Day 16! Over half-way!
And now for our daily prompt (optional, as always). Today’s prompt takes its inspirations from Christopher Smart’s “Jubilate Agno.” Fundamentally, this is a poem about a cat. It’s also a structurally very straightforward poem – every line begins the same way, and is about some aspect of the cat at issue. But from these seemingly simple ingredients, Smart constructs a poem that is luminously, joyously weird. Just as English’s poem listing things found in a hedge renders the familiar strange by making us focus on each, individual item in the hedge, Smart makes a humble housecat seem like the most wondrous thing in the world. Today, I challenge you to write a poem that uses the form of a list to defamiliarize the mundane.
I wanted to look further into the poem to begin with as I noticed it was “from” Jubilate Agno. I found the following:
Christopher Smart wrote a long free-verse manuscript between 1758 and 1763, largely while in a madhouse. 32 pages of this manuscript survive.
With three exceptions, every line on one set of pages begins with the word “Let” and every line on the other pages begins with the word “For.”
In 1950, W. H. Bond noted that some of the surviving “For” pages were dated to match some surviving “Let” pages, and that a sizable clump of “For” lines on those pages referred one-to-one to the corresponding “Let” lines. This indicated some rigorous ordering on Smart’s part — probably by following a procedure of writing one “Let” line on one page and then writing one “For” line on the other.
So for today I have decided to respond to Christopher Smart’s “For”s for his cat with “Let”s about my dog.
It created this:
In response to the ‘from Jubilate Agno’ by Christopher Smart.
from Jubilate Agno
In response to from Jubilate Agno
By Christopher Smart
Response By Bethan Rees
For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry.
Let’s consider my Dog Mitzie.
For he is the servant of the Living God duly and daily serving him.
Let us pray that she is no representation of a Godly thing.
For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in his way.
Let’s wake her up, she’ll stretch in whatever direction you gently kick her.
For this is done by wreathing his body seven times round with elegant quickness.
Let’s observe as she attempts to step forward, and falls cluddingly several times round with unimpressive clod.
For then he leaps up to catch the musk, which is the blessing of God upon his prayer.
Let’s pop her bedding in the washing machine, as is tradition, so we avoid catching her night-time musk.
For he rolls upon prank to work it in.
Let’s tell her off for rolling her face in the blanket.
For having done duty and received blessing he begins to consider himself.
Let’s not repeat the received blessing she bestowed upon us.
For this he performs in ten degrees.
Let’s make sure the washing machine is washing at an extra ten degrees.
For first he looks upon his forepaws to see if they are clean.
Let’s first, look at her stand upon her wonky forepaws.
For secondly he kicks up behind to clear away there.
Let’s secondly, watch her clumsily dribble jellied meats, then walk through them, dirtying her back ones.
For thirdly he works it upon stretch with the forepaws extended.
Let’s thirdly, roll our eyes as she stretches it into the rug, forepaws extended.
For fourthly he sharpens his paws by wood.
Let’s fourthly, listen to her clack her unsharpened paws on the wood floor.
For fifthly he washes himself.
Let’s fifthly, wash her.
For sixthly he rolls upon wash.
Let’s sixthly, roll our eyes once again as she rolls upon dirty bedding immediately after her wash.
For seventhly he fleas himself, that he may not be interrupted upon the beat.
Let’s seventhly, not worry about fleas – none are attracted to her aged blood.
For eighthly he rubs himself against a post.
Let’s eigthly, rub our hands over her fluffy coat.
For ninthly he looks up for his instructions.
Let’s ninthly, look up instructions on YouTube of “How to Tell if Your Dog Loves You”
For tenthly he goes in quest of food.
Let’s tenthly, quest for food in the kitchen for her.
For having consider’d God and himself he will consider his neighbor.
Let’s not let this ungodly creature near anyone else, especially the neighbours.
For if he meets another cat he will kiss her in kindness.
Let’s pull her away as she yaps aggressively at another dog.
For when he takes his prey he plays with it to give it a chance.
Let’s keep a careful watch as she takes her food, for with no teeth she is likely to choke on her tongue.
For one mouse in seven escapes by his dallying.
Let’s throw away one in seven meals she refuses to eat for no particular reason.
For when his day’s work is done his business more properly begins.
Let’s go to bed after a hard day’s work, alongside her who will sleep further, as her more sleep properly begins.
For he keeps the Lord’s watch in the night against the adversary.
Let’s wonder if she does anything but sleep, ignoring the Lord’s watch.
For he counteracts the powers of darkness by his electrical skin and glaring eyes.
Let’s control her powers by tucking her in comfortably, as she agrees tenderly, with heavy breathing and lowering eyes.
For he counteracts the Devil, who is death, by brisking about the life.
Let’s not counteract the Devil, who sorely wishes for her death, as she brisks about her life.
For in his morning orisons he loves the sun and the sun loves him.
Let’s not love the sun and sleep forever, dog.
For he is of the tribe of Tiger.
Let’s google ‘what animals are dogs descended from’ and discover she belonged to gray wolves.
For the Cherub Cat is a term of the Angel Tiger.
Let’s look up etymology, to find that from these Gray Wolves has come a Withering Devil.
For he has the subtlety and hissing of a serpent, which in goodness he suppresses.
