Verse > Anthologies > Harvard Classics > English Poetry II: From Collins to Fitzgerald
   English Poetry II: From Collins to Fitzgerald.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
301. A Song to David
Christopher Smart (1722–1770)
O THOU, that sitt’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 cost,
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 mayst 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 the 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 plann’d,
  (The seraph in his soul:)
Foremost to give the 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 En-gedi’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 the 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 blessed;
’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,
  The Abishag of his age.
He sang 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—even 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 sheath;
The jasper of the master’s stamp,
The topaz blazing like a lamp,        155
  Among the mines beneath.
Blest was the tenderness he felt,
When to his graceful harp he knelt,
  And did for audience call;
When Satan with his hand he quelled,        160
And in serene suspense he held
  The frantic throes of Saul.
His furious foes no more maligned
As he such melody divined,
  And sense and soul detained;        165
Now striking strong, now soothing soft,
He sent the godly sounds aloft,
  Or in delight refrained.
When up to heaven his thoughts he piled,
From fervent lips fair Michal smiled,        170
  As blush to blush she stood;
And chose herself the queen, and gave
Her utmost from her heart—‘so brave,
  And plays his hymns so good.’
The pillars of the Lord are seven,        175
Which stand from earth to topmost heaven;
  His Wisdom drew the plan;
His Word accomplished the design,
From brightest gem to deepest mine,
  From CHRIST enthroned to Man.        180
Alpha, the cause of causes, first
In station, fountain, whence the burst
  Of light and blaze of day;
Whence bold attempt, and brave advance,
Have motion, life, and ordinance,        185
  And heaven itself its stay.
Gamma supports the glorious arch
On which angelic legions march,
  And is with sapphires paved;
Thence the fleet clouds are sent adrift,        190
And thence the painted folds that lift
  The crimson veil, are waved.
Eta with living sculpture breathes,
With verdant carvings, flowery wreathes,
  Of never-wasting bloom;        195
In strong relief his goodly base
All instruments of labour grace,
  The trowel, spade, and loom.
Next Theta stands to the supreme—
Who formed in number, sign, and scheme,        200
  The illustrious lights that are;
And one addressed his saffron robe,
And one, clad in a silver globe,
  Held rule with every star.
Iota’s tuned to choral hymns        205
Of those that fly, while he that swims
  In thankful safety lurks;
And foot, and chapiter, and niche,
The various histories enrich
  Of God’s recorded works.        210
Sigma presents the social droves
With him that solitary roves,
  And man of all the chief;
Fair on whose face, and stately frame,
Did God impress His hallowed name,        215
  For ocular belief.
Omega! greatest and the best,
Stands sacred to the day of rest,
  For gratitude and thought;
Which blessed the world upon his pole,        220
And gave the universe his goal,
  And closed the infernal draught.
O David, scholar of the Lord!
Such is thy science, whence reward,
  And infinite degree;        225
O strength, O sweetness, lasting ripe!
God’s harp thy symbol, and thy type
  The lion and the bee!
There is but One who ne’er rebelled,
But One by passion unimpelled,        230
  By pleasures unenticed;
He from himself hath semblance sent,
Grand object of his own content,
  And saw the God in Christ.
Tell them, I AM, Jehovah said        235
To Moses; while earth heard in dread,
  And, smitten to the heart,
At once above, beneath, around,
All Nature, without voice or sound,
  Replied, ‘O Lord, THOU ART.’        240
Thou art—to give and to confirm,
For each his talent and his term;
  All flesh thy bounties share:
Thou shalt not call thy brother fool:
The porches of the Christian school        245
  Are meekness, peace, and prayer.
Open and naked of offence,
Man’s made of mercy, soul, and sense:
  God armed the snail and wilk;
Be good to him that pulls thy plough;        250
Due food and care, due rest allow
  For her that yields thee milk.
Rise up before the hoary head,
And God’s benign commandment dread,
  Which says thou shalt not die:        255
‘Not as I will, but as Thou wilt,’
Prayed He, whose conscience knew no guilt;
  With Whose blessed pattern vie.
Use all thy passions! love is thine,
And joy and jealousy divine;        260
  Thine hope’s eternal fort,
And care thy leisure to disturb,
With fear concupiscence to curb,
  And rapture to transport.
Act simply, as occasion asks;        265
Put mellow wine in seasoned casks;
  Till not with ass and bull:
Remember thy baptismal bond;
Keep thy commixtures foul and fond,
  Nor work thy flax with wool.        270
Distribute; pay the Lord His tithe,
And make the widow’s heart-strings blithe;
  Resort with those that weep:
As you from all and each expect,
For all and each thy love direct,        275
  And render as you reap.
The slander and its bearer spurn,
And propagating praise sojourn
  To make thy welcome last;
Turn from old Adam to the New:        280
By hope futurity pursue:
  Look upwards to the past.
Control thine eye, salute success,
Honour the wiser, happier bless,
  And for their neighbour feel;        285
Grutch not of mammon and his leaven,
Work emulation up to heaven
  By knowledge and by zeal.
O David, highest in the list
Of worthies, on God’s ways insist,        290
  The genuine word repeat!
Vain are the documents of men,
And vain the flourish of the pen
  That keeps the fool’s conceit.
Praise above all—for praise prevails;        295
Heap up the measure, load the scales,
  And good to goodness add:
The generous soul her Saviour aids,
But peevish obloquy degrades;
  The Lord is great and glad.        300
For Adoration all the ranks
Of Angels yield eternal thanks,
  And David in the midst:
With God’s good poor, which, last and least
In man’s esteem, Thou to Thy feast,        305
  O Blessed Bridegroom, bidst.
