Thursday, April 17, 2014

Crazy About Cats

What a pleasant possible waste of time to read the gentle ramblings of a brambled mind. Jubilate Agno was written by Christopher Smart, an 18th century English writer. He spent the latter part of his life in insane asylums for "religious mania," and died in debtors prison. He was talented, but struggled to make ends meet. The strain of trying to support his family and his own lifestyle finally proved too great.

Reader Jane Chantel quoted this in a comment to Remember This? a light piece about the Russian bear:

Let David bless with the Bear -- The beginning of victory to the Lord -- to the Lord the perfection of excellence -- Hallelujah from the heart of God, and from the hand of the artist inimitable, and from the echo of the heavenly harp in sweetness magnifical and mighty.

Many verses link Biblical persons to animals in the context of a blessing, such as, "Let Tobias bless Charity with his Dog, who is faithful, vigilant, and a friend in poverty." (The dog's original role as found in the Douay Rheims Bible has been sadly cut back in modern translations.) Ferrets, raccoons, sea urchins -- no animal is too obscure or wanting in Biblical reference to be excluded. It is as if Smart is watching Noah let them all out of the ark with his blessing.

Some seem strange, but is is clear that considerable thought went into them.

Let Joseph, who from the abundance of his blessing may spare to him, that lacketh, praise with the Crocodile, which is pleasant and pure, when he is interpreted, tho' his look is of terror and offence.

Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers, but ended up governing Egypt. His brothers did not recognize him when they came for grain during a famine, and Joseph terrorized them for a time, although he made sure the were well provided for.

Smart's madness drove him to see God everywhere, or, rather, to recognize that nature sees God, as she constantly reminds us by the spontaneous praise of her manifold creatures.


A "Let Page," where all lines begin with "Let."
Some "For" pages seem to connect to "Let" pages line-by-line in a sensible way.

The work can be found here. It is worth a look. Here is a long section about his cat, Jeoffry, which was his companion in the asylum. It is representative of his poetry, and enjoyable, especially if you like cats. (It reads much more quickly than the length would suggest, since each verse is just a short sentence.)


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 fore-paws 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 fore paws 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 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 incompleat 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 fore-paws of any quadrupede.

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 compleat cat.

For his tongue is exceeding pure so that it has in purity what it wants in musick.

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 affraid 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 Icneumon-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 stroaking 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 quadrupede.

For he can tread to all the measures upon the musick.

For he can swim for life.

For he can creep.


P.S. For the record, the Bear prefers dogs, but likes some friendly cats.

2 comments:

  1. It was Smart’s beguiling paean to his beloved Cat, circulated amongst cat fanciers on the internet, that introduced me – and doubtless has introduced many others -- to “Jubilate Agno”. Very grateful I am to Jeoffry :-

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  2. I wondered where you manage to come up with this wonderful stuff! I have shared many with my family and friends.

    Let Enoch bless with the Rackoon, who walked with God as by the instinct.

    Let Romamti-ezer bless with the Ferret -- The Lord is a rewarder of them, that diligently seek him.

    Let Tobias bless Charity with his Dog, who is faithful, vigilant, and a friend in poverty.

    Let Anna bless God with the Cat, who is worthy to be presented before the throne of grace, when he has trampled upon the idol in his prank.

    Let Moses, the Man of God, bless with a Lizard, in the sweet majesty of good-nature, and the magnanimity of meekness.

    Let Lemuel bless with the Wolf, which is a dog without a master, but the Lord hears his cries and feeds him in the desert.

    ----

    Hyper-religiosity and compulsive writing (graphomania) have been linked to a personality disorder theoretically linked to the left temporal lobe called Geschwind's Syndrome. I don't think it's in the current DSM. I am very suspicious of anything that would tend to pathologize religion. I also suspect we may hear more about it one day.

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