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heroes. No want of individual portraits of fools, knaves, and even ruffians. The same man, who was well satisfied to sit day after day beside an elderly lady sewing caps and tippets, except when he was obliged to go and water the flowers, or feed the rabbits, rose up when Poetry came upon him, sinewy and muscular as a mailed man dallying for awhile with a twoedged sword, as if to try its weight and temper, when about to shear down the Philistines. Cowper goes forth in his holy ire like a man inspired and commissioned. You see his soul glowing and burning with fires kindled on the altar of religion. He comes strong from the study of the old prophets and, in some of his most magnificent marches, you think that you hear the Bible transformed into another shape of poetry, the essence being the same, nor are the sacred strains profaned by being sounded to a lyre smote by such a hand-a hand uplifted duly, many times and oft, besides night and morn, in prayer, and ever open as day to melting charity." How he sheds sudden day into the midnight darkness of London, lying bare with all her sins and iniquities! The dark city quakes as she is suddenly brightened, and stands confessed in all her guilt in which she dares not to glory, now that the hand of Heaven seems stretched forth to avenge and destroy. There is nothing in Byron of such sustained majesty as Cowper's expostulation with this Queen of the cities of the earth-nor even in Wordsworth. In a comparison or parallel between these two great bards Cowper and Wordsworth, which we intend ere long to attempt, we shall venture on some quotations even from the poetry of the author of "The Task,” for we believe that by "The Task" he is chiefly known; nor is it wrong, or wonderful, that he should be-but assuredly in his earlier poems, there is more of the vivida vis animi, even of the mens divinior, although for reasons that will be afterwards given to those who wish or want them, they never can be so incorporated with the read poetry of England. Even as a personal satirist—that is, the satirist of particular views, as they are exhibited in individual characters whose portraits are unsparingly drawn, we know of nobody with whom Cowper
may not take rank; while as a general satirist of that mysterious compound of good and evil, man, we know nobody who may take rank with him, for spleen, rancour, bile, in his loftiest moods, he has none; there is a profound melancholy often mingling with his ire, for he knows that he is of the same blind race, whom he upbraids with their folly and their wickedness; he hates sin, but he loves and pities the sinner; his is not the railing of sanctimonious pride, but, as a Christian, he feels that he does 'well to be angry'; his morality is always pure and high, but his religion is a power purer and higher far-its denunciations are altogether of a different nature, appealing to other fears, and other sanctions, and in the spirit of religion alone will any satire ever be found from the lips of man which, because of its influence on human happiness and virtue, may be named sacred, holy, divine, and enrolled among the other records of immortal song."
STANLEY. Well, you see that Wilson himself owns that it is by "The Task" Cowper is chiefly known, and that it is neither wrong nor wonderful that he should be; and, moreover, I have a better answer still, so far as Wilson is concerned; for, in spite of his fanciful illustration of Cowper's rising up, "when poetry came upon him, sinewy and muscular as a mailed man," and of his assertion with regard to the poet's "sustained majesty," and the vivida vis animi which marks his earlier poems-when I turn to another essay of North's, entituled "A Few Words on Shakspeare "-I find him altogether contradicting the bold assertions contained in the passage you have just read, by this simple dictum" the poetry of Cowper wants power."
TALBOT. Well done, STANLEY! Your memory has served you in good stead. I fear it was sometimes Wilson's wont, as I know it is the habit of some living
critics, to make assertions which, though true in a sense, and under special circumstances, are not true when viewed apart from those qualifications. Cowper does, indeed, want power when compared with Shakspeare; but when looked at from a less lofty stand-point he has an ample share of divine energy."
HARTLEY. Was it customary in Cowper's days to wear a nightcap in polite society; for Romney, in his insane portrait of the bard, has crowned his head with something very like one? STANLEY. Be sure that Cowper would not have worn anything misbecoming to him in the character of poet or gentleman. The head-dress you speak of is no ornament, any more than hoops are now-a-days; but it was fashionable in Cowper's time, and before his time. The poet, strange as it may seem, was somewhat of a fast man in the matter of dress. When he writes for a hat, he says, "Let it not be a round slouch, which I abhor, but a smart, well-cocked, fashionable affair;" when he wants an under-waistcoat, he requires that it should be fronted with green satin, and in giving other commissions to his friend Unwin he is equally particular; but wherefore, HARTLEY, did you so suddenly and abruptly allude to the pileolus nocturnus as suggested by Cowper's head gear?
HARTLEY. For the best of reasons, since drowsiness, as well as the clock, warn me that it is time to woo "tired nature's sweet restorer; " and though I never wore a nightcap in my life, I shall be glad, figuratively at least, to put my head into one as soon as possible.
TALBOT. When Dr. Young reaches the end of his
fatiguing poem, he intimates that his "Night Thoughts " have at length made him sleepy-a consummation for which all his readers must be thankful. I do not think, however, although night is summoning us away from Olney, we have had a heavy time there with the poet.
HARTLEY. Considering the sage and serious nature of Cowper's poetry, and the sober character of his critics, perhaps not. But now, good-night. I commend you to the sweeter companionship of sleep
STANLEY. Good-night, then, to you and to William Cowper, who, although not one of the greatest, is assuredly one of the best beloved of English poets.
In the case of most men it is neither acuteness of the reason nor breadth of humanity which shields them from the impressions of natural scenery, but rather low anxieties, vain discontents, and mean pleasures; and for one who is blinded to the works of God by profound abstraction or lofty purpose, tens of thousands have their eyes sealed by vulgar selfishness, and their intelligence crushed by impious care.-RUSKIN.
I KNOW not how it came to pass, but I took fewer notes of our evening conversation, as that conversation became prolonged, and, on the whole, perhaps, more interesting. As I read over my jottings, I am able to remember that in one place there is an important omission, and an unconscionable abridgment in another; that here a poet's name is barely mentioned, whose works were freely discussed, and that there a single thought is suggested which proved to us at the time the germ of other thoughts, and of much interesting converse. Perhaps, however, on the whole, this lack of material may prove an advantage. The simple fare provided in this volume is, I fear, unsuited to the taste of readers who are accustomed to a highly seasoned and sensational literature. But, whatever faults it may possess in their eyes should they chance to turn over its pages, they shall not be able, with any justice, to add prolixity to the number.