Pussy-Cat by Spike Milligan

Pussy-Cat‘ by Spike Milligan is a short, four line children’s poem. It is contained within one block of text and follows a rhyme scheme of ABAB. It is usual, within poems written with a younger audience in mind, for the poet to choose a fairly straightforward pattern of rhyme. This choice is made with the intention of making the text fun to read and pleasing to hear read out loud. 

Due to the fact that the poem is so short, the meter becomes very important and interesting to delve into. The phrase “Pussy-Cat” contains three syllables, the first is stressed, the second unstressed and the third stressed. This is a rare kind of metrical foot known as an amphimacer. The same  pattern of stresses is present in the third line as well. 

In regards to lines two and four, they differ. Lines number two is in trochaic dimeter. This means that there are two sets of two beats, the first is stressed and the second is unstressed. The fourth line is different once again, it could also be said to be trochaic dimeter, but there is an extra stressed beat at the start of the line with the word “And”. By making this choice, Milligan emphasizes the fact that cats also eat the things they catch.

You can read the full poem here.

 

Summary of Pussy-Cat

Pussy-Cat‘ by Spike Milligan describes through simple, rhyming and metered language the vices inherent to being a cat. 

The poem begins with the speaker asking a listener, perhaps a cat or perhaps a human listener, what a cat’s main vice is. The answer is simple, it is catching rats and eating mice. To some this is probably a good thing, but to this particular speaker it seems as though killing mice and rats is something unfortunate. 

 

Analysis of Pussy-Cat

Lines 1-2 

In the first two lines of ‘Pussy-Cat’ the speaker makes use of the title, “Pussy-Cat”. This opens the poem, and lets a young reader know what the text is going to be about. The first line is clearly very simple, but it helps create a rhyme for the poem that is repeated in line number three. 

The second line is longer, at four syllables and tells the reader more about the following two lines. The speaker asks, “What are vices?” This refers to something immoral that one should not be engaging in. This is an interesting question as it seems that the speaker could be asking both the reader and the cat. What, on the human end, would vices be? And what from a cat’s perspective would the vices be? The answer seems to come from the human side of the equation. 

 

Lines 3-4 

The response is simple. The answer is “Catching rats / And eating mices!” These are the things that cats love to do, and that a human, particularly a human child, might see as a vice. But, the lines can also be read from another point of view, the cat’s. To a cat, these are wonderful things that bring the animal pleasure. Therefore, the fourth line ending with an exclamation point, suggests that this is not something bad, but something fun and wonderful for the cat. 

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