Tuesday, December 06, 2011

`That Is About Enough'

I spend most hours of most days alone, in the company of a cat, which is not at all the same as being alone. Like most of her species she is imperious and opportunistic. She is aggressively affectionate, especially when I’m trying to write, when she’ll walk across the keyboard, back arched, tail twitching, and perform a feline variation on the surrealist pipe-dream of automatic writing. Then she’ll snub me with frosty hauteur. Like Jeoffrey, she moves with “elegant quickness.”

In short, she is company, the sort I prefer when living two-thousand miles from my family. My thoughts on company are distilled in Les Murray’s poem of that name (from Lunch and Counter Lunch, 1974):

“Where two or three
are gathered together, that
is about enough.”

A comic variation on Matthew 18:20: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Murray’s poem echoes my allergy to collectives, whether rock concerts or anything bearing the prefix “Occupy.” Sharing Murray’s title is one of Beckett’s prose works, Company (1980), in which at one point he might be speaking of a cat:

“Crawling on all fours. Another in another dark or in the same crawling on all fours devising it all for company. Or some other form of motion. The possible encounters. A dead rat. What an addition to company that would be! A rat long dead.”

Beckett captures the uneasy, compromising nature of much company:

“Better hope deferred than none. Up to a point. Till the heart starts to sicken. Company too up to a point.”

Boswell reports Johnson saying of Jeoffrey’s master, the mad poet Christopher Smart:

“I did not think he ought to be shut up. His infirmities were not noxious to society. He insisted on people praying with him; and I’d as lief pray with Kit Smart as any one else.”


William A. Sigler said...

Brilliant post! I'm really digging this isolato joint you're blowing. It not only provides intellectual cover to my decision not to attend this year's office Christmas party -- one of a never ending swirl of holiday parties all promising but never delivering that "rat long dead" -- it introduces me to Christopher Smart and the online "Jubilate Agno." That's just about the baddest, craziest bit of poetic prophecy I've ever heard. It makes Blake look like a diletante. The sane can handle mysticism and morality in small, digestable doses, but Smart like Blake clearly over-indulged at the party tray.

Wiki tells us Smart was put in the looney bin to keep him out of debtor's prison. He'd have a lot of company (ie the population of the whole world) if they still had those things today.

Cynthia Haven said...

I've always loved that Johnson quote: "I’d as lief pray with Kit Smart as any one else.”