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of the fame mind; the fame unaffected modesty which always rejects unseasonable ambitions and ornaments of language; the same easy vigour; the fame serene and cheerful hope derived from a steady and un shaken faith in the dogmas of Chriftianity.
“ I am not prepared to affirm, that Mr. Cowper derives any praise from the choice and elegance of his words ; but he has the higher praise of having chosen them without affectation. He appcars to have used them as he found them ; neither introducing faftidious refinements, nor adhering to obsolete barbarisms. He understands the whole science of numbers, and he has pra&tised their different kinds with considerable happinefs; and if his verses do not flow so softly as the delicacy of a modern ear requires, that roughness, which is objected to his poetry, is his choice, not bis defect. But this sort of critics, who admire only what is exquisitely polished, these lovers of
gentleness without finews," * ought to take into their eftimate that vaft effufion of thought which is fó abundantly poured over the writings of Mr. Cowper, without which human discourse is only an idle combination of sounds and fyllables.
Let me haften, however, to that work which has more peculiarly given to Cowper the character of a poet. After an interval of a few years, his Talk was ushered into the world. The occasion that gave birth to it was a trivial one. had requefted him to write a piece in blank verse, and gave him the fofa for his subject. This he expanded into one of the finest moral poems of which the English language has been productive.
“ It is written in blank verse, of which the construction, though in some respects resembling Milton's, is truly original and characteristic. It is not too ftately for familiar defcription, nor too depressed for sublime and elevated imagery. If it has any fault, it is that of being too much laden with idiomatic expressions, a fault which the author, in the rapidity with which his ideas and his utterance seem to have flowed, very naturally incurred.
“ In this poem his fancy ran with the most excursive freedom. The poet enlarges upon his topics, and confirms his * Dr. Sprat's Life of Cowley.
A lady argument by every variery of illuftration. He never, however, dwells upon them too long, and leaves off in such a manner, that it seems, it was in his power to have said more.
" The arguments of the poem are various. The works of nature, the associations with which they exhibit themselves, the designs of Providence, and the passions of men. Of one advantage the writer has' amply availed himself. The work not being rigidly confined to any precise subject, he has indulged himself in all the laxity and freedom of a miscellaneous poem.
Yet he has still adhered fo faithfully to the general laws of congruity, that whether he inspires the softer affections into his reader, or delights him with keen and playful raillery, or discourses on the ordinary manners of human nature, or holds up the bright pictures of religious consolation to his mind, he adopts, at pleasure, a diction juit and appropriate, equal in elevation to the sacred effufions of Chriftian rapture, and fufficiently easy and familiar for descriptions of domestic life ; skilful alike in foaring without effort and descending without meanness.
66 He who desires to put into the hands of youth a poem which, not deftitute of poetic embellishment, is free from all matter of a licentious tendency, will find in the Talk a book adapted to his purpose. It would be the part of an absurd and extravagant austerity, to cundemin those poetical productions in which the passion of love constitutes the primary feature. In every age that passion has been the concernment of life, the theme of the poei, the plot of the stage. Yet there is a sort of amorous sensibility, burdering almost on morbid enthufiasm, which the youthful mind too frequently imbibes from the glowing sentiments of the paets. Their genius describes, in the most splendid colours, the operations of a passion which rcquires rebuke instead of incentive, and lends to the most grovelling sensuality the enchantments of a rich and creazive imagination. But in the Talk of Cowpér, their is no licena tiousness of description. All is grave, and majestic, and moral. A vein of religious thinking pervades every page, and he discourses, in a strain of the most finished poetry, on the insufficiency and vanity of human pursuits.
“ Nor is he always fevere. He is perpetually enlivening the mind of his reader by sportive descriptions, and by repre. fenting, in elevated measures, ludicrous objects and circum
Itances, stances, a fpecies of the mock-heroie, of which Philips * was the first author. In this latter sort of style Mr. Cowper has displayed great powers of versification, and great talents for humour. Of this, the historical account he has given of chairs, in the first book of the Talk, is a striking specimen.
