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The world, the clustering spheres he made,
Dale, champaign, grove and bill:
And wisdom hides her skill.
And smitten to the heart,
Replied, "O Lord Thou Art."
In the same year he published a smaller miscellany of poems on several occasions, at the conclusion of which he complains again of the Reviewers, and betrays that irritability of self-conceit which is frequently observed to precede, and sometimes to accompany derangement of mind. In other respects these poems added little to his fame, and, except one or two, have not been reprinted. In 1764, he published Hannah, an oratorio, the music of which was composed by Worgan, and soon after, in the same year, an Ode to the Earl of Northumherland, on his being appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, with some other pieces. In all these his imagination, although occasionally fine, went often into wild excesses, and evinced that his mind had never recovered its sober tone. In his intervals of health and regularity, he still continued to write, and although he perhaps formed too high an opi. nion of his effusions, he spared no labour when employed by the booksellers, and formed, in conjunction with them, many schemes of literary industry which he did not live to accomplish. In 1765, he published a poetical translation of the Fables of Phædrus, with the appendix of Gudrics, and an accurate original text on the opposite page. This translation appears to be executed with neatness and fidelity, but has never become popular. His translation of the Psalms, which followed, in
the same year, affords a melancholy proof of want of judgment and decay of powers. Many of his psalms scarcely rise above the level of Sternhold and Hopkins, and they had the additional disadvantage of appearing at the same time with Merrick's more correct and chaste translation.
In 1767, Smart executed a design hinted at by Dr. Hawkesworth, by republishing his Horace, with a metrical translation, in which, although we find abundance of inaccuracies, irregular rhymes, and redundancies, there are some passages con ceived in the true spirit of the original. His last publication, in 1768, exbibited a more striking proof of want of judgment than any of his late performances. It was entitled the Parables of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, done into familiar verse, with occasional applications for the use of younger minds. This was dedicated to Master Bonnel George Thornton, a child of three years old, and is written in that species of verse which would be tolerated only in the nursery.
In what manner he lived during these years, his biographer has not informed us : but at length he was confined for debt in the King's Bench prison, the rules of which were obtained for him by his brother-in-law Mr. Thomas Carnan. Here he died, after a short illness, occasioned by a disorder in his liver, May 13th, 1770.
In 1791, a collection of his poetical pieces was formed, to which were prefixed some memoirs of his life collected from his relations. Of these much use is made in the present sketch, but it has been found necessary to employ considerable research in supplying the want of proper dates, and other circumstances illustrative of the literary history of a man, who, with all his failings, bad many amiable qualities, and certainly the genius of a real poet. Of his personal character, the following particulars yet remain to be added from the Memoirs.
His piety was exemplary and fervent; it may not be uninteresting to the reader to be told, that, Mr. Smart, in composing the religious poems, was frequently so impressed with the sentiment of devotion, as to write particular passages on his knees.
He was friendly, affectionate, and liberal to excess ; so as often to give that to others, of wbich he was in the utmost want himself: he was also engaging in conversation, when his first shyness was worn away; which he had, in common with literary men, but in a very remarkable degree. Having undertaken to introduce his wife to lord Darlington, with whom he was well acquainted ; he had no sooner mentioned her name to his lord. ship, than he retreated suddenly, as if stricken with a panic, from the room, and from the house, leaving her to follow, overwhelmed with confusion.
As an instance of the wit of his conversation, the following extemporary spondiac, descriptive of the three Bedels of the University, who were at that time all very fat men, is still remeinbered by his academical acquaintance.
Pinguia tergeminorum abdomina Bedellorum. This line he afterwarıls inserted in one of his poems for the Tripos.
As a poet, Smart exhibits indubitable proofs of genius, but few of a correct taste, and appears te have seldom exercised much labour, or employed cool judgment in preparing his works for the pub. lic. Upon the whole, therefore, he is most successful in his lighter pieces, his odes, his songs, and fables. Of his odes, that on Ill Nature; the Morning, Noon, and Night pieces, particularly the last, if the epigrammatic turn at the conclusion does not disappoint the pensive reader, may be cited as productions of rich and original fancy, nor will it detract much from their praise that they sometimes remind us of Milton. His fables are entitled to higher
praise, for ease of versification and delicacy of humour; and although he may have departed from the laws which some critics have imposed on this species of composition, by giving reason to inanimate objects, it will be difficult, by any laws, to con vince the reader that he ought not to be delighted with the Tea-pot and the Scrubbing-brush, the BagWig and the Tobacco-pipe, or the Brocaded-Gown and the Linen Rag.
In his religious poems, written for the Seatonian prize, there is much to commend, and where we are most disposed to blame, the fault perhaps is in the expectation that such subjects can be treated with advantage. In the preface to his St. Cecilia, he allows "the choosing too high subjects has been the ruin of many a tolerable genius ;” and Dr. Johnson, with majestic energy, remarks that “ whatever is great, desirable, or tremendous, is comprised in the name of the Supreme Being. Omnipotence cannot be exalted; Infinity cannot be amplified; Perfection cannot be improved.”
The Hymn to the Supreme Being, is, in truth, a composition of great pathos and sublimity.