Meditation and Poetics – (Christopher Smart – 1)

Christopher Smart (1722-1721)

Allen’s 1978 Meditation and Poetics class continues. Hebegins by briefly surveying some of the recent topicsthat have been covered in the class. He does so playfully, using the Christopher Smart conjunction – “for” (in preparation now for some emphasis on Smart, and Smart’s extraordinary observations).]

AG: For we have discoursed on the nameless in poetry, for we’ve talked about Walt Whitman’s catalogs, lists, ellipses and minute particulars, for we’ve pointed to William Blake’s strophes on taking care of the little ones, for I’ve mentioned that Christopher Smart was one of the early English originators of the list or the catalog poem full of jumps of mind and elliptical appearances of phenomena rising in his brain unborn, for I promised to read some of Christopher Smart, for we haven’t finished Whitman’s great grand catalog in “Song of Myself”, for we haven’t fully explored the nameless as presented in traditional Japanese verses and Buddhist verses as a way ofdealing with the nameless, which we might do with a thunk, for it’s time to also compare the Japanese style dealing with the unmentionable (and) with William Blake’s “Auguries of Innocence”, for there’s lots of work to do. I’ll plunge in immediately, finishing by giving examples of Christopher Smart’s “Rejoice in the Lamb” (Jubilate Agno), examples of his lines, which, as I said, were parallel to Whitman’s lines, at least as long-line poetry, parallel in imaginative jump, for these were written by Christopher Smart, (legendarily three-lines-a-day, in the madhouse at Bedlam).

Allen recites selected lines, selecting from a cornucopia of lines

For I bless the Prince of Peace and pray that all the guns may be nail’d up, save such are for the rejoicing days.

For I have glorified God in Greek and Latin, the consecrated languages spoken by the Lord on earth.
For I preach the very Gospel of Christ without comment and with this weapon shall I slay envy.
For I bless God in the rising generation, which is on my side.
For I have translated into charity which maketh things better and I shall be translated myself at the last.
For I am come home again, but there is nobody to kill the calf or pay for the musick.
For the hour of my felicity like the womb of Sarah shall come at the latter end.
For I shou’d have avail’d myself of waggery, had not malice been multitudinous.
For there are still serpents that can speak – God bless my head, my heart and my heel.
For I bless God that I am of the same seed as Ehud, Mutius Scaevola and Colonel Draper.
For I bless God for the Postmaster general and all conveyancers of letters under his care especially Allen and Shevlock.
For my grounds in New Canaan shall infinitely compensate for the flats & maynes of Staindrop Moor.

Let Ezariah bless with the reindeer who runneth upon the waters and wadeth through the land in snow.
Let Holda bless with the silkworm, the ornaments of the proud are from the bowels of their betters.
Let Michael bless with the stoat. The praise of the Lord gives propriety to all things

Let Susanna bless with the butterfly, Beauty hath wings but chastity is the cherub.
Let Manassas bless with the wild ass. Liberty begets insolence, but necessity is the mother of prayer.
Let Hashum bless with the fly whose health is the honey of the air but he feeds upon the things strangled and perisheth.
Let Huz bless with the polyphus. Lively subtlety is acceptable to the Lord.
Let Malchiah bless with the gnat – it is good for man and beast to mend their pace
Let Buz bless with the jackal – but the Lord is the lion’s provider
Let Pudiah bless with the humblebee and make his honey alone
Let Zorababel bless with the wasp who is the Lord’s architect and buildeth his edifice in armor.
Let Helen rejoice with the Woodpecker, the Lord encourage the propagation of trees.

For I mediate the peace of Europe amongst family bickerings and domestic jars.
For the praise of God can give to a mute fish the notes of a nightingale.
For I have seen the White Raven and Thomas Hall of Willingham & am myself a greater curiosity than both.
For I pray God to bless improvements in gardening till London be a city of palm-trees.
For I pray to give his grace to the poor of England, that Charity be not offended & that benevolence may increase.
For in my nature I quested for beauty, but God, God hath sent me to sea for pearls.
For the nightly visitor is at the window of the impenitent, while I sing a psalm of my own composing
For there is a note added to the scale, which the Lord hath made fuller, stronger & more glorious.

