46:  New Friends, and a Preaching

Crow with NestThis morning I found new friends, though not of the kind that would love a deep-brained sonnet.  I was on the path, watching some birds at their nest-building (though the trees scarce have leaves) when three children came to me. 

They were of the common sort, and I know not whether they were girls or boys.  All were dressed in coats, and all had the same scents.

One fetched a little cart that the gardeners use, and they sat me in it so I might ride about the walks.  Most pleasant.

A man who was at his work laughed and called, “That’s our Earl’s old Gib.  You have a care with him!  Else his lordship will cut your hands off.”

He spake in jest, but they swore they would be careful. 

When I tired of my new playfellows, I returned to my house and counted the winters I’ve seen.  They came to eleven, I think.  That means I am past the noon-tide of my life, for I never knowed a cat that saw more winters than he had claws.  Small wonder that some think I’m old.

A cat standing on a brick wall, staring at the moon.
The Mad Cat

The Mad Cat has seen more winters than I, though he’s forgot how many.  He forgets many things.

But he has not forgot the goodly book his mistress read to her household this winter, because at our first assembly this year he rose up to preach against the wickedness in this world.

He spake against the baiting of bears.  He sayt it was a filthie stinking game.

A black cat looking excited
Nero the Sea Cat

None of us had seen a bear.  Some arrkst where they were baited.

Nero leapt up to say that a bear was a monstrous hairy beast with great teeth and claws.  They were baited with dogs as bulls are.  Except a bear can do great hurt to a dog.

“Good,” came a call.  “I would friend a bear.”

That set the Mad Cat off.  He sayt that some men (gentlemen, they call theirselves) keep a dozen or a score of mastiff-dogs to fight with bears.  “They bet twenty, forty, or even an hundred pounds on such devil’s work.  Who can take pleasure in seeing poor creatures hurt each other?”

“Us cats,” came a call.

(Oh, how some love to bait the Mad Cat.)

“No, friends,” sayt he. “Bears and dogs may be evil to us, yet they are good creatures in theirselves, and they was made to set forth the glory of our Creator.  None should abuse them.  Love me, love my dog is a common saying.”

(I believe the Mad Cat’s mistress keeps a dog, who has no malice in him.)

“Who loves dogs?” called a stone-cat.  “Not I.  Let bears kill them all.”

Some sayt there was dogs in their households who were their friends.  Others sayt they hated dogs, and the words should be: Love me, love my cat.

A ginger and white cat in profile.
Linkin the Law Cat

“Be that as it may,” sayt Linkin, most judicious, “any who abuses the creatures of this earth abuses our Creator.”

“The Queen Cat of Heaven!” came a call.  “Is she offended?”

“She is much offended,” sayt the Mad Cat.  And he told of wicked folks watching a bloodie spectacle of this sort.  The scaffoldings they sat upon all fell down, and many were killed or hurt.  That was her judgement upon them.

Next, he spake against hunting.

“How do we live, if we may not hunt?” called my sister.  “How will I feed my kits?”

“Friend,” sayt the Mad Cat, “there’s no sin in hunting for your food, or to keep your household free of vermin.  But there are men and women who hunt for the joy of shedding blood.”

Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. He's about to eat the apple. The cat at Eve's feet may be about to kill the mouse at his.
Albrecht Dürer’s The Fall of Man

He told us to remember the garden where all dwelt most peaceable when this world was new made.

Then the first man and the first woman were disobedient, and we was cast out of the garden with them.

We suffered for their sin.  Therefore they should pity us, not kill us for mere pleasure.  That was not lawful.

“So I believe,” sayt Linkin. “But I know of no law writ by man that says so.”

“I know what I know,” sayt the Mad Cat.  “The day is nigh when men and women who care nowt for Creation will be judged.  I may not see it in my lifetime, you may not see it in yours.  But it will come, believe me.”

A cat looking startled, with ears high and eyes slightly squinting.Many sayt that they hoped they would live long enough to see a bear.

And a bloodie spectacle.  And wicked folks all squashed when their seats fell down.

From a place of safety, where none could do us harm.

Editor's Note. Small image of a quill pen.The Mad Cat’s mistress has been reading Philip Stubbes’ Anatomie of Abuses to her household.  It consists of lively diatribes against Elizabethans behaving badly, the customs and pastimes that led to bad behaviour, and an attack on extravagant fashions.  The fact that much bad behaviour took place on the Sabbath made it even worse.

First published in 1583, the Anatomie was a bestseller.  Stubbes followed up with a second volume revealing the “corruptions” in various Elizabethan trades and professions.  The Mad Cat’s mistress probably read that to her household as well, but she’s sure to have skipped his attacks on lawyers.  Her son (and Linkin’s master) was one.


14: I Am Turned

Grey told me that men and women know nowt of the Queen Cat of Heaven.  While some do speak of Heaven’s Queen, they believe her to be a woman.

Though Grey had heard tell that sometimes when they make a picture of her they will add a cat, to hedge in their bets.

