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The Cat by Miroslav Holub
Transcript of The Cat by Miroslav Holub
Through the use of metaphor and imagery the poet creates a vivid picture of the dampening of the night sky. “The eternal dark” refers to the lights of the city, which is ironic because in an attempt to brighten the world around us, humans have succeeded in darkening the natural light emitted from the stars. This line also serves as a parallel to the loss of self experienced by the woman as the bright lights of the city conceal her natural brightness; her creativity, dreams, and identity.
"I said to her/do not go" (6-7 & 11-12)
This line is emphasized through repetition. The poet is urging a woman not to leave him and her sense of self behind as she ventures into new territory. It can be inferred due to earlier references to the city in the first stanza that this new territory is a move to the city in search of a potential career. The repetition carries a sense of urgency which shows how deeply the poet cares for the woman and doesn't want her to lose herself; more importantly
doesn't want to end up losing her.
“You’ll only be trapped/and bewitched/and will suffer in vain”(8-10)
This line refers to the addictiveness of the lifestyle the woman would garner by getting a job in the city. The poet is concerned that she will be "bewitched" by the allure of material gains and become "trapped" in a life she may not have originally planned on leading. "Suffer[ing] in vain" refers to the sacrifices to happiness and emotional well-being made by working in a stale environment. The achievements made are not wroth the loss of a good quality of being.
"do not go/why want/nothing?"(12-14)
The poet pleads to the woman to stay by questioning her motives and trying to explain the lack of emotional fulfillment going to the city will bring to her.
"a black cat into the black night/she dissolved" (17-18)
"The black night" is again in reference to the first stanza in which the night is darkened by the glow of the city. The woman is escaping to the dark city. The black cat symbolizes her inner self. Because black cats are evasive and mysterious creatures, it is a perfect reflection of self discovery and the trickiness of becoming self aware. The word "dissolve" is important as it brings forth a picture of the cat vanishing into a crowd. Where the woman may have once stood out to the poet for her uniqueness, her voice is now lost in the corporate herd.
About Miroslav Holub:
Lived from September 13th, 1923-July 14th 1998.
Worked as an immunologist, so many of his poems are inspired by his work in the scientific field.
Other common themes in his poetry include aging and suffering (aging is seen in The Cat)
Lived in the Czech Republic and wrote in Czech. Due to the non-rhyming nature of his poetry, it is easily translated to other languages.
"a window was open/and she went" (15-16)
This line alludes to the popular cliche of 'a window of opportunity'. The woman sees a chance to escape and she takes it happily, disregarding the warnings of the poet.
by Miroslav Holub
Outside it was night
like a book without letters.
And the eternal dark
dripped to the stars through the sieve of the
I said to her
do not go
you'll only be trapped
and will suffer in vain.
I said to her
do not go
But a window was opened
and she went,
a black cat into the black night,
a black cat in the black night,
she just dissolved
and no one ever saw her again.
Not even she herself.
But you can hear her
when it's quiet
and there's a northerly wind
and you listen intently
to your own self.
"no one every saw her again/not even she herself." (21-22)
At this point in the poem, the woman of the poets
affections has become unrecognizable. The "cat" within her that the poet recognizes as her real identity is lost and not even identifiable to the woman herself. At this point, the reader, the poet, and the woman are able to see the toll losing herself to the corporate world has had on her.
"But you can hear her sometimes/when [...] you listen intently/to your own self" (23-28)
The poem ends on a bittersweet note. Although it is
made clear in earlier stanzas that the woman has let herself "dissolve" in the crowd of business bodies, the poet leaves a final warning directly the reader. Using the second-person 'you' he leaves off with a message to the reader to listen closely to themselves. This a dramatic shift in tone from earlier stanza's as it directly involves the reader invoking a more personal connection to the poem. He goes on to say that by listening intently, you can hear the cat; The last remnant of the person the woman once was. The part of her that is now unrecognizable to the naked eye. The poem ends in a warning to those with ambitions and beckons the reader to question they're motives in regards to future endeavours.