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maintenance in a style corresponding to their family circle and rank.
Ye who from wealth the ill-grounded title boast
Her parent's will, regardless of her own;
No wealth can purchase, and no power reclaim.
Free, unextorted, as the grace of heaven.
One year before this, Cowper's Epistle to his friend Lloyd speaks of the fierce banditti of his gloomy thoughts led on by spleen; and beyond question the disappointment in regard to his affections, notwithstanding the consolation of knowing that those affections were returned, inflicted upon him no transitory nor trifling sorrow. In 1759 we trace his easy style in two of the Satires of Horace,
In dear Matt Prior's easy jingle,
one of them being the humorous description of the journey to Brundusium. In 1762, just before the painful conflict and complication of distresses in regard to his examination for the clerkship, which brought on the first insanity, we have a poem addressed to Miss Macartney, afterward Mrs. Greville, in which occur the following beautiful verses in the most perfect manner of many of his later minor pieces:
Beautiful stanzas, and the sentiments most generous and true! And yet, it was not, after all, in this way of discipline, that Cowper's heart was to be thoroughly subdued and purified, and prepared for a better world. The deepest natural sensibilities to other's woes may exist, without any sense of one's own guilt and misery, and without tending
STANZAS IN THE
to produce such a sense. Nay, the very fact of pity taking virtue's part, may delude and delight the poor ignorant sinful heart in regard to its own state, and make the owner think himself very near heaven, even by nature, needing nothing supernatural to bring him there. The being cut out of the olive which is wild by nature, and grafted into the True Olive-tree, is declared by Paul to be a process contrary to nature, and not merely above nature. And it is a process, at least in the first stages of cutting out, attended with much pain and conflict.
The very next poem composed by Cowper after that from which the preceding verses are quoted, exhibits him suddenly plunged from that state of quiet in which he could indulge "the luxury of sympathy within," to the bottomless depths of a personal despair and suffering. It was after his first attempt at suicide, and just before his removal to St. Albans, that Cowper composed the following wild and terrible monody of self-condemnation and vengeance. No convicted criminal, he said, ever feared death more, or experienced more horrible dismay of soul, with conscience scaring him, and the avenger of blood pursuing him.
Hatred and vengeance, my eternal portion.
Wait with impatient readiness to seize my
Soul in a moment.
MONODY AT Ꭶ Ꭲ . ALBAN8.
Damn'd below Judas, more abhorred than he was,
Man disavows, and Deity disowns me.
Hell might afford my miseries a shelter;
Hard lot! encompassed with a thousand dangers;
Him the vindictive rod of angry Justice
Over this Bridge of Sighs, where the smoke and flame from the gulf of perdition and despair roll and shoot across the pathway, we pass into another experience, as if we were transported from the gates of hell to the threshold, and the company, and the melodies of heaven. The very next efforts of Cowper's genius, and expression of his feelings, conveyed the gratitude and joy of his soul in those sacred hymns, for the composition of which these mental sufferings and gloom, and the faith in Christ by which, through the grace of Christ, he emerged from them, were the preparation. The second of them we place here in vivid contrast with the previous stanzas that were darkening with
such lurid fire, to note that even the sorrow and despair which constituted so much of Cowper's experience afterward for many years, breathed rather the spirit of that sweet hymn of gratitude and grace, than the tones of a tortured conscience, without which despair is but a dream; the spirit of submission instead of the sense of retribution, characterized his gloom.
Far from the world, O Lord, I flee,
From scenes where Satan wages still
The calm retreat, the silent shade,
There, if Thy Spirit touch the soul,
And grace her mean abode,
Oh, with what peace, and joy, and love,
There like the nightingale she pours
Her solitary lays;
Nor asks a witness of her song,
Nor thirsts for human praise.
Author and guardian of my life,
My Saviour, thou art mine!
What thanks I owe Thee, and what love,
A boundless, endless store,
Shall echo through the realms above,
When time shall be no more.