Gus The Theatre Cat by T S Eliot

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 knew 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 give 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 purused 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 then 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.”

Gus, The Theatre Cat by Thomas S Eliot (Sept 26, 1888 – Jan 4, 1965).\

T S Eliot: “Some Editors are failed writers, but so are most writers.”

Gus The Theatre Cat played by Sir John Mills

T S Eliot

Eliot was a playwright, poet, critic, banker and editor who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948. He died of lung cancer in1965 after years of heavy smoking.

‘Gus The Theatre Cat’  is one of his more light-hearted pieces.

Gus (Asparagus) was brought to life  in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘Cats.’

The  production also included the song ‘Gus, The Theatre Cat,’ based on Eliot’s poem.

If you saw ‘Cats’, do you have a favourite cat character  (<< list here)  from the show?

Have you ever met a human ‘Gus’?

4 Comments on “Gus The Theatre Cat by T S Eliot”

  1. pickykim says:

    I just watched several scenes online with my daughter. I need to take my dad to a musical while I still have time. He loves them and has not gone in a long time. Thank you so much for bringing up these wonderful memories. My dad and I do not have the best relationship, but this is something I can do to show him that I love him. Thanks, Gaye (that was my mom’s name) ❤

  2. pickykim says:

    Gaye – what is your favorite part of the play? I think mine has to be when everyone is paying homage to Old Deuteronomy. Skimbleshanks is my favorite song, but my favorite character has to be Rum Tum Tugger. That swagger, the bravado…he is just one cool cat!

  3. pickykim says:

    I can’t tell you how much I loved Cats. My dad took me for the first time in college. He saw it about 15 times across the country. He was not a “theatre” type. He just really loved Cats…the play, NOT the feline. This reminds me of him. My favorite is Skimbleshanks the Railway Cat.

    • Gaye Crispin says:

      I love Cats too Kimberley. It must bring back special memories too considering your dad took you. How lovely of him… and as a non cat lover.

      “Skimbleshanks the Railway Cat
      The Cat of the Railway Train
      In the watches of the night I was always fresh and bright
      Every now and then I’d have a cup of tea
      With perhaps a drop of scotch while I was keeping on the watch
      Only stopping here and there to catch a flea”

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