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Their sedgy bosoms his wide couch are made, The rage of tempests, and the roar of seas,
And groves of willows give him all their shade. Thy terrour, this thy great superior please;
His
eye
drinks Jordan

up,

when fir'd with drought Strength on his ample shoulder sits in state ; He trusts to turn its current down his throat;

His well-join'd limbs are dreadfully complete; In lessen'd waves it creeps along the plain :

His flakes of solid flesh are slow to part; He sinks a river, and he thirsts again.

As steel his nerves ; as adamant his heart. “Go the Nile, and, from its fruitful side,

" When, late awak'd, he rears him from the Cast forth thy line into the swelling tide:

floods, With slender hair leviathan command,

And, stretching forth his stature to the clouds, And stretch his vastness on the loaded strand.

Writhes in the sun aloft his scaly height, Will he become thy servant ? Will he own

And strikes the distant hills with transient light, Thy lordly nod, and tremble at thy frown?

Far round are fatal damps of terrour spread, Or with his sport amuse thy leisure day,

The mighty fear, nor blush to own their dread. And, bound in silk, with thy soft maidens play? Large is his front; and, when his burnish'd eyes

“Shall pompous banquets swell with such a prize? | Lift their broad lids, the morning seems to rise. And the bowl journey roand his ample size?

In vain may death in various shapes invade, Or the debating merchants share the prey,

The swift-wing'd arrow, the descending blade; And various limbs to various marts convey?

His naked breast their impotence defies ; Through his firm skull what steel its way can win? The dart rebounds, the brittle falchion flies. What forceful engine can subdue his skin?

Shut in himself, the war without he hears, Fly far, and live; tempt nut his matchless might: Safe in the tempest of their rattling spears ; The bravest shrink to cowards in his sight;

The cumber'd strand their wasted volleys strow; The rashest dare not rouse him up: Who then His sport, the rage and labour of the foe. Shall turn on me, among the sons of men?

His pastimes like a cauldron boil the flood, “Am I a debtor? Hast thou ever heard

And blacken ocean with the rising mud; Whence comes the gifts that are on me conferr'd 3 The billows feel him, as he works his way; My lavish fruit a thousand valleys fills,

His hoary footsteps shine along the sea; And mine the herds that graze a thousand hills : The foam high-wrought with white divides the Earth, sea, and air, all Nature is my own;

green, And stars and sun are dust beneath my throne. And distant sailors point where Death has been. And dar'st thou with the World's great Father vie, His like Earth bears not on her spacious face; Thou, who dost tremble at my creature's eye?

Alone in Nature stands his dauntless race, At full my large leviathan shall rise,

For utter ignorance of fear renown'd,
Boast all his strength, and spread his wondrous size. In wrath he rolls his baleful eye around;
Who, great in arms, e'er stripp'd his shining mail, Makes every swoln disdainful heart subside,
Or crown'd his triumph with a single scale ?

And holds dominion o'er the sons of pride."
Whose heart sustains him to draw near? Behold, Then the Chaldæan eas'd his labouring breast,
Destruction yawns; his spacious jaws unfold, With full conviction of his crime opprest.
And marshall'd round the wide expanse, disclose “ Thou canst accomplish all things, Lord of Might!
Teeth edg'd with death, and crowding rows on rows : And every thought is naked to thy sight.
What hideous fangs on either side arise!

But, oh! thy ways are wonderful, and lie And what a deep abyss between them lies !

Beyond the deepest reach of mortal eye. Mete with thy lance, and with thy plummet sound,

Oft have I heard of thine almighty power; The one how long, the other how profound.

But never saw thee till this dreadful hour. His bulk is charg'd with such a furious soul,

O'erwhelm'd with shame, the Lord of Life I see, That clouds of smoke from his spread nostrils roll, Abhor myself, and give my soul to thee. As from a furnace; and, when rous'd his ire, Nor sball my weakness tempt thine anger more: Fate issues from his jaws in streams of fire.

Man is not made to question, but adore."

COWPER'S POETICAL WORKS.

THE LIFE OF WILLIAM, COWPER.

