Saturday, August 29, 2009

Jubilate Agno - Christopher Smart

I recall a reference to Christopher Smart in a previous poem and he's been on my mind lately, what with my cat house and all. That photo above is "Catfish" (named because he has a bad habit of sitting on the stove in a clean iron skillet). I awoke that morning and walked into the kitchen and there he was viciously killing that roll of paper towels. I'm sure in his mind he was protecting me from that evil roll of paper. The entire kitchen floor was covered with shredded paper towels. I had to laugh and grab my camera. Cats are a trip. I'm sure that Mr. Smart spent much time observing felines as he's really got them down in his masterpiece poem!



For I Will Consider My Cat Jeoffry (excerpt, Jubilate Agno)
By Christopher Smart

For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry.
For he is the servant of the Living God duly and daily serving him.
For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in his way.
For this is done by wreathing his body seven times round with elegant quickness.
For then he leaps up to catch the musk, which is the blessing of God upon his prayer.
For he rolls upon prank to work it in.
For having done duty and received blessing he begins to consider himself.
For this he performs in ten degrees.
For first he looks upon his forepaws to see if they are clean.
For secondly he kicks up behind to clear away there.
For thirdly he works it upon stretch with the forepaws extended.
For fourthly he sharpens his paws by wood.
For fifthly he washes himself.
For sixthly he rolls upon wash.
For seventhly he fleas himself, that he may not be interrupted upon the beat.
For eighthly he rubs himself against a post.
For ninthly he looks up for his instructions.
For tenthly he goes in quest of food.
For having consider'd God and himself he will consider his neighbour.
For if he meets another cat he will kiss her in kindness.
For when he takes his prey he plays with it to give it a chance.
For one mouse in seven escapes by his dallying.
For when his day's work is done his business more properly begins.
For he keeps the Lord's watch in the night against the adversary.
For he counteracts the powers of darkness by his electrical skin and glaring eyes.
For he counteracts the Devil, who is death, by brisking about the life.
For in his morning orisons he loves the sun and the sun loves him.
For he is of the tribe of Tiger.
For the Cherub Cat is a term of the Angel Tiger.
For he has the subtlety and hissing of a serpent, which in goodness he suppresses.
For he will not do destruction, if he is well-fed, neither will he spit without provocation.
For he purrs in thankfulness, when God tells him he's a good Cat.
For he is an instrument for the children to learn benevolence upon.
For every house is incomplete without him and a blessing is lacking in the spirit.
For the Lord commanded Moses concerning the cats at the departure of the Children of Israel from Egypt.
For every family had one cat at least in the bag.
For the English Cats are the best in Europe.
For he is the cleanest in the use of his forepaws of any quadruped.
For the dexterity of his defence is an instance of the love of God to him exceedingly.
For he is the quickest to his mark of any creature.
For he is tenacious of his point.
For he is a mixture of gravity and waggery.
For he knows that God is his Saviour.
For there is nothing sweeter than his peace when at rest.
For there is nothing brisker than his life when in motion.
For he is of the Lord's poor and so indeed is he called by benevolence perpetually--Poor Jeoffry! poor Jeoffry! the rat has bit thy throat.
For I bless the name of the Lord Jesus that Jeoffry is better.
For the divine spirit comes about his body to sustain it in complete cat.
For his tongue is exceeding pure so that it has in purity what it wants in music.
For he is docile and can learn certain things.
For he can set up with gravity which is patience upon approbation.
For he can fetch and carry, which is patience in employment.
For he can jump over a stick which is patience upon proof positive.
For he can spraggle upon waggle at the word of command.
For he can jump from an eminence into his master's bosom.
For he can catch the cork and toss it again.
For he is hated by the hypocrite and miser.
For the former is afraid of detection.
For the latter refuses the charge.
For he camels his back to bear the first notion of business.
For he is good to think on, if a man would express himself neatly.
For he made a great figure in Egypt for his signal services.
For he killed the Ichneumon-rat very pernicious by land.
For his ears are so acute that they sting again.
For from this proceeds the passing quickness of his attention.
For by stroking of him I have found out electricity.
For I perceived God's light about him both wax and fire.
For the Electrical fire is the spiritual substance, which God sends from heaven to sustain the bodies both of man and beast.
For God has blessed him in the variety of his movements.
For, tho he cannot fly, he is an excellent clamberer.
For his motions upon the face of the earth are more than any other quadruped.
For he can tread to all the measures upon the music.
For he can swim for life.
For he can creep.


