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'I'll clamber o'er this stile so high,
And you climb after me.'
She could no further go;
A spectacle and show.
Both show your horsemanship;
Your horse will need no whip.""
“The Rose" was written in 1783, and was first published in the Gentleman's Magazine for June, 1785. It has been suggested that it was intended as a criticism on Newton's attitude toward the poet.
THE DOVES “The Doves" was written in 1780, and the manuscript sent to Mrs. Newton with the following explanatory note: “The male dove was smoking a pipe, and the female dove was sewing, while she delivered herself as above. This little circumstance may lead you perhaps to guess what pair I had in my eye.”
The pair referred to were Mr. and Mrs. Bull, friends of Cowper.
ODE TO APOLLO The date of the composition of the “Ode to Apollo" seems uncertain; it first appeared in print in the 1794 edition of Cowper's poems.
Apollo was the sun-god, and also presided over the Muses.
19. Iris. Rainbow. In classical mythology, Iris was the personification of the rainbow.
25. Phoebus. One of the names by which Apollo was known; it signifies light and life.
THE DOG AND THE WATER-LILY
“The Dog and the Water-Lily” was probably written in 1788, for in a letter to Lady Hesketh dated June 27 of that year, the poet tells of the incident. “I must tell you a feat of my dog Beau. Walking by the riverside, I observed some water-lilies floating at a little distance from the bank. They are a large white flower, with an orange-colored eye, very beautiful. I had a desire to gather one, and having your long cane in my hand, by the help of it endeavored to bring one of them within my reach. But the attempt proved vain, and I walked forward. Beau had all the while observed me attentively. Returning soon after, toward the same place, I observed him plunging into the river, while I was about forty yards distant from him; and when I had nearly reached the spot he swam to land with a lily in his mouth, which he came and laid at my feet.”
2. Ouse's silent tide. Ouse, a river in eastern England which flows into the Wash, an arm of the North Sea.
7. Two nymphs. 'Sir Robert Gunning's daughters.” (Author's note.)
“The Shrubbery” was written in 1773. The grove referred to was at Weston. (See Introduction, page xix.)
THE NEGRO'S COMPLAINT “The Negro's Complaint” and the two following poems, “Pity for Poor Africans” and “The Morning Dream,” were written in 1788. William Benham, in commenting on them, says: “The agitation on the slave trade was now in iull force. Cowper, in his poem 'Charity,' had written on
the righteous side. His relatives now begged him to write a poem on the subject. He declined this, but wrote the following ballads, with a view to getting them sung to popular airs. "The Morning Dream, for example, was intended to be sung to the tune of 'Tweedside.' None of these were published until 1803, after the poet's death." Slavery was abolished in all English territory in 1833.
PITY FOR POOR AFRICANS
The motto, “Video meliora proboque,” etc., is from Ovid, and, translated, reads as follows:
“I see and approve the right,
Metamorphoses, Bk. VII, 11. 20–21.
THE NIGHTINGALE AND GLOW-WORM
“The Nightingale and Glow-Worm was written in 1780. In a letter forwarding the manuscript of the poem to Unwin, Cowper wrote: “I only premise that in the philosophical tract in the Register, I found it asserted that the glowworm is the nightingale's food."
THE PINEAPPLES AND THE BEE
“The Pineapples and the Bee” was written in 1779. It was addressed to Mrs. Hill, who had given Cowper the seeds from which he grew his pineapples.
SUPPOSED TO BE WRITTEN BY ALEX
Supposed to be Written by Alexander Selkirk” was written in 1782. William Benham in his edition of Cowper's poems gives the following account of Selkirk;
“He was born in 1676, quarrelled with his family and went to sea, and his adventures on the island of Juan Fernandez (off the coast of Chili) are said to have furnished the materials for De Foe's great fiction. .. After his return home, he pined for his island again, and would see no one, only going out of doors after dark. After staying nine months at home, he went away again, and was never more heard of.”
ODE TO PEACE
The Ode to Peace” was written in 1773, just before Cowper had his second attack of insanity.
THE MODERN PATRIOT
“The Modern Patriot” was written in 1780, and was intended for a description of Edmund Burke, whose attitude toward the American colonies and the Roman Catholics had displeased the poet. Cowper afterwards admitted that his criticism was unjust.
REPORT OF AN ADJUDGED CASE
The “Report of an Adjudged Case" was written in 1780, and the manuscript sent in letters to Unwin and Hill, friends of Cowper. To Hill he wrote: “I have heard of common law judgments before now, indeed have been present at the delivery of some that, according to my poor apprehension, while they paid the utmost respect to the letter of a statute, have departed widely from the spirit of it; and being governed entirely by the point of law, have left equity, reason, and common sense behind them at an infinite distance. You will judge whether the following report of a case, drawn up by myself, be not a proof and illustration of this satirical assertion."
The original manuscript, now in the British Museum, has the following superscription:
Nose Plf; Eyes Deft.
THE LILY AND THE ROSE
“The Lily and the Rose” was probably written in 1780. 15. Flora's hand. Flora, goddess of flowers and gardens.
20. Parterre. “An ornamental and diversified arrangement of beds or plots, in which flowers are cultivated, with intervening spaces of gravel or turf for walking on." (Webster's Dictionary.)
28. They reign united there. The English coat-of-arms contains both the lily and the rose.
THE POPLAR FIELD
"The Poplar Field” was first published in the Gentleman's Magazine for January, 1785. In a letter to Lady Hesketh dated May 1, 1786, Cowper gives the following account of its origin: “There was some time since, in a neighboring parish called Lavendon, a field one side of which formed a terrace, and the other was planted with poplars, at whose foot ran the Ouse, that I used to account a little paradise. But the poplars have been felled, and the scene has suffered so much by the loss that, though still in point prospect beautiful, it has not charms sufficient to attract me now."
4. Ouse. See note on l. 2, “The Dog and the WaterLily.”
17–20. 'Tis a sight to engage me, if anything can, etc. Cowper afterwards altered this last stanza in the following
“The change both my heart and my fancy employs,