For I Will Consider My Cat Jeoffry

Poet Christopher Smart wrote the 89-line eulogy of his cat Jeoffry sometime between 1757 and 1763, while he was an inmate at St Luke’s Hospital for Lunatics in London. You can read the story of how that came about, and the poem's entire text, at Spitalfields Life.

It is the tender observation present in these lines that touches me most, speaking of the fascination of a cat as a source of joy for one with nothing else in the world. In fact, Smart was often known as Kit or Kitty and I wonder if he saw an image of himself in Jeoffry and it liberated him from the tyranny of his circumstance. Simply by following his nature, Jeoffry becomes holy in Christopher Smart’s eyes, exemplifying the the wonder of all creation.

It was a triumphant observation for a man who was losing his life, yet it is all the more remarkable that it is solely through this playful masterpiece he is remembered today.

As a celebration of the work, artist Paul Bommer illustrated every bit of the poem, which you see above, and just a corner of below.

The art print is for sale at Bommer's site.

-via Nag on the Lake

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Music lovers should check out youtube for Benjamin Britten's cantata "Rejoice in the Lamb", in which he sets these poems to music. This particular poem's accompaniment sounds just like a cat being playful and writhing around.
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