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“Now farewell grief, and welcome joy
Once more unto my heart;
For since I have found thee, lovely youth,
We never more will part.'
(1731–1800.) Born at Great Berkhampstead, in Hertfordshire, and educated at Westminster. When only six years old he lost his mother. He was intended for the bar, but was totally unfit for public life. A profound melancholy settled on him, resulting in periodical attacks of madness. In 1766 went to live with a kind and cheerful family, named Unwin, first at Huntingdon, and afterwards at Olney (Bucks). Fifty years old when he began to write poetry; indeed, the whole of the works of this gentle and retiring poet were composed in the intervals of reason, which he had between the year 1780, and that of his death in 1800, four years after the death of his devoted friend, Mary Unwin. Cowper's principal poems are, Table Talk; Hope; The Progress of Error; The Task; John Gilpin; Verses to his Mother's Picture ; a translation of Homer, etc. Cowper is also distinguished as a Letter writer.
ON THE RECEIPT OF MY MOTHER'S
Oh that those lips had language ! Life hath passed
With me but roughly since I heard thee last :
Those lips are thine—thine own sweet smiles I see,
The same that oft in childhood solaced me.
Voice only fails ; else, how distinct they say,
“ Grieve not, my child; chase all thy fears away!
The meek intelligence of those dear eyes
(Blest be the art that can immortalise,
The art that baffles Time's tyrannic claim
To quench it) here shines on me still the same.
Faithful remembrancer of one so dear,
Oh welcome guest, though unexpected here,
Who bidd'st me honour with an artless song
Affectionate, a mother lost so long !
I will obey,—not willingly alone,
But gladly, as the precept were her own :
And while that face renews my filial grief,
Fancy shall weave a charm for my relief,—
Shall steep me in Elysian reverie,
A momentary dream that thou art she.
My mother ! when I learnt that thou wast dead,
Say wast thou conscious of the tears I shed ?
Hovered thy spirit o'er thy sorrowing son,
Wretch even then, life's journey just begun?
Perhaps thou gavest me, though unseen, a kiss;
Perhaps a tear, if souls can weep in bliss.
Ah, that maternal smile ! it answers-Yes.
I heard the bell tolled on thy burial day,
I saw the hearse that bore thee slow away,
And, turning from my nursery window, drew
A long, long sigh, and wept a last adieu !
But was it such ? It was. Where thou art gone
Adieus and farewells are a sound unknown :
May I but meet thee on that peaceful shore,
The parting word shall pass my lips no more !
Thy maidens, grieved themselves at my concern,
Oft gave me promise of a quick return :
What ardently I wished, I long believed,
And, disappointed still, was still deceived;
By hopes unfounded every day beguiled,
Dupe of to-morrow even from a child.
Thus many a sad to-morrow came and went,
Till, all my stock of infant sorrow spent,
I learnt at last submission to my lot,
But, though I less deplored thee, ne'er forgot.
Oh for a lodge in some vast wilderness,
Some boundless contiguity of shade,
Where rumour of oppression and deceit,
Of unsuccessful or successful war,
Might never reach me more ! My ear is pained,
My soul is sick with every day's report
Of wrong and outrage with which Earth is filled.
There is no flesh in man's obdurate heart,
It does not feel for man; the natural bond
Of brotherhood is severed, as the flax
That falls asunder at the touch of fire.
He finds his fellow guilty of a skin
Not coloured like his own; and having power
To enforce the wrong, for such a worthy cause
Dooms and devotes him as his lawful prey.
Lands intersected by a narrow frith
Abhor each other. Mountains interposed
Make enemies of nations, who had else
Like kindred drops been mingled into one.
Thus man devotes his brother, and destroys;
And, worse than all, and most to be deplored
As human nature's broadest, foulest blot,
Chains him, and tasks him, and exacts his sweat
With stripes, that mercy with a bleeding heart
Weeps when she sees inflicted on a beast.
Then what is man? And what man seeing this,
And having human feelings, does not blush
And hang his head, to think himself a man?
I would not have a slave to till my ground,
To carry me, to fan me while I sleep,
And tremble when I wake, for all the wealth
That sinews bought and sold have ever earned.
No : dear as freedom is, and in my heart's
Just estimation prized above all price,
I had much rather be myself the slave
And wear the bonds, than fasten them on him.
We have no slaves at home.—Then why abroad?
And they themselves once ferried o'er the wave
That parts us, are emancipate and loosed.
Slaves cannot breathe in England ; if their lungs
Receive our air, that moment they are free,
They touch our country and their shackles fall.
That's noble, and bespeaks a nation proud
And jealous of the blessing. Spread it then,
And let it circulate through every
Of all your empire ! that where Britain's power
Is felt, mankind may feel her mercy too.
GOD THE AUTHOR OF NATURE.
THERE lives and works A soul in all things, and that soul is God. The beauties of the wilderness are His, That make so gay the solitary place, Where no eye sees them. And the fairer forms, That cultivation glories in, are His. He sets the bright procession on its way, And marshals all the order of the year ; He marks the bounds which winter may not pass, And blunts its pointed fury; in its case, Russet and rude, folds up the tender germ Uninjured, with inimitable art; And, ere one flowery season fades and dies, Designs the blooming wonders of the next. The Lord of all, Himself through all diffused, Sustains, and is the life of all that lives. Nature is but a name for an effect, Whose cause is God. One spirit-His, Who wore the platted thorns with bleeding brows, Rules universal nature ! not a flower But shows some touch, in freckle, streak, or stain,
Of His unrivalled pencil. He inspires
Their balmy odours, and imparts their hues,
And bathes their eyes with nectar, and includes,
In grains as countless as the sea-side sands,
The forms with which He sprinkles all the earth.
Happy who walks with Him! whom what he finds
Of flavour or of scent, in fruit or flower,
Or what he views of beautiful or grand
In Nature, from the broad majestic oak
To the green blade that twinkles in the sun,
Prompts with remembrance of a present God.
THE DIVERTING HISTORY OF
JOHN GILPIN was a citizen
Of credit and renown,
A train-band captain eke was he
Of famous London town.
John Gilpin's spouse said to her dear,
“Though wedded we have been
These twice ten tedious years, yet we
No holiday have seen.
To-morrow is our wedding-day,
And we will then repair
Unto the Bell at Edmonton,
All in a chaise and pair.
My sister, and my sister's child,
Myself, and children three,
Will fill the chaise ; so you must ride
On horseback after we.”
He soon replied, “I do admire
Of womankind but one,
And you are she, my dearest dear;
Therefore it shall be done.