March 3, 2014

It’s a twofer Monday.When I saw the list of names in T.S. Eliot’s “Naming of Cats” I couldn’t not hear Lou Reed’s “Beginning of a Great Adventure” in my head, although maybe it’s because I happened to hear that song at about 6:30 am on Sunday. I always listen to the list of baby names he provides, and I have always thought it was so funny–still, you catch one or 2 you haven’t noticed before each time you hear the tune. So today, two absolutely towering figures in American 20th century writing, in their rather more playful moods. -ed.

THE NAMING OF CATS

The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn’t just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I’m as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.
First of all, there’s the name that the family use daily,
Such as Peter, Augustus, Alonzo or James,
Such as Victor or Jonathan, George or Bill Bailey–
All of them sensible everyday names.
There are fancier names if you think they sound sweeter,
Some for the gentlemen, some for the dames:
Such as Plato, Admetus, Electra, Demeter–
But all of them sensible everyday names.
But I tell you, a cat needs a name that’s particular,
A name that’s peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,
Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?
Of names of this kind, I can give you a quorum,
Such as Munkustrap, Quaxo, or Coricopat,
Such as Bombalurina, or else Jellylorum-
Names that never belong to more than one cat.
But above and beyond there’s still one name left over,
And that is the name that you never will guess;
The name that no human research can discover–
But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.
When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Effanineffable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.

-1939

BEGINNING OF A GREAT ADVENTURE

It might be fun to have a kid that I could kick around
a little me to fill up with my thoughts
A little me or he or she to fill up with my dreams
a way of saying life is not a loss

I’d keep the tyke away from school and tutor him myself
keep him from the poison of the crowd
But then again pristine isolation might not be the best idea
it’s not good trying to immortalize yourself

Beginning of a great adventure
Beginning of a great adventure

Why stop at one, I might have ten, a regular TV brood
I’d breed a little liberal army in the wood
Just like these redneck lunatics I see at the local bar
with their tribe of mutant inbred piglets with cloven hooves

I’d teach ’em how to plant a bomb, start a fire, play guitar
and if they catch a hunter, shoot him in the nuts
I’d try to be as progressive as I could possibly be
as long as I don’t have to try too much

Beginning of a great adventure
Beginning of a great adventure

Susie, Jesus, Bogart, Sam, Leslie, Jill and Jeff
Rita, Winny, Andy, Fran and Jet
Boris, Bono, Lucy, Ethel, Bunny, Reg and Tom
that’s a lot of names to try not to forget

Carrie, Marlon, Mo and Steve, La Rue and Jerry Lee
Eggplant, Rufus, Dummy, Star and The Glob
I’d need a damn computer to keep track of all these names
I hope this baby thing don’t go too far

I hope it’s true what my wife said to me
I hope it’s true what my wife said to me, hey
I hope it’s true what my wife said to me

She says, “Baby, it’s the beginning of a great adventure”
“Babe, beginning of a great adventure”
take a look

It might be fun to have a kid that I could kick around
create in my own image like a god
I’d raise my own pallbearers to carry me to my grave
and keep me company when I’m a wizened toothless clod

Some gibbering old fool sitting all alone drooling on his shirt
some senile old fart playing in the dirt
It might be fun to have a kid I could pass something on to
something better than rage, pain, anger and hurt

I hope it’s true what my wife said to me
I hope it’s true what my wife said to me
I hope it’s true what my wife said to me
She says, “Lou, it’s the beginning of a great adventure”

-1989

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