Melancholy (Smart)

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Hymn XXIV. Melancholy  (1771) 
by Christopher Smart
From the Hymns for the Amusement of Children (1771).
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                 HYMN XXIV.                 

MELANCHOLY.


O pluck me quick the raven's quill,
      And I will set me down,
My destin'd purpose to fulfil,
But with this interrupted skill,
      5 Of thought and grief profound.

How to begin, and how depart,
      From this sad fav'rite theme,
The man of sorrow in my heart,[1]
I at my own ideas start,
      10As dread as Daniel's dream,[2]

As soon as born the infant cries,
      For well his spirit knows,
A little while, and then he dies,
A little while, and down he lies,
      15To take a stern repose.[3]

But man's own death is not th'event,
      For which most tears are due;
Wife, children, to the grave are sent,
Or friends, to make the heart repent
      20That it such blessings knew.

O thou, which[4] on the mountain's brow,
      By night didst pray alone;[5]
In the cold night didst pay thy vow
And in humiliation bow,
      25To thrones and pow'rs thine own.

Tell us, for thou the best can tell,
      What Melancholy means?
A guise in them that wear it well,
That goes to music to dispel
      30Dark thoughts and gloomier scenes.

Say, didst thou solitude desire,
      Or wert thou driv'n away,
By rank desertion to retire,
Without or bed, or food, or fire,
      35For all thy foes to pray.

Yet thou didst preach of future bliss,
      Peace permanent above,
Of truth and mercy's[6] holy kiss,
Those joys, which none that love thee miss,
      40O give us grace to love.




Notes

  1. 8. The man of sorrow — the Messiah. Cf. Isaiah 53:3: "He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not".
  2. 10. Prophet Daniel had a dreadful dream described in the 7th chapter of his book. See Daniel 7:1—15: "I Daniel was grieved in my spirit in the midst of my body, and the visions of my head troubled me".
  3. 11—15. See Wisdom of Solomon 7:3—6: "And when I was born, I drew in the common air... and the first voice which I uttered was crying, as all others do... For all men have one entrance into life, and the like going out".
  4. 21. O thou, which — in the ed. 1786 corrected to O Thou, who.
  5. The reference is to Christ's "withdrawal to the Mount of Olives on the eve of the Crucifixion" (Karina Williamson).
  6. 38. Of truth and mercy's — in the ed. 1786 corrected to Of Truth and Mercy's.
This work was published before January 1, 1923, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.