50:  My Observations

I will be plain.  I am not accustomed to dwelling in a house so pestered with strange folks.  And dogs.  I creep about most careful of my safety, but I see and hear much, you may believe me.

We have not had merriment of late.  All must wear a mask of sorrow, whether they be sad or no, because the old Catlick lord [the Earl’s grandfather] has died.  I hear tell he will have a fine house to lodge in, same as was built for my lord’s maggot-brained father.

The kneeling figure of the Viscount. The bearded figure wears a ruff and the mantle and collar of the Order of the Garter over armour.
The tomb effigy of Anthony Browne, 1st Viscount Montague – the Earl’s grandfather, who died in October 1592.  From a photo by Anthony McIntosh.

When I gave newes of this at the Cats’ Field, I arrkst, “Why cannot rich folks have a hole in the ground?”

The Mad Cat sayt, “We come up like flowers and are cut down, and vanish like shadows, and never continue in one state.”

(Fine words.  I may steal them, as he’s been known to steal mine.)

“Rich folks are like robbers,” he went on.  “They cannot bide quiet in a hole; they must have the finest houses, even when they’re dead.”

“To the great annoyance of their heirs,” called Linkin. “Who hoped to get their paws on more money than they do.”

What things they two learn from their mad mistress and her lawyer son.

I entertain myself by watching my lord and his friends play at killing each other.  They stamp up and down the gallery most murderous.  Their claws are not fit for fighting, so they hold a dagger in one hand and a sword in the other.  I count this a comedy, but they take great pride in theirselves.

And I attend upon my lord.  I’m not so familiar with him as I was when we were kits together and he first guided my untutored pen.  But I believe we’re very like.

We was both took from our mothers too soon.  And he makes a great show of hisself (as some say I do). 

He loves his mirror, though not as Narcissus loved his pool of water.  When my lord is content with what his servants have made of him, he comes away from his reflection most cheerful.

But I do not believe he takes that image for his true self.  Or loves what he thinks his true self to be.  Perchance his self is at odds with his soul?  I must think more on it.

My education continues apace.  I’m learning Italian, as the nobilitie do.

And I know of Pie-Takers.  When first I heared that name, I thought they was a pair of thieving dogs or foxes. But no.

Two young foxes - one is snoozing, the other is preparing to nip its ear.This Pie-Takers [Pythagoras] was a flosser [philosopher] in the old time.  He sayt that when you die your soul goes into a new body.

That is called: met in sycosis [metempsychosis].

Today Nero came up in the garden like a black flower (if there can be such a thing) in hopes of a glimpse of our Earl.

When Nero makes haste, he has a strange hopping gait.

A black Manx cat
The Sea Cat Nero

He says this comes from being so long at sea, where he trod the decks in wild weathers.

I believe it is because he has no tail to weight his backside.

“Well met in sycosis, friend,” sayt I, most wittie.

“What flea has bit you now?” arrkst Nero.

We sat a while.  I told him what I’d learnt of the transmigration of souls.

I sayt that when he was last in this world, he was a rabbit.  As his gait proves.  And my lord might have him cooked and tasted, so all could judge how much of a rabbit he is.

Nero vanished like a shadow then.

A detail from Viscount Montague’s tomb – a bull calf (?) at the feet of his wife. (Photo by Simon Burchell CC SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons).  If Gib had seen the calf, he may have decided that it represented her next incarnation. There’s a handsome photo of the whole structure by Chris Partridge here.  The tomb was damaged and rebuilt when it was moved in 1851 from the Montague Chapel in the Parish Church at Midhurst to the Church of St Mary at Easebourne.



20 thoughts on “50:  My Observations

  1. Robyn Haynes April 14, 2016 / 4:07 pm

    A fine play on the Mad Cat’s words on metempsychosis Gib. This is a new term for me having been familiar with the concept by another name.

    The pictures of the tomb are marvellous but even more so, were the explanations for them being so elaborate.

    Gib’s thoughts on narcissism are quite profound – the distinctions he draws between bald vanity and deep self perception. I too need to think more on that. Stimulating post Denise.

