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Thy tears all issue from a source divine,
Notwithstanding the almost unmitigated severity of Cowper's sufferings, there were seasons in which he enjoyed some internal tranquillity, and was enabled to exercise a trembling, if not an unshaken confidence in the Almighty. It was undoubtedly on one of these occasions that he penned the following lines—
"I see, or think I see,
Had it not been for Cowper's depressive malady, he would certainly have been, on all occasions, the most lively and agreeable companion. Even as it was, it must not be imagined that in his conversation he was never sprightly and cheerful. Frequently, when his own heart was suffused with grief, arising from the severity and peculiarity of his malady, such an air of innocent pleasantry and humour, delicate and perfectly natural, ran through his conversation and correspondence, as could not fail to delight all who happened to be in his company, or who were occasionally favoured with the productions of his pen. It would be easy to produce proofs, of this, both from his poetic and prose productions. His rhyming letter, to Mr. Newton, in which there is such a happy mixture of the grave and the gay, as no other writer could produce, evinces the occasional sprightliness of of<his mind.—"My very dear friend, I am going to send, what, when you have read, you may scratch your head, and say, I suppose there's nobody knows, whether what I have got, be verse or not; by the tune and the time, it ought to be rhyme, but if it be, did ever you see, of late or yore, such a ditty before?
"I have writ charity, not for popularity, but as well as I could, in hopes to do good; and if the reviewer, should say, to be sure, the gentleman's muse, wears Methodist shoes, you may know by her pace, and talk about grace, that she and her bard, have little regard, for taste and fashions, and ruling passions, and hoydening play, of the modern day; and
though she assume a borrowed plume, and now and then wear a tittering air, 'tis only her plan to catch if she can, the giddy and gay, as they go that way, by a production on a new construction; she has baited her trap, in hopes to snap, all that may come, with a sugar-plum.—His opinion in this will not be amiss; 'tis what I intend, my principal end, and if I succeed, and folks should read till a few are brought to a serious thought, I shall think I am paid, for all I have said, and all I have done, though I have run, many a time, after a 'rhyme, as far as from hence, to the end of my sense, and by hook or by crook, write another book, if I live and am here another year.
"I have heard before, of a room with a floor, laid upon springs, and such like things, with so much art, in every part, that when you went in, you were forced to begin a minuet pace, with an air and a grace, swimming about, now in and now out, with a deal of state, in a figure of eight, without pipe or string, or any such thing; and now I have writ, in a rhyming fit, what will make you dance, and as you advance, will keep you still, though against your will, dancing away, alert and gay, till you come to an end, of what I have penned, which that you may do, ere madam and you, are quite worn out, with jigling about, I take my leave, and here you receive, a bow profound, down to the ground, from your humble me, W. C."
The following jeu d' esprit, written by the poet, as descriptive of one of his rural excursions, through the whole of which runs a strain of pleasantry, innocent, and perfectly natural, shows that his life was not one unbroken series of despair, but that he enjoyed, occasionally, at least, some lucid intervals, when, to gratify his friends, he would trifle in rhyme with an affectionate and endearing gaiety. As it has never been published in any of his works, the reader will not regret its having a place here.
I sing of a journey to Clifton,"
We would have performed if we could;
A village near Olney.
So away we went slipping and sliding, Hop, hop,—a la mode de deux frogs; • 'Tis near as good walking as riding,
When ladies are dressed in their clogs.
"Well—now I protest it is charming,
How finely the weather improves i
How slowly and stately it moves."
"Pshaw ! never mind, 'Tis not in the wind, We are travelling south and shall leave it behind."
"I am glad we are come for an airing,
For folks may be pounded and penn'd,
"The longer we stay,
"But now I begin to be frighted,
If I fall what a way I should roll!
"Nay, never care,
"Let me breathe now a little and ponder,
"So think I,—
"But should we get there, how shall we get home;
"Stick fast there, while I go and look."
"Don't go away for fear I should fall;"
"I have examined it every nook.
And what you have here is a sample of all:
Now sister Ann,* the guitar you must take,
Set it and sing it, and make it a song;
As a writer, Cowper's powers of description, both in
* Lady Austen.
poetry and prose, were of the highest order; equalled by few, and excelled by none. His richly cultivated mind, united to an imagination as brilliant as it was chaste, enabled him to paint the visible beauties of the material, as well as the ideal charms of the moral world, with an ease and felicity equally delightful. No one could describe the feelings of the heart with more vivid force, or knew better how to levy contributions on the rich and varied scenes of nature. He possessed all the requisite qualifications for a poet of the highest class;—a familiar acquaintance with the ancient classics; a comprehensive mind, well stored with accurate information on almost every subject; a fertile genius; a rich fancy; an excursive, but chaste imagination to all which were added, an extensive knowledge of the varied feelings of the human heart, and a most devout regard to the solemn claims of religion.
To take a comprehensive review of the poet's original productions, in the order in which they appeared, would require a much greater space than it would be prudent to devote to it here. Table Talk is a dialogue, carried on with uncommon spirit and vivacity, in which a variety of most interesting topics are happily introduced and descanted on with great force and beauty. The Progress Of Error is much more serious than its predecessor; and though it contains passages of unrivalled excellence, it exhibits occasional marks of weakness, and is less beautiful than any other in the volume.
Truth exhibits a wonderful combination of difterentpowers, in which passages, humorous and affecting, are scattered with delightful profusion.
Expostulation, founded on a sermon by Mr. Newton, is an impassioned appeal to men, in almost all conditions, on behalf of religion; it abounds with imagery, grand, impressive, and awful, exhibiting proofs of the poet's deep acquaintance with the inspired prophetic records. Hope is less impassioned than its predecessor, but not less beautiful. It is written throughout with great elegance, beauty, and force, and the sentiments it breathes are purely evangelical. ChariTy is a poem of less vigour, but equally instructive, admonitory, and delightful.
In Conversation, the poet appears in the character of a teacher of manners, as well as of morals, and delineates with exquisite and unerring skill, many of the follies and frailties of life. The loquacious—the incommunicative—the noisy and tumultuous—the disputatious—the scrupulous and irresolute—the furious and intractable—the ludicrous—the cen