WILLIAM COWPER was born in 1731, at Great intervals of comfort between long paroxysms of set: Berkhampstead, Herts; but in the early part of his tled despondency. life, he displayed none of that poetic genius which After a residence of a year and a half with Dr. usually shines forth in those who pay their adoration Cotton, he spent part of his time at the house of his to the Muses; nor was it until he had considerably relation, Earl Cowper, and part at Huntingdon, with passed the meridian of his days that the public had an his intimate friend, the Rev. Mr. Unwin. The death opportunity of knowing him as a poet of distinguished of the latter caused his widow to remove to Olney, in excellence. Dr. John Cowper, Rector of Berkbamp- Buckinghamshire, which was thenceforth the principal stead, and nephew of the Lord Chancellor Cowper, place of Cowper's residence. At Olney he contracted was his father; under whose tuition William made a close friendship with the Rev. Mr. Newton, then some progress in the rudiments of literature; but the minister there, and since rector of St. Mary Wool. great classical knowledge, and the correct taste for noth, London, whose religious opinions were in unison which he afterwards became celebrated, were acquired with his own. To a collection of hymns published by at Westminster School. Contrary, however, to the him, Cowper contributed a considerable number of effect generally produced on youth by being educated his own composition. He first became known to the at a public school, it appears that Cowper never be public as a poet by a volume printed in 1782; the came possessed of that confident and undaunted spirit contents of which, if they did not at once plaće him which is there so often generated; but, from his poem high in the scale of poetic excellence, sufficiently entitled “ Tirocinium,” that the impressions made established his claim to originality. Its topics are, upon his mind from what he witnessed in tbis place,

“ Table Talk,” “ Error,” “ Truth," “ Expostulation," were such as gave him a permanent dislike to the “ Hope," “ Charity," “ Conversation," and " Retire. system of public education. Soon after his leaving ment;" all treated upon religious principles, and not Westminster, he was articled to a solicitor in London without a considerable tinge of that rigour and austefor three years; but so far from studying the law, herity which belonged to his system. These pieces are spent the greatest part of his time with a relation, written in rhymed heroics, and the style, though often where he and the future Lord Chancellor (Lord Thur- prosaic, is never flat or insipid; and sometimes the low) spent their time, according to his own expres true poet breaks through, in a vein of vigorous and sion, "in giggling, and making giggle.” At the expi- lively description. ration of his time with the solicitor, he took cham His next volume, published in 1785, introduced bis bers in the Temple, but his time was still little em name to all the lovers of poetry, and gave him at least ployed on the law, and was rather engaged in classi. an equality of reputation with any of his contemporacal pursuits.

ries. It consists of a poem in six books, entitled So timid was the disposition of Cowper, and so “ The Task;" alluding to the injunction of a lady to very weak his spirits, that when his friends had pro write a piece in blank verse, for the subject of wbich cured him a nomination to the offices of reading-clerk she gave him The Sofa. It sets out, indeed, with and clerk of the Private Committees in the House of some sportive discussion of this topic; but soon falls Lords, he shrunk with such terror from the idea of into a serious strain of rural description, intermixed making his appearance before the most august assem with moral sentiments and portraitures, which is prebly in the nation, that, after a violent struggle with served through the six books, freely ranging from himself, he resigned his intended employment, and thought to thought with no pereeptible method. with it all his prospects in life. In fact, he became For the purpose of losing in employment the discompletely deranged ; and in this situation was placed, tressing ideas which were ever apt to recur, he next in December, 1763, about the 32d year of his age, undertook the real task of translating into blank verse with Dr. Cotton, an amiable and worthy physician at the whole of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey. This work St. Alban’s. This agitation of his mind is placed by has much merit of execution, and is certainly a far some who have mentioned it to the account of a deep more exact representation of the ancient poet than consideration of his state in a religious view, in which Pope's ornamental version; but where simplicity of the terrors of eternal judgment so much overpowered matter in the original is not relieved by the force of his faculties, that he remained seven months in mo sonorous diction, the poverty of English blank-verse mentary expectation of being plunged into final mi. has scarcely been able to prevent it from sinking into sery. Mr. Johnson, however, a near relation, has mere prose. Various other translations denoted his taken pains to prove to demonstration, that these views necessity of seeking employment; but nothiag was of his condition were so far from producing such an capable of durably relieving his mind from the horrieffect, that they ought to be regarded as his sole con ble impressions it had undergone. He passed some solation. It appears, however, that his mind had ac. of his latter years under the affectionate care of a required such an indelible tinge of melancholy, that his lation at East Dereham, in Norfolk, where he died whole successive life was passed with little more than on April 25th, 1800.

