An Existentialist Sigh — a Cat — and a Laugh!

From the euphoria of a mystical echocardiogram, I come down to earth and bump up against this poem by Irish poet Galway Kinnell:

In a Parlor Containing a Table

In a parlor containing a table
And three chairs, three men confided 
Their inmost thoughts to one another.
I, said the first, am miserable.
I am miserable, the second said. 
I think that for me the right word
Is miserable, said the third.
Well, they said, it’s quarter to two.
Good night. Cheer up. Sleep well.
You too. You too. You too.

(“In a Parlor Containing a Table” by Galway Kinnell, from The Avenue Bearing the Initial of Christ Into the New World.)

If I ever heard an expression of existential angst and aimlessness, there it is — leavened with Kinnell’s dry humor. This is not just a modern condition, although we moderns often act as though we think it were. No, it goes a long way back, as witness this etching from 1653 by Adriaen van Ostade:

Etching by Adriaen van Ostade, 1653

Pretty good image, yes? But if you REALLY want to encounter existential boredom and suffering, you have to meet Henri, the French cat. Anyone old enough to remember French films (in black and white, of course) from the 50’s, 60’s, even 70’s, will find this oh so true to life. (Younger people may be baffled; you are warned.)

Enjoy! (if that’s the right word) and if you need another dose, there’s a sequel here:

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This entry was posted in Etcetera, Loneliness, Poetry and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to An Existentialist Sigh — a Cat — and a Laugh!

  1. thirdhandart says:

    Poor Henri, the French cat… such existential boredom and suffering is indeed worthy of a pity party.

    Like

  2. Carol says:

    Poor poor Henri. Perhaps he should spend some time at a homeless shelter. Perhaps he should read some positive thinking tomes. Poor poor Henri.

    Like

  3. Gemma says:

    Henri. I laughed til I cried. I remember feeling that way, once.:-)
    Thanks.

    Like

  4. barb19 says:

    Henri got to me – I watched both clips!

    Like

  5. Henri and Eyeore! what a pair.

    Like

  6. Smallpeace says:

    Ah yes, existential angst (and French cats!). How is it that you’ve managed to pinpoint two of my favorite things? Thank you for the funny reminder that “my life of bored luxury” –though not always so exciting — really isn’t all that bad!

    Like

  7. I love old images and the thought of how they have survived so many years and still remain applicable to our lives today.

    Like

    • Touch2Touch says:

      In some ways people probably do change over the centuries — but in other profound ways, they don’t. I think I also like the times when I can identify with those from long ago —

      Like

  8. reb says:

    Mjau!
    I watched both clips and I’ll never look at McDuff the same way again. Poor, poor Henrï and McDuff. And me. We should all have physically taxing, full time jobs. That would give us some distraction from all that existential angst.

    Like

  9. I love this post, Judith! And thank you for introducing me to Henri – and giving me the most amusing start to a day in the longest time!

    Like

  10. suitablefish says:

    Love it! LOL. Thanks for Henri.

    Like

  11. 2e0mca says:

    I enjoyed that – fascinating thoughts and words… Oh! and your post too 😉 I love that piece of poetry by Galway Kinnell – must find some more of his works to read! Thanks for bringing him to my attention 🙂

    Like

  12. The poem is a gem! Despite its “angst and aimlessness” it got a giggle out of me! And Henri? Il est très drol, non?

    Like

  13. mybrightlife says:

    Loved the poem and etching….and poor old Henri. Perhaps he needs some colour in his life;)

    Like

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