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should think there might. Submission to the will of Christ, my memory tells me, is a theme that pervades them all. If so, your request is performed already; and if any alteration in them should he necessary, I will, with all my heart, make it. I have no objection to giving the graces of a foreigner an English dress, but insuperable ones to all false pretences and affected exhibitions of what I do not feel."
Several of Cowper's correspondents, at this time, again strongly urged him to write a poem on the Slave Trade. The following extracts will show that he was unwilling to give a refusal, though he could by no means prevail upon himself to accede to their wishes.. "Twice or thrice, before your request came, have I been solicited to write a poem on the cruel, odious, and disgusting subject of Negro Slavery. But besides that it would be in some sort treason against Homer to abandon him for any other matter, I felt myself so much hurt in my spirits the moment I entered on the contemplation of it, that I have at last determined, absolutely, to have nothing more to do with it. There are some scenes of horror on which my imagination has dwelt not without some complacency; but then they are such scenes as God, not man, produces. In earthquakes, high winds, tempestuous seas, there is a grand as well as a terrible. But when man is tempted to disturb, there is such meanness in the design, and such cruelty in the execution, that I both hate and despise the whole operation, and feel it a degradation of poetry to employ her in the description of it. I hope, also, that the generality of my countrymen have more generosity in their nature than to want the fiddle of verse to go before them in the performance of an act to which they are invited by the loudest calls of humanity. I shall rejoice if your friend, influenced by what you told him of my present engagements shall waive his application to me for a poem on this revolting subject. I account myself honoured by his intention to solicit one, and it would give me pain to refuse him, which inevitably I shall be constrained to do. The more I have considered it, the more I have convinced myself that it is not a promising theme for verse, at least to me. General censure on the iniquity of the practice will avail nothing. The world has been overwhelmed with such remarks already, and to particularize all the horrors of it, were an employment for the mind, both of the poet and of his readers, of which they would necessarily soon grow weary. For my own part, I cannot contemplate the subject very nearly, without a degree of abhorrence that affects my spirits, and sinks them below
the pitch requisite for success in verse. Lady Hesketh recommended it to me some months since, and then I declined it for those reasons, and for others which I need not now mention."
The close attention that Cowper found it necessary to pay to his Homer, left him, at this period, but little time for any other engagement. Adverting to this, he thus writes to Mr. Newton :—" It is' a comfort to me that you are so kind as to make allowance for me, in consequence of my being so busy a man. The truth is, that could I write with both hands, and with both at the same time,—verse with one, and prose with the other,—1 should not, even so, be able to despatch both my poety and my arrears of correspondence faster than I have need. The only opportunities that I can find for conversing with distant friends are in the early hour, (and that sometimes reduced to half a one,) before breakfast. Neither am I exempt from hinderances, which, while they last, are insurmountable, especially one, by which I have been occasionally a sufferer all my life—an inflammation of the eyes; which has often disabled me from all sorts of scribbling. When I tell you that an unanswered letter troubles my conscience, in some degree, like a crime, you will think me endued with a most heroic patience, who have so long submitted to that trouble on account of yours, not answered yet. But the truth is, that I have been much engaged. Homer, you know, affords me constant employment, besides which I have rather, what may be called,—considering the privacy in which I have long lived,—a numerous correspondence: to one of my friends in particular, a near and much beloved relation, I write weekly, and sometimes twice in the week; nor are these my only excuses; the sudden changes of the weather have much affected me, and have often made me wholly incapable of writing."
The summer of 1788 was remarkably hot and dry, and to show the manner in which it affected Cowper's mind we give the following extract from a letter to one of his correspondents :—" It has pleased God to give us rain, without which, this part of the country at least, must soon have become a desert. The goodness and power of God are never, (I believe,) so universally acknowledged as at the end of a long drought. Man is naturally a self-sufficient animal, and in all concerns that seem to be within the sphere of his own ability, thinks little, or not at all, of the need he always has of protection and furtherance from above. But he is sensible that the clouds will not assemble at his bidding, and that though they do assemble, they will not fall in showers, because he commands them. When, therefore, at last the blessing descends, you shall hear, even in the streets, the most irreligious and thoughtless with one voice exclaim,—Thank God! Confessing themselves indebted to his power, and willing, at least as far as words go, to give Him the glory. I can hardly doubt, therefore, that the earth is sometimes parched, and the crops endangered, in order that the multitude may not want a memento to whom they owe them; nor absolutely forget the power on which we all depend for all things. The summer is leaving us at a rapid rate, as indeed do all the seasons, and though I have marked their flight often, I know not which is the swiftest. Man is never so deluded as when he dreams of his own duration. The answer of the old patriarch to Pharaoh may be adopted by every man at the close of the longest life.—' Few and evil have been the days of the years of my pilgrimage.' Whether we look back from fifty, pr from twice fifty, the past appears equally a dream; and we can only be said truly to have lived, while we have been profitably employed. Alas, then! making the necessary deductions, how short is life! Were men in general to save themselves all the steps they take to no purpose, or to a bad one, what numbers, who are now active and thoughtless, would become sedentary and serious."
