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(319) 25-27. These lines were evidently written before the news reached England that the treaty of peace between England and America had been signed in Paris, in September, 1783; "The Task" was begun in the summer of that year. ¶28-30. Clive and Hastings had recently been laying the foundation of England's empire in India, partly by acts which aroused the indignation of justice-loving Englishmen and brought Hastings to trial before the House of Lords in 1788.

(319) Winter Scenes in the Country. Book V. 21-57. ¶2. bents-stiff, wiry grasses. (320) 26. lurcher: a hunting dog, a cross between a shepherd-dog and a greyhound. (320) The Bastile. Book V. 379-445. 14. 5. See Exod. 20:2.

(321) 22-25. See Dan. 4:10-15.

(322) 66. the Manichean God: Manicheism, an old Babylonish nature religion modified by Christian elements, taught that the Evil Principle was coeternal with the Good Principle and that it made man.

(322) Set Not Thy Foot on Worms. Book VI. 560-80.

(323) ON THE Death of MRS. THROCKMORTON'S BULLFINCH. The Throckmortons, a cultivated family of Roman Catholics, were neighbors of Cowper at Olney, with whom he had much pleasant companionship. ¶7. Rhenus- the Rhine.

(324) ON THE RECEIPT OF MY MOTHER'S PICTURE. "I have lately received from a female cousin of mine in Norfolk, .... a picture of my own mother. She died when 1 wanted two days of being six years old; yet I remember her perfectly, find the picture a strong likeness of her, and, because her memory has been ever precious to me, have written a poem on the receipt of it: a poem which, one excepted, I had more pleasure in writing than any that I ever wrote."-Letter to Mrs. King, March 12, 1790.

(325) 14. lost so long: fifty-two years before.

(326) 53. the pastoral house: the rectory, where Cowper was born, in the town of Great Berkhamstead, Hertfordshire. ¶67. humour-whims, caprice.

(327) 97. The line is quoted incorrectly from Garth's "Dispensary" (1699), III. 226, "Where billows never break, nor tempests roar." ¶98. thy loved consort: Cowper's father died in 1756. ¶ 108. My boast is not: Cowper means that, although it is the fact, he does not boast of it; on his mother's side he was descended from several noble houses, and through them from Henry III.

(327) THE CASTAWAY. The poem is based on an incident in Lord George Anson's Voyage round the World (1748), which Cowper had read years before. The poet's state of mind, due to his insane delusion that he had lost the favor of God forever, will be seen in the following extract from his letter to Newton, written on April 11, 1799, three weeks after writing the poem: "If it [a book Newton had sent him] afforded me any amusement, or suggested to me any reflections, they were only such as served to embitter, if possible, still more the present moment by a sad retrospect to those days when I thought myself secure of an eternity to be spent with the spirits of such men as He Whose life afforded the subject of it. But I was little aware of what I had to expect, and that a storm was at hand which in one terrible moment would darken, and in another still more terrible blot out, that prospect forever."

(328) 19. had would have.


"He says what is incontrovertible, and what has already been said over and over, with much gravity, but says nothing new, sprightly, or entertaining, travelling on a plain, level, flat road, with great composure, almost through the whole long and tedious volume, which is little better than a dull sermon, in very indifferent verse, on Truth, the Progress of Error, Charity, and some other grave subjects."-The Critical Review, April, 1782.

"He is a poet sui generis; for as his notes are peculiar to himself, he classes not with any known species of bards that have preceded him; his style of composition, as well as his modes of thinking, are entirely his own. The ideas with which his mind seems to have been

either endowed by nature or to have been enriched by learning and reflection, as they lie in no regular order, so are they promiscuously brought forth as they accidently present themselves. Mr. Cowper's predominant turn of mind, though serious and devotional, is at the same time dryly humorous and sarcastic. Hence his very religion has a smile that is arch, and his sallies of humor an air that is religious; and yet, motley as is the mixture, it is so contrived as to be neither ridiculous nor disgusting. His versification is almost as singular as the materials upon which it is employed. Anxious only to give each image its due prominence and relief, he has wasted no unnecessary attention on grace or embellishment; his language, therefore, though neither strikingly harmonious nor elegant, is plain, forcible, and expressive."-The Monthly Review, October, 1782.

