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For I will consider my cat Jeoffry
October 8, 2009 4:11 PM   Subscribe

Poet Robert Pinsky presents an appreciation (and reading) of the most famous section of Christopher Smart's "Jubilate Agno" (1759-1763) -- the (epic) fragment devoted to the spiritual consideration of the institutionalized Smart's sole constant companion for the years of his confinement: Jeoffry (his cat).

The word "epic" may not quite get across, for those unfamiliar with this poem, exactly what Mr. Smart hath wrought here. Allow me, then, to share its beginning with you:

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 is this 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 considered God and himself he will consider his neighbor.
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. (...)
posted by kittens for breakfast (19 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
David Lee also has a version of it, dedicated to his pig.
posted by winna at 4:17 PM on October 8, 2009


Aw, kitty.

For he can spraggle upon waggle at the word of command.

Wait, this cat does things that you tell it to? Very strange cat.
posted by Artw at 4:20 PM on October 8, 2009


Wait, this cat does things that you tell it to? Very strange cat.

Yeah, that and "if he meets another cat he will kiss her in kindness" both sound much unlike MY cat. If you're a cat, my cat don't wanna know you, and you better stay out of her territory. She's picked her side, and it's the side of opposable thumbs and can openers.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:24 PM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


Set to music by Benjamin Britten as Rejoice in the Lamb (Wikipedia).

Gloriously bonkers. He has to line up behind Blake (we all do), but definitely one of England's great visionary lunatics.
posted by Grangousier at 4:32 PM on October 8, 2009 [2 favorites]


The current holder of the crown has just launched a magazine.
posted by Artw at 4:35 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


The current holder of the crown has just launched a magazine.

That he's debuting a print magazine at the end of 2009! simply underscores the "mad" in "mad genius." (Of course, the "genius" part means it will somehow be incredibly lucrative.)
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:38 PM on October 8, 2009


I probably would have FPPed it, but a mate of mine is involved.

That's right - my mates are awesome.

/derail
posted by Artw at 4:53 PM on October 8, 2009


For he can spraggle upon waggle at the word of command.

Wait, this cat does things that you tell it to? Very strange cat.
posted by Artw at 4:20PM


Since they describe it as him "waggling" (perhaps crooking?) his finger at the cat, and the cat then sprawling full length upon the floor instead of coming over, it sounds just like my cats.
posted by HopperFan at 5:03 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Let Noah and his company approach the throne of Grace"
Phew! Not too close Noah, those animals have been shut up in an ark for 6 weeks.
/Grace
posted by Cranberry at 5:07 PM on October 8, 2009


I've always loved this poem. And now that I am employed by a cat, I appreciate it even more. Thanks for the reminder.
posted by GrammarMoses at 5:15 PM on October 8, 2009


You can listen to the entire poem here, if you've got a couple of hours.
posted by gamera at 5:36 PM on October 8, 2009


I'm in ur house, cownteractin the devil
I has lectrical fire
Ur spraggle, ur doin it wrong
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 5:38 PM on October 8, 2009 [4 favorites]


Grangousier: Gloriously bonkers. He has to line up behind Blake (we all do), but definitely one of England's great visionary lunatics.

Visionary yes, lunatic, no.

Blake:
As I was walking among the fires of hell, delighted with the enjoyments of Genius; which to Angels look like torment and insanity, I collected some of their Proverbs; thinking that as the sayings used in a nation, mark its character, so the Proverbs of Hell, shew the nature in Infernal wisdom better than any description of buildings or garments,

When I came home: on the abyss of the five senses, where a flat sided steep frowns over the present world, I saw a mighty Devil folded in black clouds, hovering on the sides of the rock, with corroding fires he wrote the following sentence now percieved by the minds of men, & read by them on earth.
How do you know but ev'ry Bird that cuts the airy way,
Is an immense world of delight, clos'd by your senses five?
posted by psyche7 at 5:45 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


The funny thing is that when i first read this a few years ago, i thought that Christopher Smart was a modern poet. The lines sound new....not sure why.
posted by storybored at 6:46 PM on October 8, 2009


For you're a kitty!
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 8:06 PM on October 8, 2009 [6 favorites]


Somehow, I only came upon the lolcat version of the bible today, which seems appropos.
posted by Maias at 8:32 PM on October 8, 2009


I heard the Britten piece once at a concert that I only had a vague idea what was on the program. And so my mind was wandering, as it does, until I realized that the enormous chorus in front of me in this gorgeous church was singing about a CAT.

They had my attention, then.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:35 PM on October 8, 2009


Ed Hirsch has a nice poem in which he contemplates his own cat, and thinks about Smart's poem (and cat).
posted by blacksmithtb at 9:05 PM on October 8, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's beautiful to think of this man, though effectively imprisoned, having new adventures with his cat every day.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 5:11 PM on October 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


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