by Charles Baudelaire (1821 – 1867)
Translated by Roy Campbell
Come, my fine cat, against my loving heart;
Sheathe your sharp claws, and settle.
And let my eyes into your pupils dart
Where agate sparks with metal.
Now while my fingertips caress at leisure
Your head and wiry curves,
And that my hand’s elated with the pleasure
Of your electric nerves,
I think about my woman — how her glances
Like yours, dear beast, deep-down
And cold, can cut and wound one as with lances;
Then, too, she has that vagrant
And subtle air of danger that makes fragrant
Her body, lithe and brown.
by Charles Baudelaire
Viens, mon beau chat, sur mon coeur amoureux;
Retiens les griffes de ta patte,
Et laisse-moi plonger dans tes beaux yeux,
Mêlés de métal et d’agate.
Lorsque mes doigts caressent à loisir
Ta tête et ton dos élastique,
Et que ma main s’enivre du plaisir
De palper ton corps électrique,
Je vois ma femme en esprit. Son regard,
Comme le tien, aimable bête
Profond et froid, coupe et fend comme un dard,
Et, des pieds jusques à la tête,
Un air subtil, un dangereux parfum
Nagent autour de son corps brun.
I am in the midst of a long drawn out move, multiple steps along the way in terms of locations and we are at that critical stage where we are spending most nights at the new house, but have yet to move the cat, needing to get a few more things in place before her arrival. Not having her in my lap each night has reminded me how much my sense of home is tied to having a cat in the house. A cat changes the vibe for me in such positive ways that a dog does not, especially a cat with a great personality like Tasha, the long haired black mostly Persian cat that is my partners, but whom is fond of me and the feeling is mutual. She is the best kind of cat in that she is accepting of all the comings and goings of people and dogs, even cleaning the dogs ears for them on occasion and is quietly confident in her affection for people. I am looking forward to this weekend when we’ll have the full compliment of pets installed in the new place.
The story of Christopher Smart is tragic. As was common in his day, family disagreements and business failures often played out in the courts locking people away in asylums for either because “religious” objections, mental health issues or debt. In Smart’s case all three played into his eventually being locked away in a debtors prison in which he eventually died, his wife and father in law persecuting his case rather than being his defenders. Jubilate Agno was written during his long confinement, Smart writing one line a day while living in solitary confinement. The entire poem is thousands of lines long, part testament of faith, part confession, part adoration of his one faithful companion in prison, a cat called Jeoffry. In my opinion, it is the greatest poem ever written about a cat. What’s amazing about Jubilate Agno is the playfulness of the words given the depravity of his surroundings; “he rolls upon prank to work it in…”, “he can spraggle upon waggle…”, “he can swim for life, he can creep.” I agree with Smart’s statement about cats; “having considered God and himself he will consider his neighbor. ” Smart recognized the spirit kindness of his cat companion and turned that into a connection with God and his spirituality. Thank goodness Smart had Jeoffry and Jeoffry had Smart.