"The relish for reading poetry had long since left me; but there is something so new in the manner, so easy and yet so correct in the language, so clear in the expression yet concise, and so just in the sentiments, that I have read the whole with great pleasure, and some of the pieces more than once. I beg you to accept my thankful acknowledgements, and to present my respects to the author."-Benjamin Franklin, in a letter to John Thornton, May 8, 1782. (Thornton, a friend of Cowper's friend William Unwin, had sent Franklin a copy of Cowper's first volume.)

"Seldom have we seen the utile and the dulce so agreeably united. . . . . The poet of nature and humanity, and the minstrel of the groves, the rural strains of Mr. Cowper, in particular, emulate those of Thomson and Shenstone in the most glowing imagery of rural description, and the warmest sensibility of a good heart. The reader may observe that the blank verse of this writer has more harmony and variety than are usually found in modern performances, being founded apparently on the best models, on those of Milton and Philips. The sound, too, is often most strikingly an echo of the sense."-The Gentleman's Magazine, December, 1785, in a review of "The Task."

"An eminent writer has said that all men, at one time or other of their lives, are poets. That unfortunate moment has accordingly been laid hold of; and many, who might have lived respected as good citizens and men of sense, proclaim themselves dunces for the sake of being ranked in the number of poets. While we are thus heavily taxed by dullness and vanity, we have a singular pleasure in announcing to the public the works of a poet of the first rank. From the former volume of Mr. Cowper's poems, in 1782, there was every reason to expect works of a higher nature, nor have the public been disappointed. Whatever pleasure results to the reader of taste from the effusions of fancy, the liveliest strokes of a fine imagination, whatever embellishment philosophy and sound sense can receive from elegant versification, from vigorous and well-adapted metaphor, is to be found in 'The Task.'. . . . The whole consists of reflections and strictures, serious, humorous, satirical, and moral, each subject introducing the next with seeming ease. Few topics of public notoriety have escaped his notice. His poetry, consequently, puts on various shapes, being descriptive, pathetic, familiar, and didactic, according to the present subject. With regard to the merit of the whole, it is that of uniform excellence, in the perusal of which the reader is led on imperceptibly and every subject begets an impatience for that which is to succeed."--The English Review, April, 1786.

"Mr. Cowper possesses strong powers of ridicule, and nature formed him for a satirist of the first order. He sees folly under every disguise, and knows how to raise a laugh at her expense, either by grave humor or more sportive raillery. He is alive to every feeling of compassion, and spares none that violate the laws of humanity... . . The great defect of the present poem is a want of unity of design. It is composed of reflections that seem independent of one another, and there is no particular subject either discussed or aimed at. . . . . An imagination like Mr. Cowper's is not to be controlled and confined within the bounds that criticism prescribes. We cannot, however, avoid remarking that his Muse sometimes passes too suddenly from grave and serious remonstrance to irony and ridicule. The heart that is harrowed and alarmed in one line is not prepared to smile in the next. . . . . But the defects

of this poem bear a very small proportion to its beauties; and its beauties are of no common account. They are happily conceived and forcibly expressed. Its language is the natural and unforced result of his conceptions; and though it is sometimes careless and prosaic, and seldom rich or ornamented, yet it is vigorous and animated, and carries the thought home to the heart with irresistible energy."-The Monthly Review, June, 1786.

'How do you like Cowper? Is not 'The Task' a glorious poem? The religion of 'The Task,' bating a few scraps of Calvinistic divinity, is the religion of God and nature, the religion that exalts, that ennobles man."-Robert Burns, in a letter to Mrs. Dunlop, December 25, 1795.


For the meaning of words see Glossary to Scotch Poems, p. 509.