Here's a short bio on Mr. Smart. If you'd like to know more about him, just Google!

Christopher Smart was born in 1722 in Shipbourne, Kent, England. In the 1750s Smart developed a form of religious mania that compelled him to continuous prayer. Samuel Johnson remarked, "My poor friend Smart showed the disturbance of his mind by falling upon his knees, and saying his prayers in the street, or in any other unusual place."

His father, a steward on the estate of Lord Vane, died when Smart was eleven. Smart attended the Durham School and was later educated at Pembroke College, Cambridge University, where he was well known for his Latin verses. The Odes of Horace would remain influential throughout Smart's career; he translated The Works of Horace in 1756. After college, Smart earned a living in London editing and writing copy for periodicals and composing songs for the popular theater.In 1756 he published Hymn to the Supreme Being, on Recovery from a Dangerous Fit of Illness.

However, from that time onward, Smart was confined, with one brief Intermission, until 1763 in St. Luke's Hospital and then in Mr. Potter's Madhouse in Bethnal Green. During his confinement he wrote what many see as his most original and lasting works—A Song to David, and the lengthy manuscript of Jubilate Agno. The last five years of Smart's life were marked by increasing debt and need; he was arrested again for debt in 1770 and died the following year.


Kelly said...

I had to laugh at your description of Catfish 'viciously killing' those paper towels! Amazing how their cuteness keeps up from being angry at their messes.

Mr. Smart had an interesting life.

Marion said...

Oh, Catfish is definitely the alpha cat in our group. We have four other kittens, too. I traded my daughter 2 of my kittens for Catfish when he was a baby, but somehow I still ended up with four kittens. I don't know how that happened. LOL! But we have 'cat tv' every night watching their antics. They love to bounce on our heads at night, so we have to lock them out of the bedroom. Yes, Mr. Smart was a fascinating man as is his poetry! Blessings!

Angela Catirina & Bonnie said...

ha ha ha... My kitty Corn Bread does the exact same thing. No roll of paper is safe with him around.

Marion said...

Angela (for some reason I always think of you as Angelina Catarina), I laughed so hard when you said, 'cornbread' because that's what I should have named the damn skillet-loving cat! What's so funny is I'd had the cat for many months and he'd never done it till that one day. I've taken to keeping the paper towels on top of the frig. They're safe for a little while, until he grows a bit more. Thanks for stopping by. I've really missed your posts. I hope all is well with you and Ms. Bonnie! Hugs, Peace & Blessings!!!

Karen said...

I've always thought that any man who would name his cat Jeoffry is too cool for words! May we be like Jeoffry - purring when God tells us we're good.

septembermom said...

Marion, I'm visiting via Judith's blog. I really enjoyed Mr. Smart's poem. He really knew how to turn a phrase with wit and imagery. His cat turned out to be a wonderful muse for his poetry. I love how your Catfish is holding onto his prize of paper towels!

Woman in a Window said...

DARGH! Don't do this to me Marion. Once the dog leaves I'll be down to one cat. Now you have me wanting another. That is a dangerous, dangerous place for me to be.

And you have me suddenly remembering ten years ago or so when I was on a 10 mile bike ride I found a lost kitten alongside a river. I tucked it in my shirt and rode it home. Kittens in shirts on bikes are not as gentle as one might think! (Sadly, it didn't work out with the kitten. It was gravely ill. But I watched over it until it died.)

You are gorgeous as a 21 year old. Your length, yes, your thin, but mostly and undeniably your smile. You've kept your gorgeous.

Rikkij said...

Marion- cats are oh so evil but so damn funny. time for a nap. meow. ~rick

Marion said...

Thanks, everyone, for your comments.

Septembermom, thank you for stopping by. Yes, Mr. Smart knew who his muse was, for sure! Blessings!

Erin, as far as I'm concerned, you can't have too many cats. I'll be glad to give you a couple. Just say the word! LOL!

Rick, nothing better than a good catnap is there? Love & Blessings!

Margaret Pangert said...

Hi Marion! I have to admit that I also googled Christopher Smart when he came up in Kowit's poem. The connection I saw was his religious devotion that led him to constantly kneel and kiss the earth. (Damn those Levi's!)
My cat's latest is to crawl into empty grocery bags and fall asleep. And then we go to pick up the bag and disturb His Majesty!