Hooting Yard: Jubilate Agno

Jubilate Agno is a long poem by Christopher Smart. It was written between 1758 and 1763, during which time Smart was incarcerated in Mr Potter’s private madhouse in Bethnal Green. He had been admitted there after a stay in St Luke’s Hospital for the Insane, where he had been sent due to a religious mania the chief symptom of which was a compulsion to pray in public.

Smart had long been thought one of the minor religious poets of the 18th century, best known for the Song To David. Jubilate Agno itself was unknown until an edition was published in 1939 under the title Rejoice In The Lamb : A Song From Bedlam. But it was the 1954 edition edited by W H Bond which gave us the poem in its accepted form, and which has led to Smart being hailed as a great original, and his poem much more than simply the ravings of a lunatic.Jubilate Agno is divided into four fragments, the second of which is subdivided again in the edition from which this reading is taken. It is, in the words of one writer, a vast hymn of praise, glorifying God and his creation. So, with that in mind, listen carefully to what may be the first complete reading of the entire poem on the radio – if anyone knows of any other broadcasts, please let us know,

Jubilate Agno is read by Frank Key and Germander Speedwell. It will be broadcast at mid-day on the 27th December 2007.