(329) THE DAFT DAYS. The days so called are Christmas, the last day of the year, New Year's Day, and the first Monday of the year, which were celebrated with wild festivity. (330) 19. Auld Reikie: Edinburgh; so called from its smoke. ¶ 35. Spa: a wateringplace in Belgium, famous for its medicinal springs.

(331) 45. Italian tricks: Italian tunes and modes of playing; cf. Burns, "The Cotter's Saturday Night," l. 115 (p. 356). ¶48. "Tullochgorum": an old Scotch tune; see p. 335 for the most famous words to it.


(334) 45. Like Tantalus: "Moreover, I beheld Tantalus in grievous torment, standing in a mere, and the water came nigh unto his chin. And he stood straining as one athirst, but he might not attain to the water to drink of it; for often as that old man stooped down in his eagerness to drink, so often the water was swallowed up and it vanished away.' ."—Odyssey, xi. 582 ff., Butcher and Lang's translation. ¶56. lauds: a part of the morning service of the Roman Catholic Church; so called from the psalms of praise (Pss. 148-50) which form a part of the service.


"Though it cost the schoolmaster some thrashings, I made an excellent English scholar; and by the time I was ten or eleven years of age I was a critic in substantives, verbs, and particles. In my infant and boyish days, too, I owe much to an old woman who resided in the family, remarkable for her ignorance, credulity, and superstition. She had, I suppose, the largest collection in the country of tales and songs concerning devils, ghosts, fairies, brownies, witches, warlocks, spunkies, kelpies, elf-candles, dead-lights, wraiths, apparitions, cantraips, giants, enchanted towers, dragons, and other trumpery. This cultivated the latent seeds of poetry; but had so strong an effect on my imagination that to this hour, in my nocturnal rambles, I sometimes keep a sharp look-out in suspicious places. . . . . The first two books I ever read in private, and which gave me more pleasure than any two books I ever read since, were The Life of Hannibal and The History of Sir William Wallace; the story of Wallace poured a Scottish prejudice into my veins which will boil along there till the floodgates of life shut in eternal rest. . . . . What I know of ancient story was gathered from Salmon's and Guthrie's Geographical Grammars; and the ideas I had formed of modern manners of literature and criticism I got from The Spectator. These, with Pope's works, some plays of Shakespeare, Tull and Dickson on Agriculture, The Pantheon, Locke's Essay on the Human Understanding, Stackhouse's History of the Bible, Justice's British Gardener's Directory, Boyle's Lectures, Allan Ramsay's works, Taylor's Scripture Doctrine of Original Sin, A Select Collection of English Songs, and Hervey's Meditations, had formed the whole of my reading [at sixteen]. The collection of songs was my vade mecum. I pored over them, driving my cart or walking to labor, song by song, verse by verse, carefully noting the true, tender, or sublime from affectation and fustian. I am convinced I owe to this practice much of my critic-craft, such as it is. . . . . My life flowed on much in the same course till my


twenty-third year. 'Vive l'amour, et vive la bagatelle,' were my sole principles of action. The addition of two more authors to my library gave me great pleasure; Sterne and Mackenzie-Tristram Shandy and The Man of Feeling-were my bosom favorites. Poesy was still a darling walk for my mind, but it was only indulged in according to the humor of the hour. I had usually half a dozen or more pieces on hand; I took up one or other, as it suited the momentary tone of the mind, and dismissed the work as it bordered on fatigue. My passions, when once lighted up, raged like so many devils till they got vent in rhyme; and then the conning over my verses, like a spell, soothed all into quiet."-Letter to Dr. Moore, August 2, 1787. "For my own part, I never had the least thought or inclination of turning poet till I got once heartily in love, and then rhyme and song were in a manner the spontaneous language of my heart. The following composition ["O, once I loved a bonie lassie"] was the first of my performances. . . . . The seventh stanza has several minute faults; but I remember I composed it in a wild enthusiasm of passion, and to this hour I never recollect it but my heart melts, my blood sallies, at the remembrance."-Commonplace Book, 1783-85. "'Laddie lie near me,' must lie by me for some time. I do not know the air; and until I am master of a tune, in my own singing (such as it is), I can never compose for it. My way is: I consider the poetic sentiment correspondent to my idea of the musical expression; then choose my theme; begin one stanza; when that is composed, which is generally the most difficult part of the business, I walk out, sit down now and then, look out for objects in nature round me that are in unison or harmony with the cogitations of my fancy and workings of my bosom, humming every now and then the air, with the verses I have framed. When I feel my Muse beginning to jade, I retire to the solitary fireside of my study, and there commit my effusions to paper, swinging at intervals on the hind legs of my elbow chair, by way of calling forth my own critical strictures, as my pen goes on. Seriously, this, at home, is almost invariably my way."-Letter to Thomson, September, 1793. "All my poetry is the effect of easy composition but of laborious correction."