For there is traveling for the glory of God without going to Italy or France.
For I rejoice like a worm in the rain in him that cherishes and from him.
For I am ready for the trumpet and alarm to fight and die and to rise again
For I bless the Lord Jesus from the bottom of Royston Cave to the top of King’s Chapel
For I am a little fellow, which is entitled to the great mess by the benevolence of God, my father.
For I this day made over my inheritance to my mother in consideration of her infirmities.
For I this day made over my inheritance to my mother in consideration of her age.
For I this day made over my inheritance to my mother in consideration of her poverty.
For I bless the 13th of August in which I had the grace to obey the voice of Christ in my conscience.
For I bless the 13th of August in which I was willing to run all hazards for the sake and the name of the Lord.
For I bless the 13th of August in which I was willing to be called a fool for the sake of Christ.
For nature is more various than observation, though observers be innumerable.
For my angel is always ready in a pinch to help me out and to keep me up.
For silly fellow, silly fellow, is against me, and belongs neither to me nor to my family.
For I bless God on behalf of Trinity College Cambridge and the Society of Purples in London
For I have a nephew, Christopher, to whom I implore the Grace of God.
For I pray God bless the Cam River, Mr Higgs and Mr and Mrs Washborne as the drops of dew.
For I pray to bless the King of  Sardinia and make him an instrument of the peace.
For I am possessed of a cat, surpassing in beauty from whom I take occasion to bless God.
For I pray for the professors of the University of Cambridge to attend and to amend.
For I bless God in the honey of the sugarcane and the milk of the coca.
For I bless the booksellers in the world.
For I bless God in the strength of my loins and for the voice which he hath made sonorous.
For grey hairs are honorable and tell everyone of them to the glory of the Lord.
For I bless the Lord Jesus to the memory of Gay, Pope and Swift.
For there is silver in my mind, and I bless God that it is rather there than in the coffers.
For I bless God in St. James Park til I routed all the company.
For the Officers of the Peace are at variance with me and the watchman smites me with his staff
For my seed shall worship the Lord Jesus as musical and numerous as the grasshoppers of Paradise.
For the learning of the Lord increases daily as the sun is an improving angel.
For I Pray God for a reformation amongst the women and the restoration of the veil.
For beauty is better to look on than to meddle with and tis good for a man not to know a woman.
For I stood up betimes on behalf of liberty, property, and no excise.
For I bless God with all gums and balsams and everything that ministers relief to the sick.
For the suns that work to make me garments and the moons that work for my wife.
For tall and stately are against me, but humiliation on humiliation is on my side.
For I have a providential acquaintance with men who bear the names of animals.
For I bless God to Mr. Lion, Mr. Cock, Mr. Cat, Mr. Talbott, Mr Hart, Mrs. Fish, Mr. Grub, and Miss Lamb.
For they throw their horns in my face and reptiles make themselves wings against me.
For I bless God for the immortal soul of Mr. Pig of Downham and Norfolk.

Johann Knopf (Knupfer) – Lamb Gottes (Lamb of God) c.1920 –  from the Prinzhorn Collection

For I pray the Lord Jesus that cured the lunatic to be merciful to all my brethren and sisters in these houses.
For they work with me their harping irons, which is a barbarous instrument, because I am more unguarded than the others.
For I bless God that the Church of England is one of the seven even in the candlesticks of the Lord.
For the English tongue shall be the language of the West.
For I pray Almighty Christ to bless the Magdalen House and to forward a National purification
For I have the blessing of God in the three points of manhood, of the pen, of the sword, and of chivalry.
For I have a greater compass, both of mirth and melancholy, than another
For I am safe as to my head from the female dancer and her admirers
For I pray to God for Nore, for the Trinity house, for all light-houses, beacons and buoys.
For I pray God for all those who have defiled themselves in matters inconvenient.
For I pray God for the introduction of new creatures into this island.
For I pray God for the ostriches of Salisbury Plain, the beavers of the Medway and silver fish of the Thames
For Charity is cold in the multitude of possession, and the rich are covetous of their crumbs.
For I pray to be accepted as a dog without offence, which is best of all.

Let Esdras bless Christ Jesus with a rose and his people, which is a nation of living sweetness

For there was no rain in Paradise because of the delicate construction of the spiritual herbs and flowers.
For the doubling of flowers is an improvement of the gardener’s talent.
For the flowers are great blessings.
For the Lord made a nosegay in the meadow with his disciples and preached upon the lily.
For the angels of God took it out of his hand and carried it to the height.
For a man cannot have public spirit who’s void of private benevolence.
For there is no height in which there is not flowers.
For flowers have great virtues for all senses.
For the flower glorifies God and the root parries the adversary.
For the flowers have their angels, even the  words of God’s Creation.
For the warp and woof of flowers are worked by perpetual moving spirits.
For flowers are good both for the living and the dead.
For there is a language of flowers.
For elegant phrases are nothing but flowers.
For flowers are particularly the poetry of Christ.
For flowers are medicinal.
For flowers are musical in ocular harmony.
For the right names of flowers are yet in heaven, God make gardeners better nomenclatures.
For the poor man’s nosegay is an introduction to a prince.
For flowers can see and the Pope’s carnations knew him.
For the art of agriculture is improving.
For this is evident in flowers.
For it is more especially evident and manifest in double flowers.
For earth will get it up again by the blessing of God on the industry of man.
For the Lord succeed my pink borders…

These are sections from an eighty-page poem, composed in the bughouse, at the time of Dr Samuel Johnson

[Audio for the above can be heard here beginning at approximately forty-two-and-a quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately fifty-two-and-a-half minutes]

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