“For he counteracts the powers of darkness with his electrical skin and glaring eyes”

MY CAT JEOFFRY
~ 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 is this done by wreathing his body
seven times round with elemental 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 receiving 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 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 for 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.
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 is 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 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 in it compleat 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 himself 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 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, though 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 music.
For he can swim for life.
For he can creep.

##

Christopher Smart wrote this in his Jubilate Agno while confined to a madhouse. (He’d often exhibited religious mania by going down on his knees in public places and singing the praises of God in extemporaneous prayer.) His Jubilate was a notebook full of devotional meditations written in Psalms, in an Old Testament manner, and not printed until the twentieth century.

He puts us on, I’m afraid, when he blithely posits that God directed Moses about cats upon the fleeing of the Children of Israel. In fact, no such mention– none– is made in the Bible. But as the Israelites were migrating from Egypt, Kit Smart fancied there must have been cats! Egypt loves cats and idealizes them in its legends. He was a deep scholar.

Really this is a piece about the English cats, and especially Jeoffry, his beautiful companion and his solace at the madhouse. Along with the bible.

Like the translators of the King James Bible, Smart predates Blake, Whitman, and the nineteenth century vers-libristes of France among those using lines of no fixed meter in poetry.

“A Turkey carpet was his lawn, whereon he loved to bound”

EPITAPH ON A HARE
~ by William Cowper

Here lies, whom hound did ne’er pursue,
Nor swifter greyhound follow,
Whose foot ne’er tainted morning dew,
Nor ear heard huntsman’s hallo’,

Old Tiney, surliest of his kind,
Who, nursed with tender care,
And to domestic bounds confined,
Was still a wild jack-hare.

Though duly from my hand he took
His pittance every night,
He did it with a jealous look,
And, when he could, would bite.

His diet was of wheaten bread,
And milk, and oats, and straw,
Thistles, or lettuces instead,
With sand to scour his maw.

On twigs of hawthorn he regaled,
On pippins’ russet peel,
And, when his juicy salads failed,
Sliced carrots pleased him well.

A Turkey carpet was his lawn,
Whereon he loved to bound,
To skip and gambol like a fawn,
And swing his rump around.

His frisking was at evening hours,
For then he lost his fear,
But most before approaching showers,
Or when a storm drew near.

Eight years and five round-rolling moons
He thus saw steal away,
Dozing out all his idle noons,
And every night at play.

I kept him for his humor’s sake,
For he would oft beguile
My heart of thoughts that made it ache,
And force me to a smile.

But now, beneath this walnut shade
He finds his long, last home,
And waits in snug concealment laid,
Till gentler Puss shall come.

He, still more aged, feels the shocks
From which no care can save,
And, partner once of Tiney’s box,
Must soon partake his grave.

##

William Cowper’s pet hare Tiney¬†exercised on a rich red Turkish carpet in the parlor.

“The hapless soldier’s sigh runs in blood on palace walls”

LONDON
~ by William Blake

I wandered through each chartered street,
Near where the chartered Thames does flow,
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

In every cry of every man,
In every infant’s cry of fear,
In every voice, in every ban,
The mind-forged manacles I hear.

Here the chimney-sweeper’s cry
Every blackening church appalls,
And the hapless soldier’s sigh
Runs in blood on palace walls.

But most through midnight streets I hear
How the youthful harlot’s curse
Blasts the newborn infant’s tear
And blights with plague the marriage hearse.

##

Please also see William Wordsworth’s poems, London, 1802 and The World Is Too Much With Us.