Ormesby Psalter

(East Anglican School, c. 1310)

The psalter invites us to consider
a cat and a rat in relationship
to an arched hole, which we
shall call Circumstance. Out of

Circumstance walks the splendid
rat, who is larger than he ought
to be, and who affects an expression
of dapper cheer. We shall call him

Privilege. Apparently Privilege has
not noticed the cat, who crouches
a mere six inches from Circumstance,
and who will undoubtedly pin

Privilege’s back with one swift
swipe, a torture we can all nod at.
The cat, however, has averted
its gaze upward, possibly to heaven.

Perhaps it is thanking the Almighty
for the miraculous provision of a rat
just when Privilege becomes crucial
for sustenance or sport. The cat

we shall call Myself. Is it not
too bad that the psalter artist
abandoned Myself in this attitude
of prayerful expectation? We all

would have enjoyed seeing clumps of
Privilege strewn about Circumstance,
Myself curled in sleepy ennui,
or cleaning a practical paw.

by Rhoda Janzen
from Poetry Magazine, 2007


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