Watching (Smart)

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

WATCHING.


At every tempter's first essay,
Be sure to watch, be sure to pray;[1]
For this great requisite the Lord
Has strongly urg'd upon record.

5 Yea this he strongly urg'd to all,
A warning common as his call;
Then who can his behest revere,
And not obey in heed and fear?[2]

Had the good man been on his guard,
10 His doors and windows duly barr'd,
He wou'd not, by the Lord advis'd,
Have lost his all, and been surpriz'd.[3]

Had this command been fully weigh'd,
Peter his Lord had not betray'd;
15 But spite of all his mighty boast,
He fail'd, and slept upon his post.[4]

Sleep not — but watch the chamber well,
By sleeping Holofernes fell;[5]
And Jael's memorable nail,
20 Did o'er a sleeping king prevail.[6]

"Behold, I come" — come quickly then,
Thou Saviour of the souls of men;
For pray'r and hymns are mine employ,
Who long for ever-wakeful joy.[7]


1771


Notes

As Karina Williamson notes: "The leading signification of Watching here is the Vigil, originally a nocturnal service of prayer held before certain Church festivals, esp. Easter <...>. But three other senses are embraced in the hymn: keeping alert against temptation (lines 1—2); guarding against enemies (9—12, 18— 20); and looking forward to (12—22)".

  1. 2. See Mark. 14:38, Christ's injunction to his disciples in the garden of Gethsemane: "Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak".
  2. 8. Printed "fear?" (ed. 1786); "fear." (ed. 1771, 1772, 1772a, 1775).
  3. 9—12. See Matt. 24:43—4: "43 But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. 44 Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh." This Christ's parable was a warning to his disciples to watch for the Christ's second coming.
  4. 13—16. Peter slept instead of keeping watch in the garden of Gethsemane, and then denied Jesus.
  5. 18. Holofernes was beheaded by Judith during his sleep. See Judith 13.
  6. Jael's murder of Sisera, see Judg. 4:18—22.
  7. 21—24. See Mark. 13:33—7; Rev. 22:7: "Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book".
This work was published before January 1, 1923, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.