Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. III. Addison to Blake
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Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. III. The Eighteenth Century: Addison to Blake
 
Extracts from A Song to David
By Christopher Smart (1722–1771)
 
O THOU that sit’st upon a throne,
With harp of high majestic tone,
  To praise the King of kings;
And voice of heaven-ascending swell,
Which, while its deeper notes excel,        5
  Clear as a clarion rings:
 
To bless each valley, grove and coast,
And charm the cherubs to the post
  Of gratitude in throngs;
To keep the days on Zion’s mount,        10
And send the year to his account
  With dances and with songs:
 
O servant of God’s holiest charge,
The minister of praise at large,
  Which thou may’st now receive;        15
From thy blest mansion hail and hear,
From topmost eminence appear
  To this the wreath I weave.
 
Great, valiant, pious, good, and clean,
Sublime, contemplative, serene,        20
  Strong, constant, pleasant, wise!
Bright effluence of exceeding grace;
Best man!—the swiftness and the race,
  The peril, and the prize!
 
Great—from the lustre of his crown,        25
From Samuel’s horn and God’s renown,
  Which is the people’s voice;
For all the host, from rear to van,
Applauded and embraced the man—
  The man of God’s own choice.        30
 
Valiant—the word and up he rose—
The fight—he triumphed o’er his foes,
  Whom God’s just laws abhor;
And armed in gallant faith he took
Against the boaster, from the brook,        35
  The weapons of the war.
 
Pious—magnificent and grand;
’Twas he the famous temple planned
  (The seraph in his soul);
Foremost to give his Lord his dues,        40
Foremost to bless the welcome news,
  And foremost to condole.
 
Good—from Jehudah’s genuine vein,
From God’s best nature good in grain,
  His aspect and his heart;        45
To pity, to forgive, to save;
Witness Engedi’s conscious cave,
  And Shimei’s blunted dart.
 
Clean—if perpetual prayer be pure,
And love, which could itself inure        50
  To fasting and to fear—
Clean in his gestures, hands, and feet,
To smite the lyre, the dance complete,
  To play the sword and spear.
 
Sublime—invention ever young,        55
Of vast conception, towering tongue
  To God th’ eternal theme;
Notes from yon exaltations caught,
Unrivalled royalty of thought
  O’er meaner strains supreme.        60
 
Contemplative—on God to fix
His musings, and above the six
  The sabbath-day he blest;
’Twas then his thoughts self-conquest pruned,
And heavenly melancholy tuned,        65
  To bless and bear the rest.
 
Serene—to sow the seeds of peace,
Remembering, when he watched the fleece,
  How sweetly Kidron purled—
To further knowledge, silence vice,        70
And plant perpetual paradise
  When God had calmed the world.
 
Strong—in the Lord, who could defy
Satan, and all his powers that lie
  In sempiternal night;        75
And hell, and horror, and despair
Were as the lion and the bear
  To his undaunted might.
 
Constant—in love to God the truth,
Age, manhood, infancy and youth—        80
  To Jonathan his friend
Constant, beyond the verge of death,
And Ziba and Mephibosheth
  His endless fame attend.
 
Pleasant—and various as the year;        85
Man, soul, and angel, without peer,
  Priest, champion, sage, and boy;
In armour or in ephod clad,
His pomp, his piety was glad;
  Majestic was his joy.        90
 
Wise—in recovery from his fall,
Whence rose his eminence o’er all,
  Of all the most reviled;
The light of Israel in his ways,
Wise are his precepts, prayer and praise        95
  And counsel to his child.
 
His muse, bright angel of his verse,
Gives balm for all the thorns that pierce,
  For all the pangs that rage;
Blest light, still gaining on the gloom,        100
The more than Michal of his bloom,
  Th’ Abishag of his age.
 
He sung of God—the mighty source
Of all things—the stupendous force
  On which all strength depends;        105
From whose right arm, beneath whose eyes,
All period, power and enterprise
  Commences, reigns, and ends.
 
Angels—their ministry and meed,
Which to and fro with blessings speed,        110
  Or with their citterns wait;
Where Michael with his millions bows,
Where dwells the seraph and his spouse,
  The cherub and her mate.
 
Of man—the semblance and effect        115
Of God and Love—the Saint elect
  For infinite applause—
To rule the land, and briny broad,
To be laborious in his laud,
  And heroes in his cause.        120
 
The world—the clustering spheres He made,
The glorious light, the soothing shade,
  Dale, champaign, grove and hill;
The multitudinous abyss,
Where secrecy remains in bliss,        125
  And wisdom hides her skill.
 
Trees, plants, and flowers—of virtuous root;
Gem yielding blossom, yielding fruit,
  Choice gums and precious balm;
Bless ye the nosegay in the vale,        130
And with the sweetness of the gale
  Enrich the thankful psalm.
 
Of fowl—e’en every beak and wing
Which cheer the winter, hail the spring,
  That live in peace or prey;        135
They that make music, or that mock,
The quail, the brave domestic cock,
  The raven, swan, and jay.
 
Of fishes—every size and shape
Which nature frames of light escape,        140
  Devouring man to shun:
The shells are in the wealthy deep,
The shoals upon the surface leap,
  And love the glancing sun.
 