The attention, however, is the most detained by thofe paso sages, in which the charms of rural life, and the endearments of domeftic retirement, are pourtrayed. It is in vain to search in any poet of antient or modern times for more pathetic touches of representation. The Talk abounds with incidents, introduced as episodes, and interposing an agreeable relief to the grave and serious parts of the poetry. Who has not admired his Crazy Kate? A description in which the calamity of a disordered reason is painted with admirable exactness and fimplicity.
“ Śhe begs an idle pin of all the meets.” I know of no puet who would have introduced fo minute a circumitance into his representation; yet who is there that does not perceive that it derives its effect altogether from the minuteness with which it is drawn?
“ It were an endless talk to point out the beauties of the poem. , It is now established in its reputation, and, by universal consent, it has given Cowper a very high place amongit our national poers. Let those who cannot perceive its beauties, dwell with rapture on its defects. The taite or the sens fibility of that man is little to be envied who, in the pride of a faftidious criticism, would be reluctant in attributing to Mr. Cowper, the praise and character of a poet, because in the tide and rapidity of his fancy he has not been scrupulous in the arrangement of a word or the adjustment of a cadence.
“ The next work, which Mr. Cowper published, was a tranflation of the Iliad, and the Odyssey. The design was worthy of his talents. His object was to present the father of pocly to the English reader, not in English habiliments, and modern attire, but in the graceful and antique habit of his own times. He therefore adopted blank verse. Rhyme, by the uniformity of its cadence, and the restrictions which it imposed, rendered the task of translation evidently a paraphrase, because the poet, who could not express the meaning of his * The Splendid Shilling.
author in phrase, and di&tion, that would accord with his own numbers, must be, of necessity, compelled to mix his own meaning with his author's, to soften, and dilute it, as it were, to his own versification. This is the disadvantage of Mr. Pope's Honier; a work, which it were blafphemy to despise, and folly to undervalue, while variety and harmony of numbers retain their dominion over the mind of man. Yet no one will deny, that Mr. Pope has frequently forgotten Homer ; and that in some passages he has impaired the strength, and debased the majesty of his original. Let it be remembered, however, that it is no mean honour to any poet to have followed the bold and lofty steps of the divine bard; and that he is not to be censured, though he should lag behind him in his course through that sublime region, which Homer only could tread with safety, and with confidence.
Quid enim contendat hirundo
« It is a wanton and foolish criticism to compare the translation of Mr. Pope with that of Mr. Cowper. The merits of each are distinct and appropriate. Mr. Pope has exhibited Homer as he would have sung, had he been born in England. Mr. Cowper has attempted to pourtray him, as he wrote in Greece, adhering frequently to the peculiarities of his own idiom, and endeavouring to preserve his ftrength and energy, as well as his harmony and smoothness.
“ There are several fugitive pieces by Mr. Cowper which have not yet been publithed. I fall close this article by presenting two of them to the reader.
The poplars are fell’d, and adieu to the shade,
When, behold, on their fides, in the grass they were
laid, And I fate on the trees under which I had ftray'd. The blackbird has sought out another retreat, Where the hazels afford him a screen from the heat; And the scene where his notes have oft charmed me
before, Shall resound with his smooth-flowing ditty no more. My fugitive years are all hafling away, And I must myself lie as lowly as they; With a turf at my breast, and a stone at my head, E’re another such grove rises up in its ttead. The change both my heart and my fancy employs ; I reflect on the frailty of man and his joys; Short liv'd as we are, yet our pleasures we see Have a still shorter date, and die sooner than we.
FROM THE ANNUAL BILL OF MORTALITY,
Then calm at length he breath'd his soul away. « Oh most delightful hour by man
• Experienc'd here below;
6 His folly and his woc.
“ Again life's dreary waste;
“ With all the gloomy past.
“ Earth, seas, and sun adieu ;
** I have no fight for you."