son (1600) Ben Jonson included "Slow, Slow, Fresh Fount" as a lyric in the first act of his satiric comedy Cynthia's Revels. The play was one used by Jonson in a heated rivalry to lampoon Thomas Dekker and John Marston, who had done the same to Jonson. It focused on the theme of self-love, and Jonson created a character named Criticus based on himself. Criticus must navigate through the company of arrogant men to the virtuous Cynthia, a representation of Queen Elizabeth I, upon whom Jonson focuses an additional song in the comedy, "Queen and Huntress." The poet incorporates aspects of myth with recognizable details of court intrigue and speculates upon the life of a virtuous man amid scoundrels and profligates. These fops and court toadies have extraordinary egos, inflated through proximity to the Fountain of Narcissus; Narcissus was a mythological character charmed by his own reflection and eventually transformed into a flower. Before his transformation Echo had loved him, and she sings, mourning his absence.
"Slow, Slow, Fresh Fount" remains a strong example of the use of form to reflect a poem's meaning. The lines are worded so as to make them move as slowly as the fount of Jonson's title. The first line opens with four equally stressed syllables, or double spondees, in pairs marked by alliteration, a difficult series to pronounce rapidly, which is followed by three iambs: "Slow, slow, fresh fount, keep time with my salt tears." The second line provides an even greater challenge to a quick tongue Jonson's word choice and arrangement. It suits the grieving manner of Echo: "Yet slower, yet, O faintly, gentle springs!" These heavy lines are followed by two lines of iambic pentameter that describe music as a "heavy part," employing marked alliteration. Jonson uses the w sound, an unusual choice for repetition, again because of its forced lengthy pronunciation when coupled with the required vowel: "Woe weeps out her division, when she sings." As Echo mourns the effects of her shower of grief upon the plants on which her tears fall, Jonson uses rhythm to emphasize her sentiment. Two short lines of iambic dimeter are followed by a single line of iambic trimeter, then a line that opens with a spondee in trimeter:
Droop herbs and flowers;
Fall grief in showers;
our beauties are not ours.
O, I could still.
The song concludes with three lines of varied length, the 10th line echoing the sound of melting snow, and the final line noting the withering of beauty. Recalling the myth of Narcissus, Jonson compares deflated pride to a flower trapped in freezing water from melting snow:
Like melting snow upon some craggy hill,
Drop, drop, drop, drop, Since nature's pride is now a withered daffodil.
Jonson retains focus on water imagery as a symbol of grief and death, rather than as the traditional symbol of new life or rebirth. He later incorporates into Cynthia's Revels aspects of the medieval masque in order to focus on the price of sin, reflected by Narcissus's punishment for his pride.
SMART, CHRISTOPHER (1722-1771) Christopher Smart was born at Shipborne in Kent. He moved to Durham at the age of 11 years when his father died. In 1742 he graduated with a B.A. from Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, as a classics scholar and won a Craven Scholarship. In addition to classical languages Smart could read and write Hebrew and gained a reputation as brilliant and insightful. His later work carried marked influences by Horace's Ars Poetica, an extremely challenging Latin work Smart translated in 1756. He was elected a Cambridge Fellow in 1745. Two years later he wrote, produced, and acted in The Grateful Fair, or, A Trip to Cambridge. However, in November that year, he appeared to be gripped by religious obsession, which expressed itself in public prayer. Falling to his knees to pray loudly in parks and on the streets, Smart was judged a nuisance and imprisoned for debt. His obsessive behavior increased, but he was released from prison and returned to Cambridge in 1748 with the support of dedicated friends.
