58: Hindrances

A dappled cat, sitting upright.Nero and I have offered parts to sundrie kitlings. 

We told them they need only do as they are bid, and not be affrighted should we feign to kill them, because all is in play.

“Which is,” I sayt, “why what we do is called a play.”

A few gave us the look direct.  That is, eye to eye.  This was not insolencie: they have yet to learn behaviour.

When one looks at me in this wise I lay a paw upon its head so it knows to look away.  But I believe Nero may not have been as suttle.

They blabbed to their mothers.  So now we are visited by fool queen cats seeking assurances that their little darlings will not be harmed.

This hinders our work.

Then I received word that my sister has brought forth her kits (of which two remain for her to rear).  She told me our performance must be delayed until leaf fall, when they will be of an age to accompany her.

“Accompany you? Where?” I arrkst.

“When I step forth as Ghost, they’ll be maggots.  And when I step forth as Queen, they’ll be my maids.”

Then she sayt (can you credit it?) that I must come to her barn to instruct her in her speeches.

“And do you require owt else of me, your ladyship?” arrkst I, sarcastical.

“A fish or two from our Earl’s kitchen would be welcome, your Gibship.”

I believe I spake too soon when I sayt a play would be easy work for a poet.

Linkin brought better newes to me and Nero.

The Mad Cat has spoken at the Cats’ Field against our doings.  He arrkst Linkin to lead him thither, saying he’d forgot the way.

But he preached most mighty.  He told how his ears never have been clean since he chanced to hear us talk of our bloodie play.  And, in turning players, we have made of ourselves painted sepulchres and double-dealing ambodexters.

Some called that they hoped to see our play, for they might learn something thereby.

Reprint of the Title page of the 1583 edition of the Anatomie of Abuses by Philip Stubbes,“Learn something?” cried the Mad Cat.  “True, so you shall.  If you will learn falsehood and deceit, if you will learn to swear and blaspheme both heaven and earth, if you will learn to kill, steal, rob, and rove, if you will learn to practise idleness, to sing lewd songs, to scoff and mock, to flatter and smooth, then see a play.

“If you will learn gluttony and envy, to become proud, hawtie, and arrogant, and to commit all kind of sin and mischief, these good examples will be painted before your eyes.”

All listened most respective.

“Repent!” called the Mad Cat.  “For the dreadful day is nigh.”

One arrkst Linkin, “When comes this dreadful day?”

Linkin, not wishing to be pressed for informations, sayt, “You will be warned when our play is readie,” and made haste to lead the Mad Cat away.

We marvelled that the Mad Cat could preach so well against us, but no longer know his way to our Field or home after.

Linkin sayt, “He ever was crack-brained, and now he’s old to boot.  Whene’er he loses hisself his mistress near runs mad, calling, “Sugar, Sugar,” and fearing he’s met with some misfortune.”

Sugar.  I’ve known the Mad Cat all this time, but this is the first I heared of what his mistress calls him.

I saw Nero counting on his claws, so I arrkst Linkin, “How many winters has our mad friend seen?”

Linkin sayt he did not rightly know, but he believed fifteen or sixteen.

“A great age,” sayt Nero, but continued counting.  I arrkst him why.

He sayt, “I think our play has all of what he preached against, saving a lewd song.”

But I am out of paper, so will set down the remains of our play when I have more.

Two fierce dogs and a wild-eyed cat are raiding a pantry. One dog has a joint of meat, and the other a string of sausages. The cat is waiting its chance to grab something.
A Pantry, by Frans Snyders (1579-1657).  This thieving crew has seen too many plays.

Toutparmoi - Note from the Editor

The name Sugar probably refers to the Mad Cat’s being in a sack when his mistress saved him; a little joke on her part.  Elizabethans were so fond of drinking sack (dry white wine) sweetened with sugar that “sack and sugar” was a common term.  A bit like our “rum and Coke”.

His mistress’s readings from Philip Stubbes’ Anatomie of Abuses must have made a great impression on the Mad Cat.  However, we have Linkin’s word that her lawyer son (Linkin’s master) went to plays, and bought play books.  The Mad Cat’s mistress probably did too.  Perhaps her readings from Stubbes were meant as a warning to her servants that they shouldn’t let plays influence their own behaviour?


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.