    Liked by 2 people

    • toutparmoi April 14, 2016 / 4:32 pm

      Thanks, Robyn. The Elizabethan intellectuals seem to have thought about self-love and its twin self-hatred, though I understand they may have conceived the “self” as carnal and therefore in conflict with the soul. In literature at least, they also seem to have given some thought to suicide as the ultimate result of this conflict, even though “self-murder” was sinful and a crime. And was their concept of “narcissism” – a word that wouldn’t have been in their vocab, the same or different from ours? Oh dear. I shall have to do more thinking (and reading too). I hate to be confused by a cat.

      Liked by 4 people

    • Robyn Haynes April 14, 2016 / 4:49 pm

      I laugh at the notion of being confused by a cat! Isn’t that the appeal? Their ineffable nature?

      You got me thinking so I looked up the origins of the word narcissism. I knew it to have ancient Greek roots but wondered about its use over time. It appears in early 19th century: via Latin from the Greek name Narkissos. Therefore as you said, too late for our Gib. I found your comments on ‘self’ and how the Elizabethans conceived it fascinating. And yes, meanings and usage change over time. I think of words we, as children, used to be punished for using and how they have become a mundane part of speech (even on the ABC!) now. And that over a much shorter period of time.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi April 14, 2016 / 5:08 pm

      So true. Literate Elizabethans knew all about Narcissus (Narkissos) but how did they read him?
      And, on the topic of self-murder, how would many members of the audience have viewed Romeo & Juliet? As a couple of precocious, disobedient, brats? As in, this is what happens when parents can’t get their act together.
      On a lighter note: when I was a youngster, many words in everyday use weren’t in the dictionary! I remember looking for them, of course.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Soul Gifts April 15, 2016 / 12:44 am

    Pie-Takers the flosser !!! Love it. I wonder if he’s turning over in his grave, lol 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Rachel McAlpine April 15, 2016 / 11:55 am

    Gib is surely waxing philosophical. And I’m astounded at his multilingual skills: not only learning Italian but knowing the Greek synonym for the Latin transmigration? I’m scurrying back to night school, if it still exists.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi April 15, 2016 / 12:08 pm

      Ah, night school. A poor substitute for being able to eavesdrop on the conversations of fashionable young Elizabethans.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. camilledefleurville April 15, 2016 / 9:52 pm

    I discover your log and am enchanted and delighted by it. A very elegant way to talk about the Elizabethans and some rather difficult philosphical notions.
    (You left a comment on the last post of my blog – Sketches and Vignettes from la Dordogne -, which deleted itself while I was answering. Thank you for reading , liking and making a comment. My efforts are nothing compared to your own blog! ) 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi April 15, 2016 / 10:20 pm

      Thank you! But you’re too modest about your own blog – there are so many fascinating posts, with beautiful and evocative pictures. I’m looking forward to spending more time browsing it.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. chattykerry April 16, 2016 / 12:09 pm

    I love your evocative phraseology – maggot brained father resonated with me.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. April Munday April 17, 2016 / 4:10 am

    Since I had to look it up, I was glad that Wikipedia pointed me to a poem by John Donne of the same name. I wonder if Donne was aware of Gib’s poetry.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi April 17, 2016 / 11:20 am

      What an exciting thought, April! John Donne was part of the Earl of Essex’s 1597 expedition to the Azores, as was the Earl of Southampton. Could Nero have managed to join the expedition? If the fleet had sailed from Portsmouth it’s just possible, but Plymouth seems too far off, even for an enterprising sea cat with connections.

      Liked by 1 person

    • April Munday April 17, 2016 / 9:26 pm

      It wouldn’t be too unlikely for ships to start from Portsmouth or Southampton and join the rest of the fleet at Plymouth. It certainly happened in the 100 Years War when ships were taking soldiers to Aquitaine.

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi April 18, 2016 / 8:22 am

      Oh, true – the same would have happened during the Armada, too. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Soul Gifts April 19, 2016 / 12:16 am

    I’ve sneaked back in to let you know that I have taken the plunge and nominated you for a 3 day quote challenge – https://soulgifts.com.au/2016/04/18/cleopatra-like/
    No pressure either way. I just thought you would have a huge array of Gib-like, catty quotes to entertain us with should you decide to accept 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi April 19, 2016 / 1:17 am

      It takes me so long to transcribe one of Gib’s pages (remember, this is a cat who holds a quill pen between his toes), I can only manage one post a week. But I do hope he may have something to say about roses soon, in the spirit of your latest post. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Soul Gifts April 19, 2016 / 1:17 am

    Awesome 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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