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OF PUBLIC SCHOOLS.
the throne being an intellectual kingdom. And thus intelligent, and standing as the crown of such a world, the wildest scorner of the laws of his Maker may, in a sober moment, find time to pause and to ask himself, why so framed and placed in such a position, so fearfully and wonderfully made? If only to see and feel by the light of reason, and with an aching heart, the contradiction, chaos, and fury of passions which reason can indeed condemn, but can bring no force to conquer them; if, impotent and self-wretched in this world, there is here no cure; and if, when this demonstration of folly, guilt, and helplessness is at an end, there is nothing better beyond, or nothing at all; then, of all the objects and creatures of this world, man stands self-impeached, though at the head of creation, the creature of least worth.
"And, useless while he lives, and when he dies,
What none could reverence, all might justly blame,
But it is perfectly plain that if all the objects of the universe show forth the glory of the Maker, fulfilling some wise and obvious purpose, and demonstrating a divine intelligence and goodness, certainly not Divine unless both good and intelligent, then he to whom is given or appointed the dominion over such a world, has been invested
with faculties and powers to fill that station for the same great purpose, and stands arrayed in his kingship of intelligence and power, that he may reflect, not less than earth, sea, and air, the attributes of his Creator.
"That first or last, hereafter, if not here,
He too might make his Author's wisdom clear;
Such is the truly sublime argument with which Cowper introduces his rugged and profoundly satirical "Review of Schools." The close of it reminds the reader of a passage in Coleridge's "Statesman's Manual," by which he means the Bible, with its lessons of God's wisdom for man's guidance. "The root is never detached from the ground. It is GOD EVERY WHERE: and all creatures conform to His decrees, the righteous by performance of the law, the disobedient by the sufferance of the penalty." If such the destiny of man, then, exclaim both poets, what combined madness and dishonesty to set up any system of public education of which the end is not man's highest interest, and the means God's truth!
Now the truths (Cowper continues) found out only with great pains by men of great learning, are not always as important as they are dearbought.
OF PUBLIC SCHOOLS.
"But truths on which depends our main concern,
Here are verses from which Wordsworth might have drawn his lines:
"The primal duties shine aloft like stars,
The charities that soothe, and heal, and bless,
But the distinction between the two passages is that between the two poets, the one comparatively artificial and elaborately philosophic, even though full of nature and feeling, the other the poet of rural simplicity, of piety, of Scripture truth, strong, homely, natural thought, deep feeling and common sense. Both are great poets; but no passage can be turned into prose from Wordsworth's pages that shall exhibit such a compact argument of plain, intelligible, strong thought, with a mighty and solemn conclusion, befitting and crowning its grandeur, as is to be found in the three opening paragraphs of Cowper's "Tirocinium, or a Review of Schools."
Southey speaks of the destructive influence of a public education upon those devotional habits which in a sweet Christian household may have been learned at home; and he says that nothing which is not intentionally profane can be more ir
THE MORALI IES
religious than the forms of religion, which are observed at such a school as that at Westminster; and that the attendance of schoolboys in a pack at public worship is worse than perfunctory. Yet the master at Westminster in Cowper's time, as named in the Valediction, was Dr. Nichols, apparently a conscientious man; and Cowper afterward reInarked upon the pains he took to prepare the boys for confirmation, acquitting himself like one who had a deep sense of the importance of his work. Then, for the first time, Cowper says he attempted to pray in secret; but being little accustomed to that exercise of the heart, and having very childish notions of religion, he found it a difficult and painful task, and was even then frightened at his own insensibility. "This difficulty," says he, "though it did not subdue my good purposes till the ceremony of confirmation was passed, soon after entirely conquered them. I relapsed into a total forgetfulness of God, with all the disadvantages of being the more hardened for being softened to no purpose." Oh, if there could have been at this time some kind, affectionate Christian teacher and friend, to lead the awakened, trembling, thoughtful boy to the Saviour, what years of agony and darkness might not have been prevented!
At Westminster, Cowper was in high favor with his master, from whom he received rewards for his
OF PUBLIC SCHOOLS.
poetical Latin exercises, and among the boys he excelled at foot-ball and cricket. Neither in mind nor body, therefore, was he idle; and from one of his later letters in the review of this early period, we learn that while at Westminster he was cured of that alarming disorder in the eyes, for which he had been two years in the house of a renowned oculist, but to no good purpose. From thence he says he went to Westminster School, where, at the age of fourteen, the small-pox seized him, and proved the better oculist of the two, for it delivered him from all the inflammations to which he had been subject. He has also informed us that at the age of fourteen he first tried his hand at English verse, in a translation of one of the elegies of Tibullus. From that time Hayley says he had reason to believe that Cowper frequently applied himself to poetical efforts; but the earliest preserved on record is the piece on finding the heel of a shoe, which he wrote at Bath in 1748, about a year before he left Westminster. It was in blank verse, and may be regarded as shadowing forth, through an interval of near forty years, some of the admirable native characteristics of the future poet of "The Task."
At the age of eighteen, Cowper himself says that he left Westminster, a good grammarian, but as ignorant of religion as the satchel at his back. He then spent nine months at home, and after