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Posts Tagged ‘poetry’

I have finally finished reading Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (review to come soon), and I’m excited to get to move on to some lighter reading. And since one good obsession deserves another, I’m moving from food and farming to…kitties!

I claimed an old paperback copy of Tailchaser’s Song that I found mainly because I was highly amused by the idea of a novel about cats. I didn’t realize I was getting myself into something so serious. Turns out Tailchaser has quite the fan club, and the novel itself is brimming with invented cat mythology, cat language, cat geography,  cat bravado, and funny cat names. It is rumored that it is being made into an animated film. It will be interesting to compare Tailchaser’s Song with Watership Down, which is the only other fictional novel I have read thus far in 2011.

I haven’t gotten into the meat of the story yet (still just starting on the introduction), but I wanted to share a poem from the very first pages of the book that I thought was clever, and indicative of all the things that cat-lovers love about cats.

This poem is written by an 18th century poet named Christopher Smart. Smart reportedly spent a substantial amount of his life in an asylum, after which he spent his last days in debtor’s prison. He wrote under names such as Kitty Smart, Mrs. Mary Midnight, and Ebenezer Pentweazle. This is his tribute to cats:

For I will consider my cat…

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 around with elegant quickness…

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 fore-paws to see

            if they are clean.

For secondly he kicks up behind to clear away there.

For thirdly he works it upon the stretch with

            the fore-paws 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 on 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 when his day’s work is done his business

            more properly begins.

For he keeps the Lord’s watch in the night

            against the adversary.

For he counteracts the powers of darkness by

            his electrical skin and glaring eyes.

For he counteracts the Devil, who is death,

            by brisking about the life.

For in his morning orisons he loves the sun

            and the sun loves him.

For he is of the tribe of Tiger.

For Cherub Cat is a term of the Angel

            Tiger…

For there is nothing sweeter than his peace

            when at rest.

For there is nothing brisker than his life

            when in motion

For God has blessed him in the variety of

            his movements…

For he can tread to all the measures upon the music…

—Christopher Smart

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Henry David Thoreau

Mist

Low-anchored cloud,
Newfoundland air,
Fountain head and source of rivers,
Dew-cloth, dream drapery,
And napkin spread by fays;
Drifting meadow of the air,
Where bloom the dasied banks and violets,
And in whose fenny labyrinth
The bittern booms and heron wades;
Spirit of the lake and seas and rivers,
Bear only purfumes and the scent
Of healing herbs to just men’s fields!

The Rainy Day

Written at the old home in Portland

THE day is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains,and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the mouldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
  And the day is dark and dreary.

My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains,and the wind is never weary;
My thoughts still cling to the mouldering past,
But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast,
  And the days are dark and dreary.

Be still, sad heart, and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
  Some days must be dark and dreary.

~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Mists and Rains

by Charles Baudelaire

O ends of autumn, winters, springtimes deep in mud,
Seasons of drowsiness, — my love and gratitude
I give you, that have wrapped with mist my heart and brain
As with a shroud, and shut them in a tomb of rain.

In this wide land when coldly blows the bleak south-west
And weathervanes at night grow hoarse on the house-crest,
Better than in the time when green things bud and grow
My mounting soul spreads wide its black wings of a crow.

The heart filled up with gloom, and to the falling sleet
Long since accustomed, finds no other thing more sweet —
O dismal seasons, queens of our sad climate crowned —

Than to remain always in your pale shadows drowned;
(Unless it be, some dark night, kissing an unseen head,
To rock one’s pain to sleep upon a hazardous bed.)


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In the spirit of simplicity, I have decided to take a week off writing. Instead, I will share seven days’ worth of other people’s hard work and creativity. No commentary or explanation included.

It’s cheating, I know. Enjoy.

If You Forget Me
by Pablo Neruda
I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.

If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
remember
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.

But
if each day,
each hour,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.

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