'Macavity: The Mystery Cat' by T.S. Eliot

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Old Possum's Book of Practical CatsMacavity's a Mystery Cat: he's called the Hidden Paw--
For he's the master criminal who can defy the Law.
He's the bafflement of Scotland Yard, the Flying Squad's despair:
For when they reach the scene of crime--Macavity's not there!Macavity, Macavity, there's no on like Macavity,
He's broken every human law, he breaks the law of gravity.
His powers of levitation would make a fakir stare,
And when you reach the scene of crime--Macavity's not there!
You may seek him in the basement, you may look up in the air--
But I tell you once and once again, Macavity's not there!Macavity's a ginger cat, he's very tall and thin;
You would know him if you saw him, for his eyes are sunken in.
His brow is deeply lined with thought, his head is highly doomed;
His coat is dusty from neglect, his whiskers are uncombed.
He sways his head from side to side, with movements like a snake;
And when you think he's half asleep, he's always wide awake.Macavity, Macavity, there's no one like Macavity,
For he's a fiend in feline shape, a monster of depravity.
You may meet him in a by-street, you may see him in the square--
But when a crime's discovered, then Macavity's not there!He's outwardly respectable. (They say he cheats at cards.)
And his footprints are not found in any file of Scotland Yard's.
And when the larder's looted, or the jewel-case is rifled,
Or when the milk is missing, or another Peke's been stifled,
Or the greenhouse glass is broken, and the trellis past repair--
Ay, there's the wonder of the thing! Macavity's not there!And when the Foreign Office finds a Treaty's gone astray,
Or the Admiralty lose some plans and drawings by the way,
There may be a scap of paper in the hall or on the stair--
But it's useless of investigate--Macavity's not there!
And when the loss has been disclosed, the Secret Service say:
"It must have been Macavity!"--but he's a mile away.
You'll be sure to find him resting, or a-licking of his thumbs,
Or engaged in doing complicated long division sums.Macavity, Macavity, there's no one like Macacity,
There never was a Cat of such deceitfulness and suavity.
He always has an alibit, or one or two to spare:
And whatever time the deed took place--MACAVITY WASN'T THERE!
And they say that all the Cats whose wicked deeds are widely known
(I might mention Mungojerrie, I might mention Griddlebone)
Are nothing more than agents for the Cat who all the time
Just controls their operations: the Napoleon of Crime!

Editor 1 Interpretation

Macavity: The Mystery Cat by T.S. Eliot


"Macavity: The Mystery Cat" is a poem written by T.S. Eliot in 1939. It was originally published as part of the collection "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats." The poem tells the story of Macavity, a notorious criminal who is able to evade the police and commit crimes without ever being caught. Eliot's poem has been praised for its witty writing, clever wordplay, and memorable imagery. In this literary criticism and interpretation, I will explore the various themes and literary devices used by Eliot in "Macavity: The Mystery Cat."


The poem begins with a description of Macavity's physical appearance. Eliot tells us that Macavity is a ginger cat with black stripes, and that he has a "forehead deeply lined with thought." This description of Macavity's appearance is important because it sets the stage for the rest of the poem. We are given a clear image of what Macavity looks like, which makes it easier for us to visualize him as he goes about his criminal activities.

The next stanza introduces the central theme of the poem: Macavity's ability to evade the police. Eliot describes Macavity as a "master criminal" who is able to "commit a crime and then take his hat off to you as if he were just leaving the room." This description of Macavity's criminal prowess is both impressive and unsettling. Eliot suggests that Macavity is so skilled at avoiding detection that he can commit a crime right under the noses of the police, and then simply walk away without anyone suspecting him.

The third stanza of the poem introduces a group of characters who are trying to catch Macavity. These characters, who are referred to as "Scotland Yard's best," are a group of police officers who are determined to bring Macavity to justice. Eliot describes them as being "timid and shy" in the presence of Macavity, which suggests that they are intimidated by his criminal reputation.

The fourth stanza of the poem is where Eliot really starts to show off his writing skills. He uses a series of clever wordplay and puns to describe Macavity's various crimes. For example, he writes that Macavity is responsible for "the theft of the Crown Jewels" and "the kidnapping of the Archbishop of Canterbury." These crimes are clearly outrageous, but Eliot's use of wordplay makes them sound almost comical.