For the meaning of words see Glossary to Scotch Poems, p. 509.

(338) MY NANIE, O. "As I have been all along a miserable dupe to love, and have been led into a thousand weaknesses and follies by it, for that reason I put the more confidence in my critical skill in distinguishing foppery and conceit from real passion and nature. Whether the following song will stand the test, I will not pretend to say, because it is my own; only I can say it was, at the time, real."-Burns's Commonplace Book. ¶1. Lugar: "Stinchar" in all editions published during the poet's lifetime; but in a letter to Thomson (October 20, 1792) he says, "The name of the river is horribly prosaic," and suggests "Girvan" and "Lugar" as substitutes. adding, "Girvan is the river that suits the idea of the stanza best, but 'Lugar' is the most agreeable modulation of syllables."

(339) THE HOLY FAIR. ''Holy Fair' is a common phrase in the west of Scotland for a sacramental occasion."-Burns. "The satire is chiefly concerned with the 'tent-preaching' outside the church while the communion services went on within. In Mauchline the preaching-tent was pitched in the church-yard, whence a back entrance gave access to Nanse Tinnock's tavern; and the sacrament was observed once a year, on the second Sunday in August." -Henley and Henderson. The stanza is an old one in Scotch poetry: it is a simplified form of the stanza in "Christ's Kirk on the Green," of the fifteenth century; and in a modernized version of that poem, published in 1706, the stanza is the same that Burns uses. ¶ 1-54. Cf. Fergusson's "Leith Races," ll. 1-45:

In July month, ae bonny morn,
Whan Nature's rokelay green
Was spread o'er ilka rigg o' corn,

To charm our roving een,
Glouring about I saw a quean,
The fairest 'neath the lift;
Her een ware o' the siller sheen,
Her skin like snawy drift,
Sae white that day.

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(340) 41. Mauchline: the town where Burns married Jean Armour; Mossgiel Farm, where he lived for a time, is near by.

(341) 66. black-bonnet: the elder who had charge of the collection-plate, at the entrance usually wore a black bonnet.

(342) 91. The line is taken from the Scotch metrical version of Ps. 146:2, and may have been sung at the meeting.

(343) 131. Antonine: Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (121-80 A. D.), the Roman emperor and Stoic philosopher. 138. frae the water-fit: the clergyman referred to, who, like all the others mentioned, was a real person and well known in the region, lived at Newton on the river Ayr. ¶ 143. Cowgate: "A street so called, which faces the tent in Mauchline."-Burns. 145. Wee Miller: Alexander Miller, who was short and stout.

(344) 184. Black Russell: John Russell, minister at Kilmarnock, a man of dark visage, thundering voice, and stern temper. 188. "sauls does harrow": Burns cites Hamlet, doubtless referring to Act I. v. 15, 16:

I could a tale unfold whose lightest word
Would harrow up thy soul.

(346) THE TWA DOGS. The poem was written partly in memory of Burns's dog Luath, who had just died. ¶ 2. auld King Coil: Kyle, the middle district of Ayrshire is supposed to have been named from this mythical Pictish king. ¶ 11. some place: Newfoundland. 27. some dog in Highland sang: "Cuchullin's dog in Ossian's Fingal."-Burns.

(347) 65. whipper-in: the servant who by his whip keeps the dogs from wandering

during a hunt.

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