A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Friday, March 19, 2010

Poem of the Day: Christopher Smart

From Jubilate Agno

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 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 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 is 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 defense 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 sit 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, though 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 upon the music. 
For he can swim for life. 
For he can creep. 
--Christopher Smart

Even if you didn't know it, you might guess that Smart is one of the oddest English writers from an age that saw quite a few oddities (e.g., Samuel Johnson, Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift, James Boswell). His idiosyncratic verse is not what one expects from the eighteenth century. Jubilate Agno was not published until 1939, when readers were more likely to be tolerant of its eccentricities, and less likely to dismiss it as the scribblings of a madman. 

From having met and associated with quite a few cats in my day, I can attest that Smart got at the essentials of felinity better than any other poet. (Certainly better than Old Possum's twee verses.) All of my household's cats have been mixtures of gravity and waggery, and I'm sure most of them could spraggle upon waggle, although none at command.     

No comments: