The Prize Cat by E.J. Pratt
E.J. Pratt is a well-known and celebrated Canadian poet. He is a keen observer of nature. His shorter poems show the splendor of nature and he presents nature as a kind of beingas a person. In his three short poems, such as “The Shark”, “Seagulls” and “The Prize Cat”, E.J. Pratt appreciates the beauty of different types of species because he was attracted to them. “The Strange Fish” is visible in all its beauty in the poem “The Shark”. Pratt shows the incomparable attraction of the flight of the birds in “Seagulls”. The “soft-mannered and furtive wild” nature of the cat is explained in the poem “The Prize Cat”. E.J. Pratt has a special fascination for the world of nature and enjoys writing poems of different types of species.
The prize cat is short poem with brief rhyming lines. The poem depicts the variation of the change that comes by evolution. The tamed and sophisticated cat has come a long way from its wild ancestor the leopard. The first two stanzas of the poem describe the superiority, gentility, soft-mannered and the feline culture of the cat. The poet demonstrates the superiority of the cat by its soft-manner, musical voice and gentility in the fur. Man over the years has tamed, disciplined and domesticated the cat and that is why it has refinement in its manners. But the apparent gentility is not the original trait of the cat.
The poet says that the dividing line between the cat and the leopard is very thin as like that of the dividing line between the primitive man and the modern man. Both appear as predators over weaker beings. Thus the poet highlights the basic character of the cat by the words “Furtive Wild”. Though the cat has been disciplined and domesticated by man its basic wild nature remains the same as that of its trainer, the human beings. The poet feels sad that with the growth of civilization and culture the human savagery is still there without any reformation. This is echoed in last two lines of the poem,
“I thought an Abyssinian child
Had cried out in the whitethroat’s scream”
The two lines refer to Mussolini’s attack on Ethiopia. Mussolini the Italian fascist Prime Minister waged a war against Abyssinia (Ethiopia) before the Second World War and annexed the small country to Italy like a predator. The poet thus pictures the dividing line between the primitive man and the modern man like the line between leopard and the cat. The cat is symbolic of man.