A Public Sphere for Poetry, Nature, and Politics
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.
From the book-length poem Jubilate Agno by Christopher Smart (1722-1771), born in Shipbourne, England. In the 1750’s, Smart experienced a religious awakening that convinced him that he was a prophet. He began praying and preaching in the streets of London and tried to follow the biblical injunction to “pray ceaselessly,” dropping to his knees whenever the spirit moved him, which embarrassed his family. They put him into an asylum, where he wrote the two poems for which he is best known: A Song to David (1763) and Jubilate Agno (first published in 1938).On 20 April 1770, Smart was arrested for not paying his debts and remanded to prison where he died the following year.