In the latter part of July, 1788, Mr. and Mrs. Newton paid Cowper a visit at Weston; and the pleasure it afforded him, will, with the state of his mind on the occasion, be seen by the following extract from a letter addressed to Mr. Newton, after his return.—" I rejoice that you and yours reached London safe, especially when I reflect that you performed your journey on a day so fatal, as I understand, to others travelling the same road. I found those comforts in your visit which have formerly sweetened all our interviews, in part restored. I knew you, knew you for the same shepherd who was sent to lead me out of the wilderness into the pasture, where the Chief Shepherd feeds his flock, and felt my sentiments of affectionate friendship for you the same as ever. But one thing was still wanting, and that thing the crown of all. I shall find it in God's time if it be not lost for ever. When I say this, I say it trembling: for at what time soever comfort may come, it will not conie without its attendant evil: and whatever good things may occur in the interval, I have sad forebodings of the event, having learned by experience that I was born to be persecuted with peculiar fury, and assured by believing, that such as my lot has been, it will be to the end. This belief is connected in my mind with an observation 1 have often made, and is, perhaps, founded in great part upon it,—that there is a certain style of dispensations maintained by Providence, in the dealings of God with every man. which, however the incidents of his life may vary, and though he may be thrown into different situations, is never exchanged for another. The style of dispensation peculiar to myself has hitherto been that of sudden, violent, unlookedfor change. When I have thought myself falling into the abyss, I have been caught up again; when I have thought myself on the threshold of a happy eternity, I have been thrust down to hell. The rough and the smooth of such a lot, taken together, should perhaps, have taught me never to despair; but through an unhappy propensity in my nature to forbode the worst, they have, on the contrary, operated as an admonition to me, never to hope. A firm persuasion that I can never durably enjoy a comfortable state of mind, but must be depressed in proportion as I have been elevated, withers my joys in the bud, and, in a manner, entombs them before they are born: for I have no expectation but of sad vicissitude, and ever believe that the last shock of all will be fatal."
It might be supposed, from the gloomy state of Cowper's mind, as described by his letters, that no person could feel any real enjoyment in his society, and that his friends who visited him, did so, not so much for their own sake as for his. The fact, however, was, that all who had once been favoured with his company, were particularly anxious to enjoy it again; for though he was never what might be termed brilliant in conversation, yet he was always interesting; and his amiable, polite, and unaffected manners, associated with his rich intellectual acquirements, which he had the happy talent of displaying, in a manner perfectly unobtrusive, made him the charm of the social circle. His anxiety to promote the happiness of those with whom he might happen to be associated, gave to his conversation an air of cheerfulness, and sometimes even of sprightliness and vivacity, altogether different to that which generally pervaded his correspondence: and the same amiable solicitude for the welfare of others, caused him sometimes to write to his correspondents, in a style the most playful and agreeable. Of this we have an instance, in a letter to Mrs. King, written about this time.— "You express some degree of wonder that I found you out to be sedentary, at least, much a stayer within doors, without any sufficient data for my direction. Now, if I should guess yourfigure and stature with equal success, you will deem me not only a poet, but a conjuror. Yet, in fact, I have no pretensions of that sort. I have only formed a picture of you in my own imagination, as we ever do of a person of whom we think much, but whom we have never seen. Your height, I conceive, to be about five feet five inches, which, though it would make a short man, is yet height enough for a woman. If you insist on an inch or two more, I have no objection. You are not very fat, but somewhat inclined to be so, and unless you allow yourself a little more air and exercise, will incur some danger of exceeding your present dimensions before you die. Let me, therefore, once more recommend to you, to walk a little more, at least in your garden, and to amuse yourself with pulling up here and there a weed, for it will be an inconvenience to you to be much fatter than you are, especially when your strength will be naturally on the decline. I have given you a fair complexion, a slight tinge of the rose on your cheeks, dark brown hair, and, if the fashion would give you leave to show it, an open and wellformed forehead. To all this I add a pair of eyes not quite black, but approaching nearly to that hue, and very animated. I have not absolutely determined on the shape of your nose, or the form of your mouth, but should you tell me that I have in other respects drawn a tolerable likeness, have no doubt but I can describe them too. I assure you that though I have a great desire to read Lavater, I have never seen his volumes, nor have I availed myself in the least of any of his rules on this occasion. Ah, Madam! if with all this sensibility of yours, which exposes you to so much sorrow, and necessarily must expose you to it in a world like this, I have had the good fortune to make you smile, I have then painted you, whether with a strong resemblance, or with none at all, to very good purpose."
During the time that Mr. and Mrs. Newton were on their visit at Weston, Cowper's friend, Mr. Samuel Rose, arrived there also. Cowper was highly pleased with this circumstance, as it served to enliven his social circle, and afforded him an opportunity to introduce his young friend to Mr. Newton, whose advice and influence, might probably be of considerable advantage to him at a future period. To a person, easily diverted from his purpose, the company of friends whom he so highly esteemed, would have been thought a sufficient excuse for the suspension of every literary engagement. Cowper, however, laboured indefatigably at his translation, and, instead of laying it aside because of his friend's