« PrécédentContinuer »
From these contents our readers may perceive that the au. thor has attempted no fable, nor regular series of connected incidents. The whole consists of reflections and strictures, ferious, humorous, satirical, and moral; each subject introducing the next with seeming eale. Few topics of public notoriety have escaped his notice. His poetry, consequently, puts on various shapes, being descriptive, pathetic, familiar, and dia dactic, 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. Hence, in giving a few specimens, we shall confine ourselves to fuch as will vindicate our opinion of the versatility of Mr. Cowper's pen. Of descriptive poetry let the following suffice.
• Descending now but cautious, left too faft)
A sudden steep, upon a rustic bridge
We pass a gulph, in which the willows dip
Their pendent boughs, stooping as if to drink.
Here, ancle-deep in moss and flowery thyme,
We mount again, and feel, at every step,
Our foot half sunk in hillocks green and soft,
Rais'd by the mole, the miner of the soil.
He, not unlike the great ones of mankind,
Disfigures earth, and, plotting in the dark,
Toils much to earn a monumental pile
That may record the mischiefs he has done.
The fummit gain'd, behold the proud alcove
That crowns it! yet, not all its pride secures
The grand retreat from injuries imprefs'd.
By rural carvers, who with knives deface
The 'pannels, leaving an obscure rude name
In characters uncouch, and spelt amiss.
So strong the zeal t’immortalize himself
Beats in the breast of man, that ev'n a few,
Few transient years, won from th' abyss abhorrid
Of blank oblivion, seems a glorious prize ;
And even to a clown. Now roves the eye;
And, posted on this speculative height,
Exults in its command. The sheeptold here
Pours out its fleecy tenants o'er the glebe.
At first, progreffive as a stream, they leck
The middle field; but, scatter'd by degrees,
Each to his choice, soon whiten all the land.
There, from the lun-burnt hay-field, homeward creeps
The loaded wain; while, lightend of its charge,
The wain that meets it passes twiftly by,
The boorish driver leaning o'er his team
Vocif'rous, and impatient of delay,
Nor less attractive is the woodland scene,
Diversified with trees of every growth,
Alike, yet various. Here the grey smooth trunks
Of alh or lime, or beech, diftintly shine,
Within the twilight of their distant shades;
There, loft behind a rising ground, the wood
Seems sunk, and shorten'd to its topmost boughs.
No tree in all the grove but has its charms,
Though each its hue peculiar; paler fomc,
And of a wannish grey; the willow such,
And poplar, that with silver lines his leaf,
And ash-far stretching his umbrageous arm.
Of deeper green the elm; and deeper still,
Lord of the woods, the long-surviving oak.
Some glofly.leav'd, and shining in the fun,
The maple, and the beech, of oily nuts
Prolific, and the lime at dewy eve
Diffusing odours; nor unnoted pafs
The sycamore, capricious in attire,
Now green, now tawny, and, ere autumn yet
Have chang'd the woods, in scarlet honours bright.
O'er there, but far beyond, (a spacious map
Of hill and valley interspersed between)
The Ouse, dividing the well-water'd land,
Now glitters in the sun, and now retires,
As baihful, yet impatient to be seen.
Hence the declivity is sharp and short,
And such the re-ascent; between them weeps
A little naiad her impov'rish'd urn
All fummer long, which winter fills again.' The remainder of this picture is very beautiful ; nor will our readers complain of the length of the following quotation.
• Whom call we gay? That honour has been long
The boast of mere pretenders to the name.
The innocent are gay-the lark is gay:
That dries his feathers, saturate with dew,
Beneath the rosy cloud, while yet the beams
Of day-spring overshoot his humble nett.
The peasant too, a witness of his song,
Himself a fongster, is as gay as he.
But save me from the gaiety of those
Whose head-achs nail them to a noon-day bed ;
And save me too from their's, whose haggard eyes
Flash defperation, and betray their pangs
For property Atripp'd off by venal chance ;
From gaiety that fills the bones with pain,
The mouth with blasphemy, the heart with woe.' Throughout the poem our author has contrived to introduce Some little episodes, which agreeably relieve the train of re
flection. That of his " tame hare” yields to few things of the kind in our language. The sympathy of the female breaft will do ample justice to the following picture of forlorn misery.
• There often wanders one, whom better days
Saw better clad, in cloak of satin, trimm'd
With lace, and hat with splendid ribband bound.
A serving maid was she, and fell in love
With one who left her, went to sea and died.
Her fancy follow'd him, thro' foaming waves,
To diftant shores; and she would fit and
At what a sailor suffers ; fancy, too,
Delusive moft where warmest wishes are,
Would oft anticipate his glad return,
And dream of transports she was not to know.
She heard the doleful tidings of his death,
And never smil'd again. And now the roams
The dreary waste; there spends the livelong day;
And there, unless when charity forbids,
The livelong night. A tatter'd apron hides,
Worn as a cloak, and hardly hides a gown
More tatter'd still; and both but ill conceal
A bosom heav'd with never-ceasing sighs.