Let’s subtly berate her with our hands, and in her goodness she suppresses snaps, and rumbling hooves in her throat.
For he will not do destruction, if he is well-fed, neither will he spit without provocation.
Let’s view her destruction, bones though well-fed, as she hacks without provocation onto the rug.
For he purrs in thankfulness, when God tells him he’s a good Cat.
Let’s stare at her silently, as she stares silently back, whilst God tells her she’s a bad dog.
For he is an instrument for the children to learn benevolence upon.
Let’s be proud when people instrument that she had a stoic benevolence.
For every house is incomplete without him and a blessing is lacking in the spirit.
Let’s remind ourselves that our house is incomplete without her, and we have been blessed with her spirit.
For the Lord commanded Moses concerning the cats at the departure of the Children of Israel from Egypt.
Let’s think about how poorly dogs are represented in the Bible. Revelations in revelations that unholy people are dogs. Outside the city. The ones who follow witchcraft and those who do sex sins and those who kill people and those who worship false gods and those who like lies and tell them. Because they are all equivalent.
For every family had one cat at least in the bag.
Let’s just acknowledge that we shouldn’t keep cats in a bag, and shove Mitzie in this here bag.
For the English Cats are the best in Europe.
Let’s agree that dogs are better than cats.
For he is the cleanest in the use of his forepaws of any quadruped.
Let’s dismiss any reasons that cats would be better. Oh, they’re clean. Wow.
For the dexterity of his defence is an instance of the love of God to him exceedingly.
Let’s defend her clunkiness with the agreement that she is not like other canines, as she is completely useless and in no way nimble, agile or athletic.
For he is the quickest to his mark of any creature.
Let’s be wary if she is quick, following that shall be a lot of slow, more than any creature, even tortoises.
For he is tenacious of his point.
Let’s point and laugh at Mitzie.
For he is a mixture of gravity and waggery.
Let’s appreciate her mixture of anti-gravity and waggery.
For he knows that God is his Saviour.
Let’s know that God is not going to be her Saviour. We all know where she’s destined.
For there is nothing sweeter than his peace when at rest.
Let’s sweetly wonder if this is the end when at rest.
For there is nothing brisker than his life when in motion.
Let’s admit there is many a thing brisker than her 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.
Let’s… wait, what?
For I bless the name of the Lord Jesus that Jeoffry is better.
Let’s bless the name of the Lord Jesus that Mitzie is better (than Jesus?).
For the divine spirit comes about his body to sustain it in complete cat.
Let’s wonder if there is some sort of divine spirit that sustains this incomplete dog.
For his tongue is exceeding pure so that it has in purity what it wants in music.
Let’s purely want her music, for she only makes noise when emotive.
For he is docile and can learn certain things.
Let’s learn certain things in her docilicity
For he can set up with gravity which is patience upon approbation.
Let’s set up the word ‘docilicity’ and patiently wait for it to be an actual word.
For he can fetch and carry, which is patience in employment.
Let’s patiently wait for the things that she never fetches or carries.
For he can jump over a stick which is patience upon proof positive.
Let’s jump over this stick, turn around and watch her trip over it.
For he can spraggle upon waggle at the word of command.
Let’s give her commands, to no spraggle upon waggles.
For he can jump from an eminence into his master’s bosom.
Let’s muffle in groaning pain when she attempts to settle upon her mistress’ bosom.
For he can catch the cork and toss it again.
Let’s catch the cork and toss it in the trash, so she doesn’t choke on it.
For he is hated by the hypocrite and miser.
Let’s hate cats.
For the former is afraid of detection.
Let’s detect her fear, and do our best to alleviate it.
For the latter refuses the charge.
Let’s refuse to be in charge, she is the boss.
For he camels his back to bear the first notion of business.
Let’s bear her adequately.
For he is good to think on, if a man would express himself neatly.
Let’s think on her, for man express what they think she thinks.
For he made a great figure in Egypt for his signal services.
Let’s make her figure in Wales, a legendary.
For he killed the Ichneumon-rat very pernicious by land.
Let’s make Llywelyn lose his smiles, and have her protect the child from the wolf.
For his ears are so acute that they sting again.
Let’s really appreciate just how massive her ears are.
For from this proceeds the passing quickness of his attention.
Let’s pass by her and gain her attention, so she will clack behind us.
For by stroking of him I have found out electricity.
Let’s stroke her and not get electrocuted by it.
For I perceived God’s light about him both wax and fire.
Let’s maybe cool down with the religious references, now, it’s just a dog.
For the Electrical fire is the spiritual substance, which God sends from heaven to sustain the bodies both of man and beast.
Let’s analyse her spiritual substance, she is made of wolves, and terriers, and ears, and piss, and sinews, and piss.
For God has blessed him in the variety of his movements.
Let’s bless her with the variety of movement, by miming she is on a rollercoaster, or dance moves to a pop-punk song.
For, tho he cannot fly, he is an excellent clamberer.
Let’s accept that she can not fly, never will, nor clamber.
For his motions upon the face of the earth are more than any other quadruped.
Let’s face it, she is lazier than any other quadruped
For he can tread to all the measures upon the music.
Let’s tread together with her through her final days.
For he can swim for life.
Let’s hold her above the bath so she swims in the air.
For he can creep.
Let’s just love her, the creep.