Christopher Smart was born in 1722 and is best remembered for his religious poems A Song to David and Jubilate Agno, both of which were written during his time at St Luke’s Hospital for Lunatics, London. He believed that God created the universe using language, and therefore considered that the work of poets forges a direct connection to the Divine.

As well as writing poetry, during his career Smart wrote copy for magazines, produced translations, songs and satire. He won the Cambridge Seatonian Prize on five occasions, for poetry on ‘one or other of the perfections or attributes of the Supreme Being’. Modern admirers and imitators of his work include Allen Ginsberg, Peter Porter and Wendy Cope, while the composer Benjamin Britten used sections of Jubilate Agno in musical composition.

Smart incurred large debts during his lifetime, which ultimately saw him imprisoned at King’s Bench Prison, where he died in 1771.

Recording commissioned by the Poetry Archive, reproduced here with kind permission of the reader.

Poems by Christopher Smart

My cat, Jeoffry

Read by Daljit Nagra
My cat, Jeoffry - Christopher Smart - Read by Daljit Nagra

Books by Christopher Smart


Cambridge Seatonian Prize

Prize website