I’ve been holding on to this lovely poem for a long time, and I’m excited to finally share it with you.
National Cat Day is celebrated every October 29 in the United States, and August 8 in Canada. I chose this poem for October because it is the month of Halloween, which also brings us many images of cats. This poem is ideal for cat lovers, but I also find it gives me a surreal feeling that is certainly in the spirit of the wonder of Christmas. The poet is Christopher Smart, and he wrote this sometime between 1759 and 1763 while he was imprisoned in a “madhouse”. He believed he saw the presence of God in everything, including his cat, Jeoffry. An excerpt of this magical poem follows.
For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry.
For he is the servant of the Living God duly and daily serving him.
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 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 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 a chance.
For one mouse in seven escapes by his dallying.
For he will not do destruction, if he is well-fed, neither will he spit without provocation.
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 he is tenacious of his point.
For he is a mixture of gravity and waggery.
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 docile and can learn certain things.
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 jump from an eminence into his master’s bosom.
For he can catch the cork and toss it again.
For by stroking of him I have found out electricity.
For God has blessed him in the variety of his movements.
For, tho he cannot fly, he is an excellent clamberer.
For he can swim for life.
For he can creep.
For he purrs in thankfulness, when God tells him he’s a good Cat.
(Image credit: Uschi Dugulin )
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