Christopher Smart

1722-1771. Religious poet. He was born at Shipbourne, Kent, and educated at Cambridge, where he gained the Seaton prize for religious poetry on several occasions. He moved to London and worked as a hack journalist, and eventually he became insane. During his confinement he wrote A Song to David (1763) and Jubilate Agno, a work not published until the 1930s. He also produced a version of the Psalms and wrote several hymns. Though some of these were specifically written “for the fasts and festivals of the Church of England,” his is a highly individualistic, even “enthusiastic” faith. He approaches questions of belief through the imagination, and hence his is visionary poetry. Thus A Song to David is a sustained, but also highly patterned, paean on the abundant and beneficent creativeness of God. David was the chosen of God, and Smart saw himself in the same capacity-an instrument of praise who must be pure for the task he had to fulfill. Jubilate Agno is even more complex in its pattern than A Song to David and owes much to Smart's knowledge of Hebrew.