Psalm 114

By Christopher Smart 1722–1771 Christopher Smart
When Israel came from Egypt’s coast,
   And Goshen’s marshy plains,
And Jacob with his joyful host
   From servitude and chains;

Then was it seen how much the Jews
   Were holy in his sight,
And God did Israel’s kingdom choose
   To manifest his might.

The sea beheld it, and with dread
   Retreated to make way;
And Jordan to his fountain head
   Ran backwards in dismay.

The mountains, like the rams that bound,
   Exulted on their base;
Like lambs the little hills around
   Skipt lightly from their place.

What is the cause, thou mighty sea,
   That thou thyself should shun;
And Jordan, what is come to thee,
   That thou should backward run?

Ye mountains that ye leaped so high
   From off the solid rock,
Ye hills that ye should gambols try,
   Like firstlings of the flock?

Earth, from the center to the sod
   His fearful presence hail
The presence of Jeshurun’s God,
   In whom our arms prevail.

Who beds of rocks in pools to stand
   Can by his word compel,
And from the veiny flint command
   The fountain and the well.

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Poet Christopher Smart 1722–1771


Subjects Religion, Faith & Doubt, God & the Divine, Judaism

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 Christopher  Smart


It is notable that beginning with Robert Browning, it has been poets rather than critics who have been the warmest and most perceptive admirers of the poetry of Christopher Smart. In a 1975 radio broadcast in Australia, Peter Porter spoke of Smart as "the purest case of man's vision prevailing over the spirit of his times." While it would be facile and unilluminating to characterize Smart as a proto-Romantic, there can be no . . .

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SUBJECT Religion, Faith & Doubt, God & the Divine, Judaism


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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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