Smart’s “Song to David”

As winter slowly withdraws her uncomfortable presence from New England, amidst piles of filthy snow, with gusting raw winds, and the inhabitants of the mud-spattered landscape long for longer days and budding branches warmed by forgotten sunshine, I escape once again to hide myself in the verdant vales of poesy.

One of my all-time favorite poems is A Song to David by Christopher Smart, written in 1763. I stumbled upon this epic rhythmic screed in an anthology sometime in the 1990’s. The poetic form is that of the Horatian Ode, exactly like Marvell’s …Ode Upon Cromwell’s Return. Immediately upon reading it, I perceived the unhinged and mind-expanding use of poetic language; and all this in the service of David, the sainted psalmist and poet of Israel . . . it is, however, not a poem of dissipation or Dionysiac excess but rather a powerfully-measured tribute to God and Man in a Biblical poetic context. It is a beautiful and transcendent poem and I love it with heart and soul.

In the coming weeks between winter’s end and National Poetry Writing Month, I will offer up Smart’s epic verses in assimilable portions. Stay tuned.

And when in doubt, read the Psalms.

Christopher Smart was a true Poet !

Egypt Smitten by the Lord

And it shall be for a sign and for a witness unto the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt:
for they shall cry unto the Lord because of the oppressors,
and he shall send them a saviour, and a great one, and he shall deliver them.
And the Lord shall be known to Egypt,
and the Egyptians shall know the Lord in that day,
and shall do sacrifice and oblation;
yea, they shall vow a vow unto the Lord, and perform it.
And the Lord shall smite Egypt: he shall smite and heal it:
and they shall return even to the Lord,
and he shall be intreated of them, and shall heal them.
In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria,
and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria,
and the Egyptians shall serve with the Assyrians.
In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria,
even a blessing in the midst of the land:
Whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying
Blessed be Egypt my people,
and Assyria the work of my hands,
and Israel mine inheritance.

Isaiah 20 (KJV)

Miriam’s Magnificat Roars


And Mary (Μαριάμ/מִרְיָם/مريم) said:

My soul doth magnify the Lord,
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden:
for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.

For he that is mighty hath done to me great things;
and holy is his name.

And his mercy is on them that fear him
from generation to generation.

He hath shewed strength with his arm;
he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

He hath put down the mighty from their seats,
and exalted them of low degree.

He hath filled the hungry with good things;
and the rich he hath sent empty away.

He hath helped his servant Israel,
remembrance of his mercy;

As he spake to our fathers,
to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.

Luke 1:46-55 (KJV)

Social Justice: Hannah Belts It Out

And Hannah prayed, and said,
My heart rejoiceth in the Lord, mine horn is exalted in the Lord:
my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies;
because I rejoice in thy salvation.

There is none holy as the Lord:
for there is none beside thee:
neither is there any rock like our God.

Talk no more so exceeding proudly;
let not arrogancy come out of your mouth:
for the Lord is a God of knowledge,
and by him actions are weighed.

The bows of the mighty men are broken,
and they that stumbled are girded with strength.

They that were full have hired out themselves for bread;
and they that were hungry ceased:
so that the barren hath born seven;
and she that hath many children is waxed feeble.

The Lord killeth, and maketh alive:
he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up.

The Lord maketh poor, and maketh rich:
he bringeth low, and lifteth up.

He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill,
to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory:
for the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s, and he hath set the world upon them.

He will keep the feet of his saints,
and the wicked shall be silent in darkness;
for by strength shall no man prevail.

The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces;
out of heaven shall he thunder upon them:
the Lord shall judge the ends of the earth;
and he shall give strength unto his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed.

I Samuel 2:1-10 [KJV]