Friday, October 8, 2010

My Cat Jeoffry

Me and

my cat


in 1984

(Don't we
look alike?)

"For I Will Consider My Cat Jeoffry"
(excerpt from The Jubilate Agno)
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 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 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 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 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 incomplete 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 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 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 complete 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 a great figure in Egypt for his signal services.
For he killed the Ichneumon-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, tho he cannot fly, he is an excellent clamberer.
For his motions upon the face of the earth are more than any other quadruped.
For he can tread to all the measures upon the music.
For he can swim for life.
For he can creep.
Christopher Smart, English Poet (1722 - 71)

Sadly, Christopher "Kit" Smart was confined to an insane asylum from 1757 - 63; however, he was allowed to have his cat Jeoffry with him, and during these years he accomplished some of his greatest writing, including the above poem.

This spatial rendering of the poem (here and above)
appeared on the cover of Books & Religion, Winter 1990
(click on images to enlarge for reading)


Jeoff as a Baby, 1983

Jeoff Hanging Out, 1986


  1. WILD GRADITUDE by Edward Hirsch

    Tonight when I knelt down next to our cat, Zooey,
    And put my fingers into her clean cat’s mouth,
    And rubbed her swollen belly that will never know kittens,
    And watched her wriggle onto her side, pawing the air,
    And listened to her solemn little squeals of delight,
    I was thinking about the poet, Christopher Smart,
    Who wanted to kneel down and pray without ceasing
    In every one of the splintered London streets,

    And was locked away in the madhouse at St. Luke’s
    With his sad religious mania, and his wild gratitude,
    And his grave prayers for the other lunatics,
    And his great love for his speckled cat, Jeoffry.
    All day today—August 13, 1983—I remembered how
    Christopher Smart blessed this same day in August, 1759,
    For its calm bravery and ordinary good conscience.

    This was the day that he blessed the Postmaster General
    “And all conveyancers of letters” for their warm humanity,
    And the gardeners for their private benevolence
    And intricate knowledge of the language of flowers,
    And the milkmen for their universal human kindness.
    This morning I understood that he loved to hear—
    As I have heard—the soft clink of milk bottles
    On the rickety stairs in the early morning,

    And how terrible it must have seemed
    When even this small pleasure was denied him.
    But it wasn’t until tonight when I knelt down
    And slipped my hand into Zooey’s waggling mouth
    That I remembered how he’d called Jeoffry “the servant
    Of the Living God duly and daily serving Him,”
    And for the first time understood what it meant.
    Because it wasn’t until I saw my own cat

    Whine and roll over on her fluffy back
    That I realized how gratefully he had watched
    Jeoffry fetch and carry his wooden cork
    Across the grass in the wet garden, patiently
    Jumping over a high stick, calmly sharpening
    His claws on the woodpile, rubbing his nose
    Against the nose of another cat, stretching, or
    Slowly stalking his traditional enemy, the mouse,
    A rodent, “a creature of great personal valour,”
    And then dallying so much that his enemy escaped.

    And only then did I understand
    It is Jeoffry—and every creature like him—
    Who can teach us how to praise—purring
    In their own language,
    Wreathing themselves in the living fire.

  2. Thanks to my friend Marguerite for telling me about

    MY DOG PERCY by Mary Oliver

    For I will consider my dog Percy.

    For he was made small but brave of heart.

    For if he met another dog he would kiss her in kindness.

    For when he slept he snored only a little.

    For he could be silly and noble in the same moment.

    For when he spoke he remembered the trumpet and when he scratched he struck the floor like a drum.

    For he ate only the finest food and drank only the purest of water, yet he would nibble of the dead fish also.

    For he came to me impaired and therefore certain of short life, yet thoroughly rejoiced in each day.

    For he took his medicines without argument.

    For he played easily with the neighbor’s Bull Mastiff.

    For when he came upon mud he splashed through it.

    For he was an instrument for the children to learn benevolence upon.

    For he listened to poems as well as love-talk.

    For when he sniffed it was as if he were being pleased by every part of the world.

    For when he sickened he rallied as many times as he could.

    For he was a mixture of gravity and waggery.

    For we humans can seek self-destruction in ways he never dreamed of.

    For he took actions both cunning and reckless, yet refused always to offer himself to be admonished.

    For his sadness though without words was understandable.

    For there was nothing sweeter than his peace when at rest.

    For there was nothing brisker than his life when in motion.

    For he was of the tribe of Wolf.

    For when I went away he would watch for me at the window.

    For her loved me.

    For he suffered before I found him, and never forgot it.

    For he loved Anne.

    For when he lay down to enter sleep he did not argue about whether or not God made him.

    For he could fling himself upside down and laugh a true laugh.

    For he loved his friend Ricky.

    For he would dig holes in the sand and then let Ricky lie in them.

    For I often see his shape in the clouds and this is a continual blessing.