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.