She begs an idle pin of all the meets,
And hoards them in her sleeve; but needful food,
Though press'd with hunger oft, or comelier clothes,
Though pinch'd with cold, aiks never Kate is craz’d.'
We have already observed, that the stile of this
poem equal. He is sometimes not only familiar, but quaint, in imitation, as it would appear, of the ancient English poets. This prevents the reader from being tired. Even beauty, an eminent critic has observed, must have its occasional foil, to preserve its
After allowing to London, as a populous city, the merit it is entitled to, Mr. Cowper proceeds to censure certain abuses.
• She (London) has her praise. Now mark a spot or two,
That so much beauty would do well to purge;
And show this queen of cities, that fo fair
May yet be foul; so witty, yet not wise.
It is not seemly, nor of good report,
That she is nack in discipline. More prompt
than to prevent the breach of law :
That she is rigid in denouncing death
On petty robbers, and indulges life
And liberty, and oft times honour too,
To peculators of the public gold.
That thieves at home must hang; but he that puts,
Into his overgorged and bloated purse,
The wealth of Indian provinces, escapes.
Nor is it well, nor can it come to good,
· That, through profane and infidel contempt,
Of holy writ, she has presum'd t'annul
And abrogate, as roundly as she may,
The total ordinance and will of God;
Advancing fashion to the post of truth,
And cent'ring all authority in modes
And customs of her own, till fabbath rites
Have dwindled into unrespected forms,
And knees and hassocks are well nigh divorc'd.' In many parts of the Talk there is a strain of pious melancholy, which apparently results from an experience of life, and a knowledge of the ways of men. The tenor of his reasoning is in favour of retirement and folitude; he has a taste for the pleasures of rural fimplicity, and appears to have imbibed a love for the works of nature, after a conviction that those of man are too imperfect and erroneous to confer happiness. Of the circumstances in the author's life, which probably have induced his present habits of thinking, he has not left us entirely ignorant. In the third book we find him alluding to his own history.
• I was a stricken deer, that left the herd
Long since ; with many an arrow deep infixt
My panting side was charg'd when I withdrew
To seek a tranquil death in distant shades.
There was I found by one who had himself
Been hurt by th' archers. In his side he bore,
And in his hands and feet, the cruel scars.
With gentle force soliciting the darts,
He drew them forth, and heal'd, and bade me live.
Since then, with few associates, in remote
And filent woods I wander, far from those
My former partners of the peopled scene,
With few associates, and not withing more. In the following lines there is an unusual animation and fpirit, joined to the justest satire. In general, where our author chattises the fashionable follies, he is severe and indignant.
• In man or woman, but får most in man,
And most of all in man that ministers
And ferves the altar, in my foul I loath
All affectation : 'Tis my perfect scorn;
Object of my implacable disguft.
What I will a man play tricks; will he indulge
A filly, fond conceit of his fair form
And just proportion, fashionable mien,
And pretty face, in presence of his God?
Or will he seek to dazzle me with tropes,
As with the di'mond on his lily hand;
And play his brilliant parts before my eyes,
When I am hungry for the bread of life?
He mocks his Maker, prostitutes and shames
His noble office ; and, instead of truth,
Displaying his own beauty, starves his flock.
Some, decent in demeanor while they preach,
That talk perform’d, relapse into themselves,
And, having spoken wisely, at the close
Grow wanton, and give proof to ev'ry eye-
Whoe'er was edifi'd, themselves were not.
Forth comes the pocket mirror. First we stroke
An eyebrow; next, compose a ftraggling lock;
Then, with an air most gracefully perform’d,
Fall back into our seat, extend an arm,
And lay it at its ease with gentle care,
With handkerchief in hand, depending low:
The better hand, more busy, gives the nose
Its bergamot, or aids th’indebted eye
With op'ra glass, to watch the moving scene,
And recognize the flow-retiring fair.
Now, this is fuliome; and offends me more
Than, in a churchman, fovenly neglect
And rustic coarseness would. An heav'nly mind
May be indiff'rent to her house of clay,
And flight the hovel, as beneath her care ;
But how a body so fantastic, trim,
And quaint in its deportment and attire,
Can lodge an heav’uly mind — demands a doubt.' But we must refer the reader to the work itself for many beauties which it were impossible to detail here. The " “ rival of the Newspapers"_“ The poor Family-piece”. The “ Farmer's Daughter"_" Amusements of Monarchs”
" Spiritual Liberty not perishable”-“ Origin of Cruelty to Animals"
and many other passages, will afford reader's of feeling and taste the greatest pleasure and satisfaction. And, while the imagination and fancy are delighted with the man, ner, the heart cannot remain untouched by matter which is drawn from the sources of eternal wisdom. We shall conclude our account of the Talk with the following lines, in which the energy of diction, and warmth of philanthropy, cannot be sufficiently commended.
• 'Twere well, says one fage, erudite, profound,
Terribly arch'd and aquiline his nose,
And overbuilt with most impending brows;
'Twere well, could you permit the world to live
As the world pleases. What's the world to you?
Much. I was born of woman, and drew milk,
As sweet as charity, from human breaits.