"Sharing Silent Moments"

Photo credit: Cris via Flickr

“For there is nothing sweeter than his peace when at rest.”

Christopher Smart was a British poet who lived during the mid 1700’s. He came from a family that was known for it’s religious zeal and controversial opinions. After loosing his father when he was 11 years old, he went on to be a very successful student. Smart was able to excel and gain scholarships at Cambridge University.

In his early adulthood Smart became restless in his scholarly duties. He loved the nightlife of big city London. Reckless spending and use of alcohol eventually left him poor. Ultimately he was arrested for debt in 1747.

Later in life Smart began to suffer from a severe mental illness. The illness manifested itself as religious mania. He would feel compelled to pray constantly and in inappropriate circumstances. In 1756 he was committed to St. Lukes Hospital for Lunatics. He spent most of the rest of his life in the hospital.

At the time hospitals treating mental illnesses were more like prisons which believed that people had to choose sanity. Patients were shackled to the ground, used for “scientific” experimentation, and tortured with treatments that frequently resulted in death. As fate would have it, Smart ended up in one of the more humane mental hospitals that existed. St. Luke’s allowed him to roam the hospital grounds and to have a pet cat.

Smart named his pet cat Jeoffry. This cat was the inspiration for part of one of Smart’s most famous pieces of poetry, Jubilate Agno. It is easy to see that Smart really appreciated the companionship that Jeoffry had with him. These are a few of his praises of Jeoffry:

  • “For he counteracts the powers of darkness by his electrical skin.”
  • “For he is of the tribe of the Tiger.
    For the Cherub Cat is a term of the Angel Tiger.”
  • “For every house is incomplete without him, and a blessing is lacking in the spirit.”

To read the entire text of I Will Consider My Cat Jeoffry and/or learn more about Christopher Smart, please read by post Christopher Smart: Famous Poet & Cat Lover.

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Do you have a favorite cat poem?