About Me

My photo
Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019); AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021); and HOW WE BECAME POST-LIBERAL: THE RISE AND FALL OF TOLERATION (2024).

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A poem for cat lovers ...


Virile lovers and rigorous scholars,
In their fruitful and comfortable years,
Love their strong, sweet cats - their pride -
Who are cool and contained ... much like them.

These comrades of learning and passion,
Seek the frightening quiet of darkness;
Bleakest Erebus would have employed them
As his steeds - if they'd stooped to his service.

As they ponder, they strike noble poses,
Stretched like sphinxes, in deepest aloneness,
Who sleep on in a dream with no ending.

Their athletic loins pulsate with vigour;
And fine little goldenish star-flecks
Glint like sand in their mystical pupils.

— (Loosely) translated by Russell Blackford from the French of Charles Baudelaire [Edited for clarity].


Jerry Coyne said...

YES! Here's my favorite poem about cats and scholarship.

Pangur Ban

I and Pangur Ban my cat,
Tis a like task we are at:
Hunting mice is his delight,
Hunting words I sit all night.

Better far than praise of men
Tis to sit with book and pen;
Pangur bears me no ill will,
He too plies his simple skill.

Tis a merry thing to see
At our tasks how glad are we,
When at home we sit and find
Entertainment to our mind.

Oftentimes a mouse will stray
In the hero Pangur's way;
Oftentimes my keen thought set
Takes a meaning in its net.

'Gainst the wall he sets his eye
Full and fierce and sharp and sly;
'Gainst the wall of knowledge I
All my little wisdom try.

When a mouse darts from its den
O how glad is Pangur then!
O what gladness do I prove
When I solve the doubts I love!

So in peace our tasks we ply,
Pangur Ban, my cat, and I;
In our arts we find our bliss,
I have mine and he has his.

Practice every day has made
Pangur perfect in his trade;
I get wisdom day and night
Turning darkness into light.

Luke Vogel said...

Very nice poem, well done. That's a fantastic pic also, thanks.

Luke Vogel said...

Ah, don't mind me: you said "— (Loosely) translated from the French of Charles Baudelaire."

Still, very nice and I'm glad you shared. I really thought you pounded out one sweet poem :), that's not a bad thing, right?

Luke Vogel said...

Oh, before you reply to me. Yes, this is "Luke", "Dave", "Zarcus". There, now you can respond how you may feel is more appropriate ;). I found out, fortunately from them posting on Massimo's site, there was another Luke around.06

Unknown said...

That's rather beautiful Russell. Might I contribute a poem of mine - not about cats as scholars per se, but the cat as a means of scholarship: calligraphy & artwork?

Russell Blackford said...

Oh well, Luke, thanks. It's nice to do something right in your eyes. I should make clear that it's my own "translation" ("interpretation" might be a better word, as I've been rather free in imposing my own meaning rather than being faithful to Baudelaire's).

Thanks for the poem, Jerry.

Contribute away, Keira. A thread on poems about cats would be very welcome at this time of year.

Luke Vogel said...

Hah, that's interesting because that's initially what I thought you meant until I read it again.

I have a cat, named Peep. She means the world to me and when she's not being the harsh critic to my guitar playing (a sideways glance then mosey into another room )I will try to write, play and sing to her.

Russell Blackford said...

I'll edit to make the provenance clearer.

Unknown said...

Feline Scribes

A black cat curls
like careless calligraphy,
A grey kitten’s soft in outline:
more a pencil smudge.
Between the written words
Strolls a white cat,
silent and haughty;
A sturdy black and white cat? A page,moving on;
Or a cat white and grey? Uncertainty –
A testing of letters before applying the ink;
A Russian Blue shows off elegance,
a lettering of style, with panache.
The light russet brown of a young Abyssinian
Implies the start of a sepia illustration:
Nothing watered down yet,
Paint still strong and fresh.
An orange tabby provides
stronger tones to artwork,
shading against the brown;
Siamese grant gradations, subtleties,complexities –
and voice;
Burmese, Tonkenise draw deeper shadows
Like the surprise in words;
and a long-haired cat, playfully
fat and black
adds motion, pulling in sensation.
But a tortoiseshell?
Well, she just doesn’t fit,
Won’t make sense in words or pictures
So we’ll leave her out of it.

(written 12/05 – 12/08) Keira

keeps getting added to as I encounter more cats....

Luke Vogel said...

Nice Keira, thanks.

I'm watching the documentary on Jack Kerouac (I'm actually on my way out for a smoke) titled, One Fast Move or I'm Gone, and there's lots of reading of his work. So, I read your poem in that jazzy kind of style and it really sparkled for me.

Russell Blackford said...

Thanks for that, Keira. Terrific poem!