« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
CARE OF MRS. UNWIN.
exasperating cause of the final attack of Cowper's malady. Hayley's last visit to Cowper, that could afford any pleasure, was only two months before that attack, and the sight of Mrs. Unwin's increasing helplessness, both physical and mental, was very painful, the more so, as it was then impossible to withdraw Cowper from the constant care and anxiety which in his turn he endured for her. "Imbecility of body and mind," says Hayley, "must gradually render this tender and heroic woman unfit for the charge which she had so laudably sustained. The signs of such imbecility were beginning to be painfully visible; nor can nature present a spectacle more truly pitiable than imbecility in such a shape, eagerly grasping for dominion, which it knows not either how to retain or how to relinquish."
How Cowper himself felt in the sight of Mrs. Unwin's increasing infirmities and helplessness, is made affectingly clear in that most pathetic poem addressed to her at this time, with the simple title, "To Mary."
POEM TO MARY.
Thy needles, once a shining store,
For though thou gladly wouldst fulfill
But well thou play'dst the housewife's part;
Have wound themselves about this heart,
A DISTRESSING YEAR.
But, ah! by constant heed I know,
And should my future lot be cast
The year 1792, after his return from his visit to Hayley, was indescribably distressing to him. "In vain," says he, "I pray to be delivered from these distressing experiences; they are only multiplied upon me the more, and the more pointed. I feel myself, in short, the most unpitied, the most unprotected, and the most unacknowledged outcast of the human race." Yet there was one transitory interval of happiness, unspeakably precious, which he noticed in a letter to Newton, as a manifestation of God's presence vouchsafed to me a few days since; transient, indeed, and dimly seen through a mist of many fears and troubles, but sufficient to convince me, at least, while the Enemy's power is a little restrained, that God has not cast me off forever."
This interval is described more particularly in a letter to Mr. Teedon. "On Saturday, you saw me a little better than I had been when I wrote last; but the night following brought with it an uncommon deluge of distress, such as entirely overwhelmed and astonished me. My horrors were not to be described. But on Sunday, while I
INTERVAL OF PRAYER,
walked with Mrs. Unwin and my cousin in the orchard, it pleased God to enable me once more to approach Him in prayer, and I prayed silently for every thing that lay nearest my heart with a conside ble degree of liberty. Nor did I let slip the occasion of praying for you. This experience I take to be a fulfillment of those words, 'The ear of the Lord is open to them that fear Him, and He will hear their cry.' And ever since I was favored with that spiritual freedom to make my requests known to God, I have enjoyed some quiet, though not uninterrupted by threatenings of the Enemy."
But still the gloom deepened. Sometimes he described himself even to Hayley, as "hunted by spiritual hounds in the night-season." "Prayer I know is made for me," says he to Mr. Newton, "and sometimes with great enlargement of heart by those who offer it; and in this circumstance consists the only evidence I can find, that God is still favorably mindful of me, and has not cast me off forever." "As to myself, I have always the same song to sing, well in body, but sick in spirit, sick, nigh unto death.
Seasons return, but not to me returns
God, or the sweet approach of heavenly day,
But cloud instead, and ever-during dark,
I could easily set my complaint to Milton's tune, and accompany him through the whole passage, on
INTERVAL OF PRAYER.
the subject of a blindness more deplorable than his but time fails me.”
Now we do not know of any thing more tenderly affecting in Cowper's whole history, nor m trative of a grateful and affectionate heart, than the interval of hope and prayer above recorded, and the use which Cowper made of it. Nor did I let slip the occasion of praying for you. Cowper thought that it was in answer to Mr. Teedon's earnest interceding prayers, in part at least, that he owed that celestial freedom (and who shall presume to say that it was not ?), and with grateful love he asked God's blessing on his humble benefactor, even amid his own sufferings. It is an exquisitely beautiful proof how truly Cowper's spiritual life was hid with Christ in God, even when he thought it had expired in darkness. If all of Cowper's correspondence with Mr. Teedon had been the means of only this incident, and its record, we should rejoice in it as a lovely revelation of Cowper's character, and a sweet evidence of his communion with God, even then, when he thought himself cut off from hope and Heaven. Yet this is the correspondence, and the interchange of prayer, on which Southey thought fit to expend his ridicule; and some have followed in the same strain! Rightly considered, the record is adapted to fill the mind only with admiration and with reverential praise.