do not have such context:
he is just one thing
like the sun or the topaz,
and the elastic line of his contours
is firm and subtle like
the line of a ship's prow.
His yellow eyes
have just one
groove
to coin the gold of night time.

Oh little
emperor without a sphere of influence
conqueror without a country,
smallest living-room tiger, nuptial
sultan of the sky,
of the erotic roof-tiles,
the wind of love
in the storm
you claim
when you pass
and place
four delicate feet
on the ground,
smelling,
distrusting
all that is terrestrial,
because everything
is too unclean
for the immaculate foot of the cat.

Oh independent wild beast
of the house
arrogant
vestige of the night,
lazy, gymnastic
and alien,
very deep cat,
secret policeman
of bedrooms,
insignia
of a
disappeared velvet,
surely there is no
enigma
in your manner,
perhaps you are not a mystery,
everyone knows of you
and you belong
to the least mysterious inhabitant,
perhaps everyone believes it,
everyone believes himself the owner,
proprietor,
uncle
of a cat,
companion,
colleague,
disciple
or friend
of his cat.

Not me.
I do not subscribe.
I do not know the cat.
I know it all, life and its archipelago,
the sea and the incalculable city,
botany,
the gyneceum and its frenzies,
the plus and the minus of mathematics,
the volcanic frauds of the world,
the unreal shell of the crocodile,
the unknown kindness of the fireman,
the blue atavism of the priest,
but I cannot decipher a cat.
My reason slips on his indifference,
his eyes have golden numbers.

Comments about Ode To The Cat

The dog is a disorientated lion? Mine is terrified of everything.
Captures the essence of Cat purrfectly! !
A lovely poem. However, having read the original, Spanish version, I find this translation to be a little choppy and awkward. It translates a few things a bit too literally or uses cognates instead of more accurate wording.
So true, so beautiful!


Rating Card

4,3 out of 5
6 total ratings

Other poems of NERUDA

If You Forget Me

I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:

I Do Not Love You Except Because I Love You

I do not love you except because I love you;
I go from loving to not loving you,
From waiting to not waiting for you
My heart moves from cold to fire.

Don'T Go Far Off

Don't go far off, not even for a day, because --
because -- I don't know how to say it: a day is long
and I will be waiting for you, as in an empty station
when the trains are parked off somewhere else, asleep.

Sonnet Xvii

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

A Dog Has Died

My dog has died.
I buried him in the garden
next to a rusted old machine.

From – Twenty Poems Of Love

I can write the saddest lines tonight.
Write for example: ‘The night is fractured
and they shiver, blue, those stars, in the distance’