For Adoration seasons change,
And order, truth, and beauty range,
  Adjust, attract, and fill:
The grass the polyanthus checks;        310
And polished porphyry reflects,
  By the descending rill.
Rich almonds colour to the prime
For Adoration; tendrils climb,
  And fruit-trees pledge their gems;        315
And Ivis, with her gorgeous vest,
Builds for her eggs her cunning nest,
  And bell-flowers bow their stems.
With vinous syrup cedars spout;
From rocks pure honey gushing out,        320
  For Adoration springs:
All scenes of painting crowd the map
Of nature; to the mermaid’s pap
  The scalèd infant clings.
The spotted ounce and playsome cubs        325
Run rustling ’mong the flowering shrubs.
  And lizards feed the moss;
For Adoration beasts embark,
While waves upholding halcyon’s ark
  No longer roar and toss.        330
While Israel sits beneath his fig,
With coral root and amber sprig
  The weaned adventurer sports;
Where to the palm the jasmine cleaves,
For Adoration ’mong the leaves        335
  The gale his peace reports.
Increasing days their reign exalt,
Nor in the pink and mottled vault
  The opposing spirits tilt;
And by the coasting reader spied,        340
The silverlings and crusions glide
  For Adoration gilt.
For Adoration ripening canes,
And cocoa’s purest milk detains
  The western pilgrim’s staff;        345
Where rain in clasping boughs enclosed,
And vines with oranges disposed,
  Embower the social laugh.
Now labour his reward receives,
For Adoration counts his sheaves,        350
  To peace, her bounteous prince;
The nect’rine his strong tint imbibes,
And apples of ten thousand tribes,
  And quick peculiar quince.
The wealthy crops of whitening rice        355
’Mongst thyine woods and groves of spice,
  For Adoration grow;
And, marshalled in the fencèd land,
The peaches and pomegranates stand,
  Where wild carnations blow.        360
The laurels with the winter strive;
The crocus burnishes alive
  Upon the snow-clad earth;
For Adoration myrtles stay
To keep the garden from dismay,        365
  And bless the sight from dearth.
The pheasant shows his pompous neck;
And ermine, jealous of a speck,
  With fear eludes offence:
The sable, with his glossy pride,        370
For Adoration is described,
  Where frosts the waves condense.
The cheerful holly, pensive yew,
And holy thorn, their trim renew;
  The squirrel hoards his nuts;        375
All creatures batten o’er their stores,
And careful nature all her doors
  For Adoration shuts.
For Adoration, David’s Psalms,
Lift up the heart to deeds of alms;        380
  And he, who kneels and chants,
Prevails his passions to control,
Finds meat and medicine to the soul,
  Which for translation pants.
For Adoration, beyond match,        385
The scholar bullfinch aims to catch
  The soft flute’s ivory touch:
And, careless, on the hazel spray
The daring redbreast keeps at bay
  The damsel’s greedy clutch.        390
For Adoration, in the skies,
The Lord’s philosopher espies
  The dog, the ram, and rose;
The planets’ ring, Orion’s sword;
Nor is his greatness less adored        395
  In the vile worm that glows.
For Adoration, on the strings
The western breezes work their wings,
  The captive ear to soothe—
Hark!’tis a voice—how still, and small—        400
That makes the cataracts to fall,
  Or bids the sea be smooth!
For Adoration, incense comes
From bezoar, and Arabian gums,
  And from the civet’s fur:        405
But as for prayer, or e’er it faints,
Far better is the breath of saints
  Than galbanum or myrrh.
For Adoration, from the down
Of damsons to the anana’s crown,        410
  God sends to tempt the taste;
And while the luscious zest invites
The sense, that in the scene delights,
  Commands desire be chaste.
For Adoration, all the paths        415
Of grace are open, all the baths
  Of purity refresh;
And all the rays of glory beam
To deck the man of God’s esteem
  Who triumphs o’er the flesh.        420
For Adoration, in the dome
Of CHRIST, the sparrows find a home;
  And on his olives perch:
The swallow also dwells with thee
O Man of GOD’S humility,        425
  Within his Saviour’s Church.
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,        430
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:        435
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,        440
  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;        445
Strong in pursuit the rapid glede,
  Which makes at once his game:
Strong the tall ostrich on the ground;
Strong through the turbulent profound
  Shoots Xiphias to his aim.        450
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 the enormous whale        455
  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,        460
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;        465
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,        470
  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,        475
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.        480
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 blest imperial rays,        485
  And pure cerulean pearl.
Precious the penitential tear;
And precious is the sigh sincere;
  Acceptable to God:
And precious are the winning flowers,        490
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;        495
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 the assembled fires appear;        500
  Glorious the comet’s train:
Glorious the trumpet and alarm;
Glorious the Almighty’s stretched-out arm;
  Glorious the enraptured main:
Glorious the northern lights a-stream;        505
Glorious the song, when God’s the theme;
  Glorious the thunder’s roar:
Glorious Hosannah from the den;
Glorious the catholic Amen;
  Glorious the martyr’s gore:        510
Glorious,—more glorious,—is the crown
Of Him that brought salvation down,
  By meekness called Thy Son;
Thou that stupendous truth believed;—
And now the matchless deed’s achieved,        515
  Determined, Dared, and Done.


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