30 May 2008

rejoice in the lamb

I’m singing a concert in New York City next week. It’s called Benjamin Britten Blast, and we’re performing “Rejoice in the Lamb,” “Abraham & Isaac,” and “St. Nicolas.” Beautiful pieces. I’ve never sung “Rejoice in the Lamb” or “St. Nicolas,” so am enjoying learning them.

I was going over my music tonight, listening to a CD of “Rejoice” and following along with the tenor solo:
For the flowers are great blessings.
For the flowers have their angels even the words of God’s Creation.
For the flower glorifies God and the root parries the adversary.
For there is a language of flowers.
For flowers are peculiarly the poetry of Christ.

The text for “Rejoice in the Lamb” is by Christopher Smart (1722–1771), a poet who developed somewhat of a mania for religion. He was confined to various asylums and madhouses from about 1756 to 1763, during which time he wrote the two poems for which he’s best known, “A Song to David” and “Jubliate Deo,” which was the inspiration for “Rejoice.” In addition to the gorgeous section above, Smart wrote about his cat Jeoffry (Joy, I thought you’d like this):

For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry.
For he is the servant of the Living God, duly and daily serving him.
For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in his way.
For this is done by wreathing his body seven times round with elegant quickness.
For he knows that God is his Saviour.
For God has blessed him in the variety of his movements.
For there is nothing sweeter than his peace when at rest.
For I am possessed of a cat, surpassing in beauty, from whom I take occasion to bless Almighty God.

This is a person who loves his cat!

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