Thursday, April 12, 2012

Welcome back, Jeoffry

(Today’s post is borrowed-in-admiration from The Writer’s Almanac for April 11. Part of a longer poem, "Jubilate Agno,” written in the 18th century under unusual circumstances, this fragment is about a cat. I’ve long been charmed by Jeoffry the cat – and hope readers will be too. [Another section appeared earlier in this blog.] A little info about poet Christopher Smart follows the fragment.)

Fragment B: 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
For he keeps the Lord's watch in the night against the adversary.
For he is of the tribe of Tiger.
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 he is the cleanest in the use of his forepaws of any quadruped.
For he is the quickest to his mark of any creature.
For there is nothing sweeter than his peace when at rest.
For there is nothing brisker than his life when in motion.
For by stroking of him I have found out electricity.

April 11 is the birthday of poet Christopher Smart, born in Shipbourne, England (1722). After experiencing a religious awakening that convinced him that he was a prophet, he began praying and preaching in the streets of London. He tried to follow the Biblical injunction to "pray ceaselessly," dropping to his knees whenever the spirit moved him. This embarrassed his family, who put him into an asylum, where he wrote the two poems for which he is best known: "A Song to David" (1763) and "Jubilate Agno" (first published in 1938), which includes the section praising his cat, excerpted above.

(Blogger’s note: I doubt the accuracy of the contraction “he’s” in the sixth line starting with “For.” Doesn’t seem very 18th century to me. Calling all English language specialists, who may know either way.)

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