Saturday, January 9, 2010

In memory of Red

I took down all the Christmas decorations today. Normally a melancholy task, it was made more solemn by loss of our little cat, Red. He died suddenly this morning of a cardiac arrest. He was only five or six years old, but had a weak heart--probably from earlier malnutrition. He started life as an alley cat, a kitten roaming with his mother and brother. Gradually, his little family disappeared. Alone, he would pace the alley and caterwaul mournfully. "Where are you? Why have you left me?" he seemed to cry. We lured him into the house after noticing that a cut on his foot had become infected. He gradually unwilded, and gave himself up to the imperfect love of humans. Red grew to relish some pleasures of domestication, such as belly rubs and slices of avocado. Still, he would at times pace the darkened house, awakening us with his cries. "It's OK boy, we're right here," we called out, and he would grow quiet.

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 the Cherub Cat is a term of the Angel Tiger.
For he has the subtlety and hissing of a serpent, which in goodness
he suppresses.
For he will not do destruction if he is well-fed, neither will he spit
without provocation.
For he purrs in thankfulness when God tells him he's a good Cat.

An excerpt from Jubilate Agno", Christopher Smart (1722-1771)


Steve said...

Hey Lisa. Sorry to read of the loss of Red the cat. That's a pretty good description of him wandering in the night looking for the others. And I liked the image.

A question -
This poem was written in mid 1700's and uses the word "electrical". I wonder what that meant to the folks back then.


The Fifty Foot Blogger said...

Steve--thanks for the condolences about Red. I sliced open a ripe avocado this evening, the first since he died. It was a sad and quiet experience. I was used to him begging (at the top of his lungs) for the kernel to nibble and push around the floor.

Interesting question re electricity. The word itself is derived from "elektron", the Greek word for amber. Ancients knew that rubbing amber with a soft cloth or fur could produce a kind of force field that attracted other objects, and sometimes even shot sparks. Perhaps because of the association of amber with the color of cats' eyes, cat fur became the CATalyst (heh) of choice. Cats can also make their fur piloerect, or puff outwards, when alarmed...perhaps this was confused with the attraction effect caused by rubbing amber. In any event, people knew about electricity for centuries before Christopher Smart, but didn't quite understand what was going on.

Steve said...

Thanks for the explanation, FFB. Ask a librarian !