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167

THE POETICAL WORKS OF WILLIAM COWPER.

THE TASK.

BOOK I.

THE SOFA.

ARGUMENT.

Hístorical deduction of seats, from the stool to the sofa. A school-boy's ramble. A walk in the country. The scene described. Rural sounds as well as sights delightful. Another walk. Mistake concerning the charms of Solitude corrected. Colonnades commended. Alcove, and the view from it. The wilderness. The grove. The thresher. The necessity and the benefit of exercise. The works of nature superior to, and, in some instances, inimitable by, art. The wearisomeness of what is commonly called a life of pleasure. Change of scene sometimes expedient. A common described, and the character of Crazy Kate introduced. Gipsies. The blessings of civilized life. That state most favourable to virtue. The South-Sea islanders compassionated, but chiefly Omai. His present state of mind supposed. Civilized life friendly to virtue, but not great cities. Great cities, and London in particular, allowed their due praises, but censured. Fête-champêtre. The book concludes with a reflection on the fatal effects of dissipation and effeminacy upon our public meesures.

I sing the Sofa. I, who lately sang
Truth, Hope, and Charity, and touch'd with awe
The solemn chords, and with a trembling hand,
Escap'd with pain from that advent'rous flight,
Now seek repose upon an humbler theme;
The theme though humble, yet august and proud
Th' occasion--for the Fair commands the song.

Time was, when clothing sumptuous or for use,
Save their own painted skins, our sires had none.
As yet black breeches were not; satin smooth,
Or velvet soft, or plash with shaggy pile :
The hardy chief upon the rugged rock
Wash'd by the sea, or on the grav'lly bank
Thrown up by wintry torrents roaring loud,
Fearless of wrong, repos'd his weary strength.
Those barb'rous ages past, succeeded next
The birth-day of Invention; weak at first,
Dull in design, and clumsy to perform.
Joint stools were then created; on three legs
Upborne they stood. Three legs upholding firm
A massy slab, in fashion square or round.
On such a stool immortal Alfred sat,
And sway'd the sceptre of his infant realms :
And such in ancient halls and mansions drear,
May still be seen; but perforated sore,
And drill'd in holes, the solid oak is found,
By worms voracious eating through and through.

At length a generation more refin'd Improv'd the simple plan; made three legs four, Gave them a twisted form vermicular, And o'er the seat, with plenteous wadding stuff'd, Induc'd a splendid cover, green and blue, Yellow and red, of tap’stry richly wrought And woven close, or needle-work sublime. There might ye see the piony spread wide, The full-blown rose, the shepherd and his lass, Lapdog and lambkin with black staring eyes, And parrots with twin cherries in their beak.

Now came the cane from India smooth and bright With Nature's varnish ; sever'd into stripes, That interlac'd each other, these supplied Of texture firm a lattice-work, that brac'd The new machine, and it became a chair. But restless was the chair; the back erect Distress'd the weary loins, that felt no ease; The slipp’ry seat betray'd the sliding part, That press'd it, and the feet hung dangling down, Anxious in vain to find the distant floor. These for the rich; the rest, whom Fate had plac'd In modest mediocrity, content With base materials, sat on well-tann'd hides, Obdurate and unyielding, glassy smooth, With here and there a tuft of crimson yarn, Or scarlet crewel, in the cushion fix'd, If cushion might be call’d, what harder seem'd Than the firm oak, of which the frame was form’d. No want of timber then was felt or fear'd In Albion's happy isle. The lumber stood Pond'rous and fix'd by it's own massy weight. But elbows still were wanting; these, some say, An alderman of Cripplegate contriv’d; And some ascribe th' invention to a priest, Burly, and big, and studious of his ease. But rude at first, and not with easy slope Receding wide, they press'd against the ribs, And bruis'd the side; and, elevated high, Taught the rais'd shoulders to invade the ears. Long time elaps'd or e'er our rugged sires Complain'd, though incommodiously pent in, And ill at ease behind. The ladies first 'Gan murmur, as became the softer sex. Ingenious Fancy, never better pleas'd, Than when employ'd t'accommodale tbe fair, Heard the sweet moan with pity, and devis'd The soft settee; one elbow at each end, And in the midst an elbow it received,

