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Views & Reviews Between the Lines

Rhyme and reason

BMJ 2009; 338 doi: (Published 03 March 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b888
  1. Theodore Dalrymple, writer and retired doctor

    A connection between genius and madness has long been a romantic cliché and is no doubt responsible for a lot of wilful waywardness. If geniuses are eccentric, then perhaps eccentricity is a sign of, or might even result in, genius. Bad logic is, one might say, hardwired in the human psyche.

    But can the mad write good poetry? Christopher Smart wrote his peculiar but very moving and beautiful religious poem Jubilate Agno (Rejoice in the Lamb) while a patient in St Luke’s Hospital in the late 1750s, while he was in a state of manic excitement.

    Some of Ezra Pound’s Pisan Cantos, written nearly two centuries later, resemble Smart’s poem in tone. …

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