Smart moved in 1749 to London, where he worked as an editor for the printer John Newbery and later married Newbery's stepdaughter, Anna Maria Carnan. From 1750 to 1753 Smart worked as editor of, and contributed to, The Student, or the Oxford and Cambridge Miscellany, as well as The Midwife, or, the Old Woman's Magazine. His behavior suggested an alcohol problem during 1751-52 when he wrote a revue, The Old Woman's Oratory, and performed in it during its staging at the Haymarket Theater. He won five consecutive Seatonian Prizes for poetry between 1750 and 1755, his subject matter always the Supreme Being. His Poems on Several Occasions (1752) was well received, but his satiric epic poem on Dr. John Hill titled The Hilliad published one year later proved unsuccessful. In 1753 he celebrated the birth of his first daughter, Marianne, or Polly, and a year later, that of his younger daughter, Elizabeth, or Bess. Information on Smart's activities between 1753 and 1755 remains scant. Although some writings still surface, critics believe they may have been written earlier and printed as needed. Although as his publisher Newbury should have been sending him funds, any income was probably intercepted by Smart's creditors. He did not enter the Seatonian competition in 1753 and may have been ill or traveling, fearing reprisal for his debts.
Although Smart published "Hymn to the Supreme Being" (1756), in which he praised God for healing him, his mental condition continued to deteriorate. The following year he was removed from his wife and children and intermittently confined to various institutions for the insane for several years, most often St. Luke's Hospital. He first left the hospital in 1758, although pronounced "uncured," but returned in 1759 to Mr. Potter's Private Madhouse in Bethnal Green. Anna Smart moved to Dublin and then on to Reading, where she managed the Reading Mercury.
Even while incarcerated, Smart continued to write. The mythology associated with the poet held that he sometimes composed on the walls of his rooms, scratching lines with a key. His mania revealed itself in his writing in cryptic and bold convolutions of form, pattern, pun, and use of numbers, and he continued to pray aloud and shout out at times. The creativity in his poetry proved undeniable, and Samuel Johnson, among others, became his friend and defender. His most exceptional poems included A Song to David (1763), still the most often discussed and anthologized of his works, and Jubilate Agno, translated Rejoice in the Lamb, reflecting the antiphonal style of the biblical Psalms and not published until 1939. The latter became an original among 18th-century poetry, an invocation on the divine patterns revealed in nature. Critics cite its sophisticated linguistics, unusual vocabulary, and prophetic nature. one of its more popular excerpts is the poem "My Cat Jeoffry," in which Smart describes his cat as an advocate and watchman for the Lord. He wrote the Jubilate Agno a few lines at a time in what critics describe as a scholarly notebook. In addition to describing similarities between
England and the biblical world, the piece acted as Smart's own testament to his faith.
When released from the hospital in 1762, Smart returned to a profligate lifestyle and was threatened with debtors' prison one year later. Additional writings included Translation of the Psalms of David (1765), The Works of Horace. Translated into Verse (1767), and The Parables of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, done into Familiar Verse, and Abimelech, an Oratorio, both published in 1768. Again incarcerated in 1770, this time in King's Bench Prison, he wrote Hymns for the Amusement of Children shortly before his 1771 death of "liver disorder." Although he knew he had not much longer to live, Smart invested his final poems with the same sense of joy and celebration afforded to all of his poems of praise. He dedicated it to the king's second son, Prince Frederick Augustus, but gained no royal support by doing so. The biographer Neil Curry notes that Smart's nephew wrote to a friend after his troubled uncle's death, "I trust he is now at peace; it was not his portion here."
Interest in Smart was renewed at the end of the 19th century through the efforts of Robert Browning, and by the 20th century Smart received deserved attention. For example, using psychoanalytic criticism, Clement Hawes writes of Jubilate Agno that the horn, a central image in this "jubilee" poem, reveals Smart's "preoccupation with and revision of the concept of cuck-oldry," as the poet believed his wife had been unfaithful to him. Hawes uses this idea to support Smart's inclusion of "wordplay" that he describes as "bawdy" in order "to reiterate his [Smart's] reconstructed masculinity." The brief but excellent biography by Neil Curry supplies solid critical consideration of the Jubilate Agno, The Psalms of David, A Song of David, Hymns and Spiritual Songs, and Hymns for the Amusement of Children. The 20th-century composer Benjamin Britten adopted the Jubilate for use in his festival cantata, "Rejoice in the Lamb."
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