United yet divided, twain at once.
So sit two kings of Brentford on one throne;
And so two citizens, who take the air,
Close pack'd, and smiling, in a chaise and one.
But relaxation of the languid frame,
By soft recumbency of outstretch'd limbs,
Was bliss reserv'd for happier days. So slow
The growth of what is excellent; so hard
Tattain perfection in this nether world.
Thus first Necessity invented stools,
Convenience next suggested elbow-chairs,
And Luxury th' accomplish'd Sofa last.

The nurse sleeps sweetly, hir'd to watch the sick,
Whom snoring she disturbs. As sweetly he,
Who quits the coach-box at the midnight hour,
To sleep within the carriage more secure;
His legs depending at the open door.
Sweet sleep enjoys the curate in his desk,
The tedious rector drawling o'er his head;
And sweet the clerk below. But neither sleep
Of lazy nurse, who shores the sick man dead;
Nor his, who quits the box at midnight hour,
To slumber in the carriage more secure;
Nor sleep enjoy'd by curate in bis desk;
Nor yet the dozings of the clerk, as sweet,
Compar’d with the repose the Sofa yields.

O may I live exempted (while I live
Guiltless of pamper'd appetite obscene)
From pangs arthritic, that infest the toe
Of libertine Excess. The Sofa suits
The gouty limb, 't is true ; but gouty limb,
Though on a Sofa, may I never feel :
For I have lov'd the rural walk through lanes,
Of grassy swarth, close-cropp'd by nibbling sheep,
And skirted thick with intertexture firm
Of thorny boughs ; bave lov'd the rural walk
O'er hills, through valleys, and by rivers' brink,
E’er since a truant boy I paşs'd my bounds,
T' enjoy a ramble on the banks of Thames;
And still remember, nor without regret,
Of hours, that sorrow since has much endear'd,
How oft, my slice of pocket-store consum’d,
Still hung'ring, pennyless, and far from home,
I fed on scarlet hips and stony haws,
Or bļashing crabs, or berries, that emboss
The bramble, black as jet, or sloes austere.
Hard fare! but such as boyish appetite
Disdains not; nor the palate, undeprav'd
By culinary arts, ansav'ry deems.
No Sofa then awaited my return!
Nor Sofa then I needed. Youth repairs
His wasted spirits quickly, by long toil
Incurring short fatigue; and, though our years,
As life declines, speed rapidly away,
And not a year but pilfers as he goes
Some youthful grace, that age would gladly keep;
A tooth, or auburn lock, and by degrees
Their length and colour from the locks they spare;
The elastie spring of an unwearied foot,
That mounts the stile with ease, or leaps the fence,
That play of lungs, inhaling and again
Respiring freely the fresh air, that makes
Swift pace or steep ascent no toil to me,
Mine have not pilfer'd yet; nor yet impair’d
My relish of fair prospect; scenes that sooth'd
Or cbarm’d me young, no longer young,

I find
Still soothing, and of pow'r to charm me still.
And witness, dear companion of my walks,
Whose arm this twentieth winter I perceive
Fast lock'd in mine, with pleasure such as love,
Confirm'd by long experience of thy worth
And well-tried virtues, could alone inspire-
Witness a joy that thou hast doubted long.

