Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

the weak mind, of encouraging the timid and trembling believer, of lifting up the weak hands that were hanging down, wiping the tear of sorrow from the mournful eye, and directing the Christian to look alone to heaven for support in all his difficulties. His poems abound with passages the most tender and consolatory ; enforcing with an eloquence, persuasive and almost irresistible, humble submission to the Divine will, in circumstances the most discouraging. The following lines, forming part of a poetic epistle to a lady in France, show how admirably he could pour the healing oil of comfort into the wounded spirits of others, though he was unable to assuage the grief of his own.

[ocr errors]

“ The path of sorrow, and that path alone,

Leads to the land where sorrow is unknown;
No trav’ller ever reached that blessed abode
Who found not thorns and briars on the road,
The world may dance along the flowery plain,
Cheer'd as they go by many a sprightly strain.
But He, who knew what human hearts would prove
How slow to learn the dictates of his love;
That hard by nature, and of stubborn will,
A life of ease would make them harder still ;
In pity to a chosen few, designed
To escape the common ruin of their kind,
And said-Go spend them in the vale of tears !
Oh balmy gales of soul-reviving air,
Oh salutary streams that murmur there,
These flowing from the fount of grace above!
Those breathed from lips of everlasting love!
The flinty soil indeed their feet annoys,
Chill blasts of trouble nip their springing joys,
An envious world will interpose its frown,
To mar delights superior to its own,
And many a pang, experienced still within,
Reminds them of their hated inmate, sin!
But ills of every shape, of every name,
Transformed to blessings, miss their cruel aim,
And every moment's calm that soothes the breast,
Is given in earnest to eternal rest.
Ah! be not sad ! although thy lot be cast
Far from the Aock, and in a boundless waste;
No shepherd's tents within thy view appear,
But the Chief Shepherd even there is near.
Thy tender sorrows and thy plaintive strain
Flow in a foreign land, but not in vain ;

262

THE LIFE OF WILLIAM COWPER.

99

Thy tears all issue from a source divine,

And every drop bespeaks a Saviour thine.” Notwithstanding the almost unmitigated severity of Cow. per'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,

A glimmering from afar-
A beam of day that shines for me
To save me from despair.
Forerunner of the sun,
It marks the pilgrim's way:
I'll gaze upon it while I run,
And watch the rising day.”

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

[ocr errors]

another year:

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

66 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

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.

humble me,

I sing of a journey to Clifton, *

We would have performed if we could;
Without cart or barrow to lift on
Poor Mary or me through the mud,

Sle, sla, slud,

Stuck in the mud,
Oh, it is pretty to wade through a flood.

* 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.

Wheels no doubt,

Go briskly about, But they clatter, and rattle, and make such a rout.

DIALOGUE.

SHE.

“ Well—now I protest it is charming,

How finely the weather improves; That cloud, though, is rather alarming,

How slowly and stately it moves.”

HE.

“Pshaw ! never mind,

'Tis not in the wind, We are travelling south and shall leave it behind."

SHE.

“ I am glad we are come for an airing,

For folks may be pounded and penn'd, Until they grow rusty, not caring

To stir half a mile to an end."

HE.

" The longer we stay,

The longer we may ;
It 's a folly to think about weather or way."

SHE.

“But now I begin to be frighted,

If I fall what a way I should roll! I am glad the bridge was indicted,

Stay! stop! I am sunk in a hole."

HE.

“Nay, never care,

'Tis a common affair; You ’ll not be the last that will set a foot there."

SHE.

“ Let me breathe now a little and ponder,

On what it were better to do ;
That terrible lane I see yonder,
I think we shall never get through.”

HE.

" So think I,

But by the bye,
We shall never know, if we never should try.”

SHE.

“But should we get there, how shall we get home;

What a terrible deal of bad road we have pass’d,
Slipping and sliding ; and if we should come
To a difficult state, I am ruined at last.

Oh, this lane !

Now it is plain,
That struggling and striving is labour in vain."

HE.

“Stick fast there, while I go and look."

SHE.

“ Don't go away for fear I should fall ;”

HE.

“I have examined it every nook,
And what you have here is a sample of all :

Come wheel around,

The dirt we have found,
Would by an estate at a farthing a pound.”

Now sister Ann,* the guitar you must take,

Set it and sing it, and make it a song ;
I have varied the verse for variety's sake,
And cut it off short because it was long.

'Tis hobbling and lame,

Which critics won't blame, For the sense and the sound they say should be the same. As a writer, Cowper's powers of description, both in

[ocr errors]

Lady Austen.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »