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The achivement of Christopher Smart's A song to David. Maynard, Temple James

Abstract

I The Origins of A Song to David This chapter deals with the outlook of the poet, his re-dedication to the service of God, his Hymn to the Supreme Being (1756), his madness and confinement, Jubilate Agno, and references to the Psalms and A Song to , David in the Jubilate Agno. II (i) The Form and Structure of the Poem A Song to David is a poem of praise, a paean bringing in the whole of the cosmos. As such it takes its origin from the Psalms of David. Smart prepared himself for the triumph of the Song by writing his Seatonian poems on the attributes of the Supreme Being. The stanzaic pattern of the Song, romance-six, is used by other eighteenth-century poets, but its master is Smart. The basic structural device consists of repetition and the matching of parts of the poem. The description of the contents provided by the poet is not wholly to be trusted. (ii) An Explication of the Poem This section, the longest portion of the thesis, is a line by line commentary on the poem; the intent is to supply background for the reader. The meaning of ambiguous or obscure phrases is suggested; glosses for unfamiliar words are either supplied from the work of previous critics and editors or suggested by the study of biblical and other contemporary texts. The character of David, as drawn by Smart, is not the historical or biblical figure, though it has something in common with the medieval concept of David. Cross-references to Jubilate Agno are noted. The work of W. F. Stead, W. H. Bond, and J. B. Broadbent is correlated with some original study. The climactic nature of the final stanzas is discussed. III (i) Links with Other Poems by Smart The recurrence of similar themes and patterns in other works is pointed out. There is a definite relationship between the Song and Smart's later poems. (ii) Comparison with Some Other Poets Other poets of a similar bent utilize a biblical story in their work. Parallels and contrasts are found in the handling of a similar theme by Cowley, Prior, and Browning. A close resemblance exists between A Song to David and The Benedicite Paraphrased, a poem by James Merrick. (iii) A Song to David is Unique in its Aesthetic Achievement The achievement of A Song to David is defined. The effect upon the reader is discussed and the success of the poet commented upon. A place is claimed for A Song to David in the top rank of devotional poetry.

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