Thou know'st my praise of nature most sincere,
And that my raptures are not conjur'd up
To serve occasions of poetic pomp,
But genuine, and art partner of them all.
How oft upon yon eminence our pace
Has slacken'd to a pause, and we have borne
The raffling wind, scarce conscious that it blew,
While Admiration, feeding at the eye,
And still unsated, dwelt upon the scene.
Thence with what pleasure have we just discern'd
The distant plough slow moving, and beside
His lab'ring team, that swerv'd not from the track,
The sturdy swain diminish'd to a boy!
Here Onse, slow winding through a level plain
Of spacious meads with cattle sprinkled o'er,
Conducts the eye along his sinnous course
Delighted. There, fast rooted in their bank,
Stand, never overlook'd, our fav’rite elms
That screen the herdsman's solitary hut;
While far beyond, and overthwart the stream,
That, as with multen glass, inlays the vale,
The sloping land recedes into the clouds ;
Displaying on it's varied side the grace
Of hedge-row beauties numberless, square tow'r,
Tall spire, from which the sound of cheerful bells
Just undulates upon the list’ning ear,
Groves, heaths, and smoking villages, remote.
Scenes inust be beautiful, which daily view'd
Please daily, and whose novelty survives
Long knowledge and the scrutiny of years.
Praise justly due to those that I describe.

Nor rural sights alone, but rural sounds,
Exhilarate the spirit, and restore
The tone of languid Nature. Mighty winds,
That sweep the skirt of some far-spreading wood
Of ancient growth, make music not unlike
The dash of Ocean on his winding shore,
And lull the spirit while they fill the mind;
Unnumber'd branches waving in the blast,
And all their leaves fast flutt'ring, all at once.
Nor less composure waits upon the roar
Of distant floods, or on the softer voice
Of neighb'ring fountain, or of rills that slip
Through the cleft rock, and, chiming as they fall
Upon loose pebbles, lose themselves at length
In matted grass, that with a livelier green
Betrays the secret of their silent course.
Nature inanimate employs sweet sounds,
But animated nature sweeter still,
To soothe and satisfy the human ear.
Ten thousand warblers cheer the day, and one
The live-long night: nor these alone, whose notes
Nice-fingerd Art must emulate in vain,
But cawing rooks, and kites that swim sublime
In still repeated circles, screaming loud,
The jay, the pie, and ev'n the boding owl,
That hails the rising moon, have charms for me.
Sounds inharmonions in themselves and harsh,
Yet heard in scenes where peace for ever reigns,
And only there, please highly for their sake.

Peace to the artist, whose ingenious thought Devis'd the weather-house, that useful toy ! Fearless of humid air and gath'ring rains, Forth steps the man-an emblem of myself! More delicate his tim'rous mate retires. When Winter soaks the fields, and female feet, Too weak to struggle with tenacious clay, Or ford the rivulets, are best at home, The task of new discov'ries falls on me, At such a season, and with such a charge, Once went I forth; and found, till then unknown, A cottage, whither oft we since repair: 'T is perch'd upon the green hill top, but close

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Environd with a ring of branching elms,

Each to his choice, soon whiten all the land. That overhang the thatch, itself unseen

There from the sun-burnt hay-field homeward creeps Peeps at the vale below; so thick beset

The loaded wain; while, lighten'd of its charge, With foliage of such dark redundant growth,

The wain that meets it passes swiftly by ;
I call'd the low-roof'd lodge the Peasant's Nest. The boorish driver leaning o'er his team
And, hidden as it is, and far remote

Vocif'rous, and impatient of delay.
From such unpleasing sounds, as haunt the ear Nor less attractive is the woodland scene,
In village or in town, the bay of curs

Diversified with trees of ev'ry growth,
Incessant, clinking hammers, grinding wheels, Alike, yet various. Here the gray smooth trunks
And infants clam'rous whether pleas'd or pain'd, Of ash, or lime, or beech, distinctly shine,
Oft have I wish'd the peaceful covert mine.

Within the twilight of their distant shades ; “ Here," I have said, " at least I should possess There, lost behind a rising ground, the wood The poet's treasure, silence, and indulge

Seems sunk, and shorten'd to its topmost boughs. The dreams of fancy, tranqnil and secure.'

No tree in all the grove but has it's charms, Vain thought! the dweller in that still retreat Though each it's hue peculiar; paler some, Dearly obtains the refuge it affords.

And of a wannish gray; the willow such, Its elevated site forbids the wretch

And poplar, that with silver lines his leaf, To drink sweet waters of the crystal well:

And ash, far-stretching his umbrageous arm; He dips his bowl into the weedy ditch,

Of deeper green the elm; and deeper still, And, heavy laden, brings his bev'rage home,

Lord of the woods, the long-surviving oak. Far fetch'd and little worth; nor seldom waits, Some glossy-leav'd, and shining in the sun, Dependant on the baker's punctual call,

The maple, and the beech of oily nnts To hear his creaking panniers at the door,

Prolific, and the lime at dewy eve Angry, and sad, and his last crust consum'd.

