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Christopher Smart (1722-1771).

In his own time Smart was known more for his madness than for his poetry. A brilliant student at Cambridge, Smart took prizes for poetry several times. After he came to London to seek literary employment, he fell into a state of religious obsession and was likely to kneel to pray at any moment in any public place. Samuel Johnson defended him as harmless, but Smart was confined to an asylum and after his release was confined again. During this time, he broke into a new and energetic poetic style, based on prayer and on the events and characters of the Old Testament. He died while confined in a debtor's prison.

A Song to David

This complex poem written in 1763 works out a pattern of repetitions in groups of three, seven or nine, their multiples or combinations. The impression created is of enthusiastic forward movement, a rush to reach the climactic state of awe or adoration. David is portrayed as king of Israel and more essentially as the singer of God's praises. In that exalted role, he is pictured as celebrating the glory of creation. The cumulative effects of many repetitions seem to end in a state of ecstasy, the poet praising David who is praising God.

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Author:McCoy, Kathleen; Harlan, Judith A.V.
Publication:English Literature to 1785
Article Type:Reference Source
Date:Jan 1, 1992
Previous Article:William Collins (1721-1759).
Next Article:Oliver Goldsmith (1730-1774).

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