Annunciation, by Lorenzo Lotto (c1480-1556). Mary, the Angel, and a startled cat.
Annunciation, by Lorenzo Lotto (c1480-1556). Museo Civico Villa Colloredo Mels, Recanati.

For on the matter of what they call religion they can never be of one mind.

The catlicks say they have the truth of it, but others call them papists.  Why?  Because catlicks feed on the pap of Error.

The others protest that theirs is the true religion, but the papists call them error-ticks.  Why?  Because they seek to drain the blood from this Error’s veins.

Sometimes the papists rise up and kill the error-ticks, and sometimes the error-ticks have at the papists.

“We cats,” sayt Grey, most majestical with his paw on my head and my chin in the dirt, “are in a mixture of felinity and policy.  We prefer in felinity the Queen Cat of Heaven, and we prefer in policy the greatest Queen on this earth.  She is an error-tick, and so be all her friends.”

Then he sayt, “The papists want another queen to chase her from her place and take it for herself.  That is the catlick Stew Queen, and the error-ticks do watch her very close.  So if you wish to prosper you will serve the Great Queen, and her friends too.”

Lord Purrlie, better known as William Cecil, Lord Burghley.
Lord Purrlie, better known as William Cecil, Lord Burghley.

I arrkst, “Then why may I not go to Lord Purrlie’s house with my lord?”

Grey sayt that Lord Purrlie lived many ways off in the town.  “There is no place in his household for you.  You are but a country clown.”

He told me that if I did not stay close to the young lady, I would have no place at all.  “Your sister is the stable queen.  Your uncle is a cook’s good boy and bedfellow.  He will go where his cook goes.  But who will employ you when your young Earl is gone?”

I had not thought of that.

“You might,” sayt Grey, “believe yourself to be the young Earl’s poet, but onlie cats hear your fool tales.  Your lord knows nowt of what you say.  Which is well, because your slanders might offend him.  So now I come to it.  The Countess will fight the old Earl’s will.  She is kin to the Lord Lester, and he has the ear of the Great Queen.  The Countess will win her daughter, and you must accompany her.”

“Is the Countess an error-tick?” I arrkst.

“No.  She and her old father lick up the pap of Error, but they wipe their whiskers clean before they show their faces to the Great Queen.  We have more dangerous instruments in view.  But I would have a pair of ears in their household, and those ears will be yours.  I may wish to know if they have cheese-wits [Jesuit priests?] hid.”

Witless Cheeses

“As it pleases you, Master,” I sayt, though I know not where a cheese-wit could be hid, outside of a cheese.

And Grey sayt, most sweet, “If it does not please you, then think on the tenter frame and of how you will be stretched.  Now, do not raise your head when I raise my paw.  Do not think to look upon me.  Count your claws, and stir not until you’re done.”

No need to tell me twice.  But I arrkst, “How will I find you when I have newes?”

“You cannot find me,” he sayt.  “I will find you.  Keep close to the young lady.”

I heared him set his mark upon the leaves wherein I lay, scuff it about, and pad away.

Oh, that night I, the young Earl of Southampton’s Gib, sometimes called Bevis, was turned.

I was reared in a good catlick household, and I never knowed this Error nor was I fed on pap.  But I turned.

I knowed of Grey’s Great Queen.  I had heard her named slurper [usurper?] and past it [bastard].  I knowed of one called Lord Lecher, who killed his own wife because he wished to marry that Queen. 

And when nowt came of that, he poisoned another man and took his wife instead.  They who stand betwixt Lord Lecher and what he desires will never live long.  But he has the Jezebel’s ear (oh, Grey’s Great Queen has many names).  And more of her besides, or so some say.

So I turned.  I became a spy for this Grey and a friend to error-ticks.

Toutparmoi - Editor's Note.Grey’s “Great Queen” is Elizabeth I.  “Lord Lester” or “Lord Lecher” is her long-term favourite and friend Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester (c.1532-1588).  He was never free from the rumours that he was responsible for the death, in mysterious circumstances, of his first wife Amy Robsart.  There’s more about him on Wikipedia.

The “catlick Stew Queen” is Mary Stuart, the former Queen of Scots, who was in captivity in England.  Grey probably heard the name Stuart as “stew”.  While it’s possible he intended an insult, “stew” being a term for brothel, a cat would probably think a brothel as good a house as any in which to have a place.  And cats like stew, in the ordinary sense of the word.

The Countess’s “old father” is Anthony Browne, 1st Viscount Montague.  Although he was initially opposed to Queen Elizabeth’s religious policy and was regarded with suspicion for some time, he later seems to have been able to reconcile private belief with public policy.

Grey is extraordinarily well-informed, but I have no idea whose household this feline spymaster was from or why he thought cats should be Protestant in policy.  Strict Protestants and puritans were starting to question contemporary attitudes to animals, but none so radically as the Catholic thinker and essayist Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592).

Anyway, the 2nd Earl of Southampton is said not to have allowed Protestant tenants on his estates, so Grey either came from further afield, or was of the contrary disposition frequently met with in his species.