- Christopher Smart’s English Lyrics: Translation in the Eighteenth Century by Rosalind Powell, and: Reading Christopher Smart in the Twenty-First Century: By Succession of Delight by Min Wild and Noel Chevalier (review)
- Christianity & Literature
- Johns Hopkins University Press
- Volume 66, Number 4, September 2017
- pp. 716-719
- View Citation
- Additional Information
Thus, all of the work (including Purgatorio and Paradiso) is revelation of eschatological and eternal importance. Unlike Augustine, Dante does not ﬁnd classical texts a distraction from truth and revelation; consequently, Dante synthesizes all great literature, pagan and Christian, in to a totalized ‘‘pragmatic’’ prophecy (316). Because the Divine Comedy is addressed directly to the reader, it, too, works as dialogue, but unlike Augustine’s dialogue with God where the reader may choose whether to seek personal application, Dante’s dialogue directly enjoins readers to pay attention, search for the depths of meaning below the surface content, and apply these revelations to their own lives. In this way, The Divine Comedy is more like direct biblical prophecy, such as that found in Isaiah and Jerimiah, than the poetical biblical works, and yet it is also poetry, with its generalizing power, and epic, with its conﬂuence of memory, past, present, and prophecy. In addition, this direct address makes the poem eternally present, as all readers who pick it up are the addressee, regardless of the epoch in which they live. In The Inferno, in particular, Dante must undergo a transformation from a poet who speaks the language of presumption to a poet who speaks the humble language of true, divine prophecy, and Franke’s close reading of The Inferno brilliantly traces this transformation through the levels of hell and Dante’s conversations with various suﬀerers. Franke concludes with a theoretical chapter in which he both synthesizes his various readings and addresses the place of his argument in the larger contemporary critical conversation, including those theories that reject out-of-hand any humanistic ideas regarding universality. He also addresses the consistently problematic concept of the literary canon, and does so with grace. Equating canonicity with ‘‘perennial relevance,’’ Franke asserts that ‘‘canonicity in this sense is not immobile or exclusive of innovation: it calls rather for continually new, creative interpretations or ‘applications’ of classic texts in contemporary contexts’’ (375). It is these new interpretations and applications that constitute the ongoing revelation available to readers of great books of literary imagination and make study of the humanities so deeply relevant and vital to the aims of higher education. Rebecca Dark Dallas Baptist University Christopher Smart’s English Lyrics: Translation in the Eighteenth Century. By Rosalind Powell. Farnham, UK, and Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing, 2014. ISBN 978-1-4724-3507-1. Pp. x + 209. $153.00. Reading Christopher Smart in the Twenty-First Century: ‘‘By Succession of Delight’’. By Min Wild and Noel Chevalier, eds. Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 2013. ISBN 978-1-61148-519-6. Pp. xiv + 259. $85.00. Christopher Smart is best known today for his poem ‘‘My Cat Jeoﬀry,’’ a section of his long poetic fragment, Jubilate Agno, which he composed during his conﬁnement 716 Christianity & Literature 66(4) in a madhouse (1759–63). This unusual poem, its 74 lines each beginning with the word ‘‘For,’’ not only portrays in loving detail Jeoﬀry’s activities but insists that ‘‘he is the servant of the Living God’’ and ‘‘knows that God is his Saviour.’’ Readers of Boswell will recall Samuel Johnson’s deep appreciation for Smart and sympathy for his lunacy: ‘‘My poor friend Smart shewed the disturbance of his mind, by falling upon his knees, and saying his prayers in the street, or in any other unusual place. . . . His inﬁrmities were not noxious to society. He insisted on people praying with him; and I’d as lief pray with Kit Smart as any one else.’’ Scholarship on the enigmatic Smart has always been necessarily limited, as he does not ﬁt neatly into any typical critical narrative of eighteenth-century poetry. However, Katrina Williamson and Marcus Walsh’s six-volume Poetical Works of Smart (Oxford University Press, 1980–96) paved the way for important studies: a signiﬁcant number of recent scholarly articles have been joined by several books, most notably Harriet Guest, A Form of Sound Words: The Religious Poetry of Christopher Smart (Oxford University Press, 1989); Clement Hawes, ed., Christopher Smart and the Enlightenment (St. Martin’s Press, 1999); and Chris Mounsey, Christopher Smart: Clown of God (Bucknell University Press, 2001). Because of...