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Cat Poetry

    Skimbleshanks: The Railway Cat

    There's a whisper down the line at 11:39
    When the Night Mail's ready to depart,
    Saying 'Skimble where is Skimble has he gone to hunt the thimble?
    We must find him or the train can't start.'
    All the guards and all the porters and the stationmaster's daughters
    They are searching high and low,
    Saying 'Skimble where is Skimble for unless he's very nimble
    Then the Night Mail just can't go.'
    At 11:42 then the signal's nearly due
    And the passengers are frantic to a man -
    Then Skimble will appear and he'll saunter to the rear:
    He's been busy in the luggage van!
    He gives one flash of his glass-green eyes
    And the signal goes 'All Clear!'
    And we're off at last for the northern part
    Of the Northern Hemisphere!

    You may say that by and large it is Skimble who's in charge
    Of the Sleeping Car Express.
    From the driver and the guards to the bagmen playing cards
    He will supervise them all, more or less.
    Down the corridor he paces and examines all the faces
    Of the travellers in the First and in the Third;
    He establishes control by a regular patrol
    And he'd know at once if anything occurred.
    He will watch you without winking and he sees what you are thinking
    And it's certain that he doesn't approve
    Of hilarity and riot, so the folk are very quiet
    When Skimble is about and on them ove.
    You can play no pranks with Skimbleshanks!
    He's a Cat that cannot be ignored;
    So nothing goes wrong on the Northern Mail
    When Skimbleshanks is aboard.

    Oh it's very pleasant when you have found your little den
    With your name written up on the door.
    And the berth is very neat with a newly folded sheet
    And there's not a speck of dust on the floor.
    There is every sort of light - you can make it dark or bright;
    There's a button that you turn to make a breeze.
    There's a funny little basin you're supposed to wash your face in
    And a crank to shut the window if you sneeze.
    Then the guard looks in politely and will ask you very brightly
    'Do you like your morning tea weak or strong?'
    But Skimble's just behind him and was ready to remind him,
    For Skimble won't let anything go wrong.
    And when you creep into your cosy berth
    And pull up the counterpane,
    You are bound to admit that it's very nice
    To know that you won't be bothered by mice -
    You can leave all that to the Railway Cat,
    The Cat of the Railway Train!

    In the middle of the night he is always fresh and bright;
    Every now and then he has a cup of tea
    With perhaps a drop of Scotch while he's keeping on the watch,
    Only stopping here and there to catch a flea.
    You were fast asleep at Crewe and so you never knew
    That he was walking up and down the station;
    You were sleeping all the while he was busy at Carlisle,
    Where he greets the stationmaster with elation.
    But you saw him at Dumfries, where he summons the police
    If there's anything they ought to know about:
    When you get to Gallowgate there you do not have to wait -
    For Skimbleshanks will help you to get out!
    He gives you a wave of his long brown tail
    Which says: 'I'll see you again!
    You'll meet without fail on the Midnight Mail
    The Cat of the Railway Train.'

    T S Elliot

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