Diffusing odours: nor annoted pass So farewell enyy of the Peasant's Nest !

The sycamore, capricious in attire, If solitude makes scant the means of life,

Now green, now tawny, and ere autumn yet Society for me!-thou seeming sweet,

Have chang'd the woods, in scarlet honours bright. Be still a pleasing object in my view;

O'er these, but far beyond (a spacious map My visit still, but never mine abode.

Of hill and valley interpos'd between), Not distant far a length of collonade

The Ouse, dividing the well-water'd land, Invites us. Monument of ancient taste,

Now glitters in the sun, and now retires, Now scorn'd, but worthy of a better fate.

As bashful, yet impatient to be seen. Our fathers knew the value of a screen

Hence the declivity is sharp and short, From sultry suns ; and in their shaded walks

And such the re-ascent; between them weeps And long protracted bow'rs, enjoy'd at noon

A little naiad her impov'rish'd urn The gloom and coolness of declining day.

All summer long, which winter fills again. We bear our shades about us: self-depriv'd

The folded gates would bar my progress now, Of other screen, the thin umbrella spread,

But that the lord * of this enclos'd demesne, And range an Indian waste without a tree.

Communicative of the good he owns,
Thanks to Benevolus, *mhe spares me yet

Admits me to a share; the guiltless eye
These chesnuts rang'd in corresponding lines ; Commits no wrong, nor wastes what it enjoys.
And, though himself so polish'd, still reprieves

Refreshing change! where now the blazing Sun ? The obsolete prolixity of shade.

By short transition we have lost his glare, Descending now (but cautious, lest too fast)

And stepp'd at once into a cooler clime. A sudden steep upon a rustic bridge,

Ye fallen avenues ! once more I mourn We pass a gulf in which the willows dip

Your fate unmerited, once more rejoice, Their pendent boughs, stooping as if to drink.

That yet a remnant of your race survives. Hence, ancle deep in moss and flow'ry thyme

How airy and how light the graceful arch, We mount again, and feel at ev'ry step

Yet aweful as the consecrated roof Our foot half sunk in hillocks green and soft,

Re-echoing pious anthems ! while beneath Rais'd by the mole, the miner of the soil.

The checker'd earth seems restless as a flood He, not unlike the great ones of mankind,

Brush'd by the wind. So sportive is the light Disfigures Earth; and plotting in the dark,

Shot through the boughs, it dances as they dance, Toils much to earn a monumental pile,

Shadow and sunshine intermingling quick,
That may record the mischiefs he has done.

And dark’ning and enlightning, as the leaves
The summit gain'd, behold the proud alcove Play wanton, ev'ry moment, ev'ry spot.
That crowns it! yet not all its pride securez

And now, with nerves new-brac'd and spirits The grand retreat from injuries impress’d

cheer'd, By rural carvers, who with knives deface

We tread the wilderness, whose well-roll'd walks, The pannels, leaving an obscure, rude name,

With curvature of slow and easy sweepIn characters uncouth, and spelt amiss.

Deception innocent-give ample space So strong the zeal t' immortalize himself

To narrow bounds. The grove receives its next; Beats in the breast of man, that ev'n a few,

Between the upright shafts of whose tall elms
Few transient years, won from th' abyss abhorrid We may discern the thresher at his task.
Of blank oblivion, seem a glorious prize,

Thump after thump resounds the constant fail,
And even to a clown. Now roves the eye;

That seems to swing uncertain, and yet falls And, posted on this speculative height,

Full on the destin'd ear. Wide flies the chaff, Exults in it's command. The sheep.fold here

The rustling straw sends up a frequent mist Pours out it's fleecy tenants o'er the glebe.

Of atoms, sparkling in the noon-day beam. At first progressive as a stream, they seek

Come hither, ye that press your beds of down, The iniddle field ; but, scatter'd by degrees,

And sleep not; see him sweating o'er his bread

John Courtney Throckmorton, Esq. of Weston Underwood.

* See the foregoing note.

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