Изображения страниц




supposed regard to the poet's memory. One might as well and as wisely suppress John Newton's account of his manner of life while engaged in slavetrading, together with his profaneness and the vices of his character.

The truth is, we would like to see, in the review of Cowper's early life, whatever Cowper himself saw, and judged it for the glory of God that others also should see and remark upon. If he had fallen into evil habits, his being rescued from them by Divine grace could not be known unless they were known. It is more to the glory of God, than it is to the disgrace of the sinner, that they should be known in every case in which the grace of God is so triumphant. The greater the guilt, the greater the grace and glory of salvation. "Howbeit," says Paul, "for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting." Paul says that God called him and forgave him, not because his sins were small and few, but many and great, that he might give point and power to that "faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” And David in his very prayer, "For Thy name's sake pardon mine iniquity, FOR IT IS GREAT," expresses the same wondrous theology, wondrous



and always new in the world, for its amazing mercy.

Let then sin have its full merit, as well as grace; justice to the one is but justice to the other. No extenuation of human offenses, whether in boyhood or manhood, can glorify God, but the manifestation of God's glory most powerfully sets off the baseness of every kind of sin, in every age and place. Set down, if you please, those equivocations, deceits, concealments, and false excuses, which Cowper rudely describes as the infernal art of lying; set them down as mere harmless, boyish tricks and stratagems; yet they show the corrupting power of evil example in a public school, even upon a nature constitutionally so frank and indisposed to falsehood as the youthful Cowper's. His character as yet, while at school, was not firm, but irresolute and yielding, and he had no religious principles or habits to bear him through temptation unharmed.




AN admirable judge of English schools in his day, Mr. De Quincey, has expressed the opinion that Cowper was far from doing justice to the great public schools of the kingdom in his "Tirocinium," or review of the school discipline. He affirms that Cowper was disqualified, by delicacy of temperament, for reaping the benefit from such a warfare, and having suffered too much in his own Westminster experience, he could not judge the great public schools from an impartial station; "but I," continues he, "though ill enough adapted to an atmosphere so stormy, yet having tried both classes of schools, public and private, am compelled, in mere conscience, to give my vote (and if I had a thousand votes, to give all my votes) for the former."

So, too, as between the public and private schools




that Cowper had attended, the proof in his experience was in favor of the former, for he suffered much more at the private school than he did at the public. But this by no means invalidates his testimony as to the essential evils of the latter. And a system of education which proves good only for the rougher and more rugged natures and constitutions, but injurious for the shrinking, the sensitive, the gentle and refined, and for the sensibilities of exquisite genius hidden in its childhood, can not, on the whole, be the best. Cowper, however, was not disqualified, either by excessive delicacy of temperament or delicacy of constitution, for the rough-and-tumble even of a town school; it was the moral influences that he commented upon with such just and graphic severity in "The Tirocinium," which is a poem recommending private tuition in preference to an education in any public school whatever. Cowper delighted in the athletic sports of boyhood, and was foremost in them for skill and energy, so that thus far, at least, it was nothing in his own idiosyncracies that created the prejudice, or unfitted him to bear an impartial testimony. But what he saw in others and knew from experience, of the injurious desolating moral effect, the mining and sapping of religious principle, if such principle had been taught in early childhood, the precocious instruction in fashionable vices, the exclusion or dishonor of re

[ocr errors]




ligious truth and a religious example, the forming and fixing of habits and a character that, whatever might be the sphere molded of hereditary fortune here, could prepare the being for nothing but misery hereafter;-these are the things presented with such caustic satire, and at the same time affectionate and solemn warning in this admirable poem. The reader of it knowing that Cowper drew his description from reality, and that he did not exaggerate nor set down any thing in malice, can not wonder at the feelings of the poet, nor at his calling the public schools menageries.

"What cause can move us (knowing as we must,
That these menageries all fail their trust)

To send our sons to scout and scamper there,
While colts and puppies cost us so much care ?"

How beautiful, how impressive, is the opening of that poem, and the argument, from which the writer deduces the rule and foundation of its criticisms,

"That we are bound to cast the minds of youth
Betimes into the mold of heavenly truth,
That, taught of God, they may indeed be wise,
Nor, ignorantly wand'ring, miss the skies."

From the creation, the chain of reasoning proceeds to man, placed by its Author as its intelligent, majestic head, the state, the splendor, and

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »