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Kahlbaum

Catatonic

(In memory of Karl Ludwig Kahlbaum)

Ludwig had a cat, whose name was simply, 'Cat.'
That did mostly what
A cat does best
That is, spending most of his time at rest.

But the good doctor
Who studied man's behavior
Spoke often to his cat
About the workings of the mind, and this and that.

So in 1874, Karl Ludwig sat
Staring at his cat
Wondering what scientific discovery
Yet awaited his uncovery.

Seems all the great and renown
Had already placed their markers down
And there was little to be found
In plowing the psychic's hallowed ground.

Came first Aristotle
And others of lesser mettle
Who professed to understand
What was 'melancholy' of man.

Burton in his tome did write
Long and wide
Of the essence of melancholy
and its folly.

In his poem about pain and pleasure
He took far flung measure
Of what it constitutes
And how the mind pollutes.

Then along came Darwin (not the elder)
Who attempted to attribute to love and hunger
The forces of melancholy's strains
That caused to patients their many pains.

Freud, who read Darwin,
Claimed his bit of fame
Expanding on Sex
As it did man, perplex.

Kahlbaum thought it best to let be
What the 'Alienest' could not see.
So, in his records, Kahlbaum did note
Much about his cat, when he wrote.

For ‘twas described by Karl Ludwig Kahlbaum
A state experienced by some.
And surely the lay public would know quite well
The nature of the cat and how in it did dwell.

Stupor is now called by some, 'Cat-alepsy'
Which is nothing more or less
Than the state of mind with which the cat is blessed
When spending most of his (or her) time at rest.

For no external stimuli
Could arouse Cat from the bed in which it did lie
All (or almost all) motor activity is suppressed
When the cat is in this state of blissful rest.

Even when it appears that Cat's awake
And both eyes wide open to partake
Of events that are going on
There is no awareness that he's at home.

In this state of consciousness the animal's rigid
And if not frozen, in a word, torpid.
Permitting the cat to remain in a fixed position
Unmoving, regardless of external condition.

'Eureka, there's more.' He cried,
For another characteristic he'd spied.
When Cat was wide awake,
The tail was in motion for nothing's sake.
A swishing, and a twitching back and forth
As if moved by some mysterious force.

'I see yet another characteristic, '
Sometimes it can be limp as a wick,
And carried about like a purse
Relaxed as if dead or worse.

But what shall I call my observations
So my reputation will be known to all Nations?
Something that will ensure that Kahlbaum
Will trip from other's tongue.

'I have it, ' he did exclaim,
'It will bring me everlasting fame.'
It's the state
To which all can relate!

Alas, as time has passed,
Karl Ludwig's name is not recognized,
But his cat has world renown
Living the condition for which it's well known.

Cat-atonic is the state
to which all can now relate
For humans (and cats too)
Do what animals do.

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