For He Can Spraggle Upon Waggle

The Cat

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.

Le Chat

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. 

Jubilate Agno

(An Excerpt)

By Christopher Smart 
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 having consider’d God and himself he will consider his neighbour.
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 every house is incomplete without him and a blessing is lacking in the spirit.
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 set 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, tho 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 the music.
For he can swim for life.
For he can creep.