The fifth stanza of the poem introduces an interesting twist. Eliot tells us that Macavity is actually a "fiend in feline shape," which suggests that he is something more than just an ordinary cat. Eliot's use of this description is important because it adds a supernatural element to the poem. It suggests that there is something mysterious and otherworldly about Macavity, which makes him even more dangerous and intriguing.

The sixth stanza of the poem is where Eliot really starts to have fun with his writing. He describes Macavity as being able to "disappear and reappear with alarming rapidity." This description of Macavity's ability to vanish and appear at will is both eerie and impressive. Eliot's use of language here helps to create a sense of tension and excitement, as we imagine Macavity darting in and out of shadows, always one step ahead of his pursuers.

The seventh stanza of the poem describes Macavity's ultimate escape. Eliot tells us that Macavity is able to "leap out just in time and then sit licking his paw," as the police officers look on in frustration. This description of Macavity's escape is both satisfying and frustrating. On the one hand, we are impressed by Macavity's skill and cunning. On the other hand, we can't help but feel frustrated that the police officers are unable to catch him.

The final stanza of the poem is a kind of summary of everything that has come before. Eliot tells us that Macavity is a "mystery cat" who is both "not there" and "all around." This description of Macavity is both enigmatic and intriguing. It suggests that there is something about Macavity that we cannot fully understand, that he is always just out of reach, always one step ahead of us.


In "Macavity: The Mystery Cat," T.S. Eliot creates a memorable character who is both fascinating and terrifying. Macavity is a master criminal who is able to evade the police and commit crimes without ever being caught. Eliot's use of clever wordplay, puns, and imagery helps to create a sense of tension and excitement that keeps the reader engaged throughout the poem. Ultimately, "Macavity: The Mystery Cat" is a testament to Eliot's skill as a writer, and to his ability to create characters and worlds that are both captivating and unforgettable.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Macavity: The Mystery Cat by T.S. Eliot is a classic poem that has been enjoyed by generations of readers. The poem is a playful and humorous take on the mystery genre, featuring a feline protagonist who is both cunning and elusive. In this analysis, we will explore the themes, structure, and language of the poem, and examine how they contribute to its enduring popularity.

The poem begins with a description of Macavity, the titular character, who is introduced as a "mystery cat" with a "coat of the claret velvet." Eliot's use of vivid imagery immediately captures the reader's attention and creates a sense of intrigue. The description of Macavity's coat as "claret velvet" suggests luxury and elegance, while the term "mystery cat" implies that there is something enigmatic about him.

As the poem progresses, we learn more about Macavity's character. He is described as a master criminal who is always one step ahead of the law. Eliot uses a series of humorous and exaggerated descriptions to illustrate Macavity's cunning. For example, he is said to have "broken every human law" and to be able to "levitate" and "disappear." These descriptions are clearly fantastical, but they serve to emphasize Macavity's elusive nature and his ability to outsmart his pursuers.

The poem's structure is also worth noting. It is written in quatrains, with each stanza consisting of four lines. The rhyme scheme is AABB, which gives the poem a playful and lighthearted feel. The use of rhyme also helps to create a sense of rhythm and momentum, which propels the poem forward.

One of the most interesting aspects of the poem is the way in which Eliot uses language to create a sense of ambiguity. For example, he describes Macavity as a "fiend in feline shape," which suggests that there is something sinister about him. However, he also describes him as a "cat who walks by himself," which implies a sense of independence and self-reliance. This ambiguity adds depth to the character of Macavity and makes him more interesting to the reader.

Another interesting aspect of the poem is the way in which Eliot uses humor to subvert the traditional mystery genre. Rather than presenting a serious and suspenseful narrative, he creates a playful and absurd world in which a cat can be a master criminal. This humor serves to make the poem more accessible and enjoyable for readers of all ages.

The poem's themes are also worth exploring. One of the most prominent themes is the idea of independence and self-reliance. Macavity is portrayed as a cat who is able to take care of himself and who does not rely on anyone else. This theme is reinforced by the repeated use of the phrase "Macavity's not there!" which suggests that he is always one step ahead of his pursuers.

Another theme is the idea of power and control. Macavity is portrayed as a character who is able to exert his will over others and who is always in control of the situation. This is illustrated by the way in which he is able to outsmart the police and escape from their clutches.

Overall, Macavity: The Mystery Cat is a delightful and entertaining poem that has stood the test of time. Its playful language, humorous tone, and intriguing protagonist make it a joy to read. Whether you are a fan of poetry or simply looking for a fun and engaging read, this poem is sure to delight and entertain.

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