Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Mysterious Cat Poem about Jeoffry from the Eighteenth Century

We still cannot say why Ana, from another planet and completely unfamiliar with cats, should be so taken by them, or why cats should be so taken by her. It's a mystery, and one that Ana acknowledges. She even likes poems about cats, as some of those collected here* will show. She was delighted when her husband Matt found this one for her, by Christopher Smart ((1722-1751), about his cat Joeffry. It's a part of a longer poem by Smart called Jubilate Agno, which he wrote in part while institutionalized. To this day, it turns up in freshman literature anthologies, and it continues to be enjoyed for its strange imagery and, well, mystery. Ana too finds it mysterious, though it's no easier for her to explain than it is for the average college freshman. She just knows she likes it. Perhaps you will too.

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 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 Devil, who is death, by brisking about the life


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 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 quadrupede.

For he can tread to all the measures upon the musick

For he can swim for life.

For he can creep.

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