Of beasts—the beaver plods his task,        145
While the sleek tigers roll and bask,
  Nor yet the shades arouse;
Her cave the mining coney scoops;
Where o’er the mead the mountain stoops
  The kids exult and browse.        150
 
Of gems—their virtue and their price,
Which hid in earth from man’s device,
  Their darts of lustre sheathe;
The jasper of the master’s stamp,
The topaz blazing like a lamp        155
  Among the mines beneath.
*        *        *        *        *
O David, highest on the list
Of worthies, on God’s ways insist,
  The genuine word repeat:
Vain are the documents of men,        160
And vain the flourish of the pen
  That keeps the fool’s conceit.
 
Praise above all—for praise prevails:
Heap up the measure, load the scales,
  And good to goodness add:        165
The generous soul her favour aids,
But peevish obloquy degrades;
  The Lord is great and glad.
 
For adoration all the ranks
Of angels yield eternal thanks,        170
  And David in the midst;
With God’s good poor, which, last and least
In man’s esteem, thou to thy feast,
  O blessed bridegroom, bidst.
 
For adoration seasons change,        175
And order, truth, and beauty range,
  Adjust, attract, and fill:
The grass the polyanthus checks;
And polished porphyry reflects,
  By the descending rill.        180
 
Rich almonds colour to the prime
For adoration; tendrils climb,
  And fruit-trees pledge their gems;
And Ivis 1 with her gorgeous vest
Builds for her eggs her cunning nest,        185
  And bell-flowers bow their stems.
*        *        *        *        *
Sweet is the dew that falls betimes,
And drops upon the leafy limes;
  Sweet Hermon’s fragrant air:
Sweet is the lily’s silver bell,        190
And sweet the wakeful tapers smell
  That watch for early prayer.
 
Sweet the young nurse with love intense,
Which smiles o’er sleeping innocence;
  Sweet when the lost arrive:        195
Sweet the musician’s ardour beats,
While his vague mind ’s in quest of sweets,
  The choicest flowers to hive.
 
Sweeter in all the strains of love
The language of thy turtle dove        200
  Paired to thy swelling chord;
Sweeter with every grace endued
The glory of thy gratitude
  Respired unto the Lord.
 
Strong is the horse upon his speed;        205
Strong in pursuit the rapid glede, 2
  Which makes at once his game:
Strong the tall ostrich on the ground;
Strong thro’ the turbulent profound
  Shoots xiphias 3 to his aim.        210
 
Strong is the lion—like a coal
His eyeball—like a bastion’s mole
  His chest against the foes;
Strong, the gier-eagle on his sail,
Strong against tide th’ enormous whale        215
  Emerges as he goes.
 
But stronger still, in earth and air,
And in the sea, the man of prayer;
  And far beneath the tide;
And in the seat to faith assigned,        220
Where ask is have, where seek is find,
  Where knock is open wide.
 
Beauteous the fleet before the gale;
Beauteous the multitudes in mail,
  Ranked arms and crested heads:        225
Beauteous the garden’s umbrage mild,
Walk, water, meditated wild,
  And all the bloomy beds.
 
Beauteous the moon full on the lawn;
And beauteous, when the veil’s withdrawn,        230
  The virgin to her spouse:
Beauteous the temple decked and filled,
When to the heaven of heavens they build
  Their heart-directed vows.
 
Beauteous, yea beauteous more than these,        235
The shepherd-king upon his knees
  For his momentous trust;
With wish of infinite conceit,
For man, beast, mute, the small and great,
  And prostrate dust to dust.        240
 
Precious the bounteous widow’s mite;
And precious, for extreme delight,
  The largess from the churl:
Precious the ruby’s blushing blaze,
And alba’s 4 blest imperial rays,        245
  And pure cerulean pearl.
 
Precious the penitential tear;
And precious is the sigh sincere,
  Acceptable to God:
And precious are the winning flowers,        250
In gladsome Israel’s feast of bowers,
  Bound on the hallowed sod.
 
More precious that diviner part
Of David, even the Lord’s own heart,
  Great, beautiful, and new;        255
In all things where it was intent,
In all extremes, in each event
  Proof—answering true to true.
 
Glorious the sun in mid career;
Glorious th’ assembled fires appear;        260
  Glorious the comet’s train:
Glorious the trumpet and alarm;
Glorious th’ almighty stretched-out arm;
  Glorious th’ enraptured main:
 
Glorious the northern lights astream;        265
Glorious the song, when God’s the theme;
  Glorious the thunder’s roar:
Glorious hosanna from the den;
Glorious the catholic amen;
  Glorious the martyr’s gore:        270
 
Glorious—more glorious is the crown
Of Him that brought salvation down,
  By meekness call’d thy Son;
Thou at 5 stupendous truth believed,
And now the matchless deed’s achieved,        275
  Determined, dared, and done.
 
Note 1. The humming bird. [back]
Note 2. The kite. [back]
Note 3. The sword-fish. [back]
Note 4. Rev. xxi. 11 (?). [back]
Note 5. Or that (?). [back]
 
 
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