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The Nativity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
Christopher Smart

Where is this stupendous stranger,
Swains of Solyma, advise?                 [shepherds of Judaea, advise]
Lead me to my Master's manger,
Show me where my Saviour lies.
O Most Mighty! O Most Holy!
Far beyond the seraph's thought,
Art thou then so mean and lowly        [mean=weak]
As unheeded prophets taught?
O the magnitude of meekness!
Worth from worth immortal sprung;
O the strength of infant weakness,
If eternal is so young!
If so young and thus eternal,
Michael tune the shepherd's reed,
Where the scenes are ever vernal,
And the loves be Love indeed!
See the God blasphem'd and doubted
In the schools of Greece and Rome;
See the pow'rs of darkness routed,
Taken at their utmost gloom.
Nature's decorations glisten
Far above their usual trim;
Birds on box and laurels listen,
As so near the cherubs hymn.
Boreas now no longer winters            [Boreas is the god of the north wind]
On the desolated coast;
Oaks no more are riv'n in splinters
By the whirlwind and his host.
Spinks and ouzels sing sublimely,      [spinks and ouzels are types of birds]
"We too have a Saviour born";
Whiter blossoms burst untimely
On the blest Mosaic thorn.
God all-bounteous, all-creative,
Whom no ills from good dissuade,
Is incarnate, and a native
Of the very world He made.
From Hymns and Spiritual Songs for the Fasts and Festivals of the Church of England (London, 1765)



Though Christopher Smart (1722 - 1771) was a respected poet and satirist who influenced more than a few other writers, he was better known during his lifetime for drunkenness and debt than for creativity. He distinguished himself as a Latin scholar during his school days, but instead of taking the academic path many anticipated for him, “Kit,” as he was known to his family and friends, made a career of writing and editing copy for various London magazines, and occasionally composed songs for local theatrical productions. He started writing poetry in college but didn’t publish a collection until he was thirty. Married and the father of two daughters by that time, Christopher ended up in an asylum a few years later when he developed a penchant for falling on his knees in public places to pray loud and earnest prayers. There was much debate among his friends and foes as to whether Christopher was truly “mad,” but everyone agrees that his best work was produced during those times of confinement, which continued throughout the latter half of his life. A man of great religious zeal even before his fits of prayer, Christopher had a deep affection for animals, particularly his cat, and for nature and gardening. All three of those passions are frequent themes in his poetry.



Post New Comment:
I love this! They threw many people in asylums in other centuries for what we would not consider abnormal behavior now.
Posted 01/06/2015 05:41 PM
Thank you for sharing and annotating this, Jayne.
Posted 01/06/2015 01:37 AM
Plenty of religious zeal! Glad he mentioned the ouzels!
Posted 01/06/2015 01:17 AM

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