Don’t you just love poetry??
Its all intense and draws a thread of language though experience and ideas , producing something seamless that sings or speaks or sobs..and often shines.
Patti Smith got it right. Back in the dark ages around AD 1970 something, looking dangerously hirsute, the rocklady glared crossly out from the album-soup which at that time provided an alternative floor covering for countless student shag-piles. “Poets are Dangerous” declared the record sleeve “..because their Minds are Free…”
Really?? All that careful crafting of self-absorption? Dangerous minds perhaps but free???
How delightful then, to discover the odd poet whose mind truly ranges free.
Top man for me has to be Mr Christopher Smart, an 18th century English chap whose mind was so free that he ended up in a lunatic asylum. Whilst there he fell to musing about his cat, very sensibly named Jeoffry. Obviously a creature full of the universal truths of cat hood , good old Jeff inspired a gigantic poem which correctly details all the finer points of cat etiquette. I know this because I have read it to one of my own cats, Percy, and he has verified it’s accuracy.
Anyone who doesn’t appreciate the whiskered ones better look away now, because what follows is the first 18 lines of Mr Smart’s poem..followed by a translation for the modern feline..
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 I will consider my Cat Percy
For he is the servant of nobody and nothing and all humans must duly and daily serve him
For at the crack of dawn he worships in his wailing way
For this is done by winding himself round the bedpost seven hundred times
For then he leaps up to sit upon my face, which hath the promise of food
For he rolls upon my head to make his point
for having done this duty and received a verbal kick up the arse he turns about-whiskers in disgust
For this he performs a ten step ritual. Minimum.
For first he stares at his front feet and chews stuff from between his toe-claws
For second, he assumes the chicken position, and licketh his bum.
For thirdly, he getteth his legs back from around his earholes and he works that stretch,
For fourthly he sharpens his claws upon the bedroom chair
for fifthly he washes himself. Again.
For sixthly he writhes about on the carpet.
For seventhly, he shares his fleas with his human, that his murderous mousing may follow undisturbed,
For eighthly, he rubs himself against a post ( any post..)
For ninthly he looks up and goes ok, what more do I have to do, ignoramus.
For tenthly, he goes in quest of food.
(…On his own.
….And it will be your breakfast and he’s going to chuck it