“Pascal’s Cat” – A lost fragment from the Pensees


An artist’s rendition of Pascal and his cat.

A cache of documents, dating from the 1600’s, was recently discovered in England, near Pembroke College, Oxford. Scholars have conclusively determined that at least one fragment has been attributed to Blaise Pascal, the 16th century French genius. This fragment will likely be added to new editions of  the collection known as the “Pensees,”  becoming #925. In subject matter it bears some similarity to #409 where Pascal discussed the greatness of man, and which is included below for comparison.

The cache of documents were all penned in 16th century French. Curiously, the fragment that has been attributed to Pascal had an English translation clipped to it, and the translator signed his name as  “J. R. R. Tolkien.” This puzzling discovery may now necessitate the inclusion of an explanatory note to be appended to the poem called “Cat,” that is included in Tolkien’s work “The Adventures of Tom Bombadill.” The only verbal difference between “Cat” as found in Tolkien’s book, and the original Pascalian fragment is that the original was prefaced with the words “the greatness of the cat.” Here is the fragment as translated to English, as #925 of Pensees:

925.  The greatness of the cat.   The fat cat on the mat may seem to dream of nice mice that suffice for him, or cream; but he free, maybe, walks in thought unbowed, proud, where loud, roared and fought his kin, lean and slim, or deep in den,in the East feasted on beasts, and tender men. The giant lion with iron claw in paw, and huge ruthless tooth in gory jaw; the paid dark-starred, fleet upon feet, that oft soft from aloft leaps on his meat where woods loom in gloom – far now they be, fierce and free, and tamed is he; but fat cat on the mat kept as a pet, he does not forget.

For comparison to Tolkien’s “Cat” see The Tolkien Reader, 237; following is the text of Pensees #409, for thematic comparison:

409.  The greatness of man.   The greatness of man is so evident that it is even proved by his wretchedness. For what in animals is nature, we call in man wretchedness, by which we recognise that, his nature being now like that of animals, he has fallen from a better nature which once was his.
For who is unhappy at not being a king, except a deposed king? Was Paulus Aemilius unhappy at being no longer consul? On the contrary, everybody thought him happy in having been consul, because the office could only be held for a time. But men thought Perseus so unhappy in being no longer king, because the condition of kingship implied his being always king, that they thought it strange that he endured life. Who is unhappy at only having one mouth? And who is not unhappy at having only one eye? Probably no man ever ventured to mourn at not having three eyes. But any one is inconsolable at having none.

Comments, questions, and critiques are welcome in regard to “Pascal’s Cat” (Pensee 925). Such responses will be subject to the same critical scholarly review based in precise scientific method regarding their authenticity and attribution. On another note, if anyone suspects that they have a cat like Pascal’s inhabiting or frequenting their premises they are advised and hereby authorized to take precautionary measures to provide for the greater public’s safety. Furthermore, no disrespect for Blaise Pascal or J. R. R. Tolkien is intended by the promulgation, proximation, fascination, or fabrication of this ridiculous report.

Thank You,

Original Content © Bryan M. Christman and Manifest Propensity, 2013. Excerpts, links, and reblogging may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Bryan M. Christman and Manifest Propensity with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s