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Thy Hector, wrapt in everlasting sleep,

Sfiall neither hear thee sigh, nor see thee weep.

Pppe\ Version, book vi. line 570.

For mvprophetic soul foresees a day
Wh^n Ilium, Ilium's ])eople, and, himself.
Her warlike king, shall perish. But no grief
For Ilium, for her people, for the king
VOL. IV, T



274 LIFE OF COWPER.

My warlike sire; nor even for the queen ;

Nor for the num'rous and the valiant band.

My brothers, destin'd all to bite the ground.

So moves me as my grief for thee alone,

Doom'd then to follovs- some imperious Greek,

A vreeping captive, to the distant shores

Of Argos ; there to labour at the loom

For a task-mistress, and veith many a sigh,

But heav'd in vain, to bear the pond'rous urn

From Hypereia's, or Messei's' fount.

Fast &0W thy tears the while, and as he eyes

That silent shower, some passing Greek shall say —

" This was the wife of Hector, who excell'd

All Troy in fight, when Ilium was besieg'd."

While thus he speaks thy tears shall flow afresh ;

The guardian of thy freedom while he liv'd

For ever lost; but be my bones inhum'd,

A senseless store, or e'er thy parting cries

Shall pierce mine ear, and thou be dragg'd away.

Cowper's Version, book vi. line 501.

We add one more specimen, where the beauty
of the imagery demands the exercise of poetic ta-
lent.

As when the moon, refulgent lamp of night.
O'er heaven's clear azure sheds her sacred light.
When not a breath disturbs the deep serene.
And not a cloud o'ercasts the solemn scene ;
Around her throne the vivid planets roll,
And stars unnumber'd gild the glowing pole ;
O'er the dark trees a yellower verdure shed.
And tip with silver ev'ry mountain's head.
Then shine the vales, the rocks in prospect rise,
A flood of glory bursts from all the skies.*

Book viii. line 687.



* There is a similar passage, in Mickle's "Lusiad," so full
of beauty, that we cannot refrain from inserting it; —



LIFE OF COWPER. 275

As when around the clear bright moon, the stars

Shine in full splendour, and the winds are hush'd,

The groves, the mountain-tops, the headland heights,

Stand aU apparent, not a vapour streaks

The boundless blue, but ether open'd wide

All glitters, and the shepherd's heart is cheer'd.

Book viii. line 637.

We leave the reader to form his own decision as
to the relative merits of the two translations. Pope
evidently produces effect by expanding the senti-
ments and imagery of his author ; Cowper invari-
ably adheres to the original text. That full justice
may be rendered to him, it is necessary not merely
to compare him with Pope but with his great
original.

After these remarks we once more return to the
correspondence of Cowper.



TO THE REV. MR. HURDIS.

Weston, June 13, 1791.

My dear Sir— I ought to have thanked you for

your agreeable and entertaining letter much sooner,

but I have many correspondents who will not be

said nay ; and have been obliged of late to give

The moon full orb'd, forsakes her watery cave.
And lifts her lovely head above the wave ;
The snowy splendours of her modest ray
Stream o'er tbe liquid wave, and glittering play :
The masts' tall shadows tremble in the deep;
The peaceful winds a holy silence keep ;
The watchman's carol echoed from the prows.
Alone, at times, disturbs the calm repose.

T 2



276 LIFE OF COWPER.

my last attentions to Homer. Tlie very last indeed,
for yesterday I dispatched to town, after revising
them carefully, the proof sheets of subscribers*
names, among which I took special notice of yours,
and am much obliged to you for it. We have con-
trived, or rather my bookseller and printer have
contrived (for they have never waited a moment
for me) to publish as critically at the wrong time,
as if my whole interest and success had depended
upon it. March, April, and May, said Johnson to
me in a letter that I received from him in February,
are the best months for publication. Therefore now
it is determined that Homer shall come out on the
first of July ; that is to say, exactly at the moment
when, except a few lawyers, not a creature will be
left in town who will ever care one farthing about
him. To which of these two friends of mine I am
indebted for this management, I know not. It does
not please, but I would be a philosopher as well as
a poet, and therefore make no complaint, or grumble
al all about it. You, I presume, have had dealings
with them both — how did they manage for you ?
And, if as they have for me, how did you behave
under it ? Some who love me complain that I am
too passive ; and I should be glad of an opportunity
to justify myself by your example. The fact is,
should I thunder ever so loud, no efforts of that sort
will avail me now ; therefore, like a good economist
of my bolts, I choose to reserve them for more
profitable occasions.

I am glad to find that your amusements have
been so similar to mine ; for in this instance too I



LIFK OF COWPER. 277

seemed in need of somebody to keep me in coun-
tenance, especially in my attention and attachment
to animals. All the notice that we lords of the
creation vouchsafe to bestow on the creatures is
generally to abuse them ; it is well, therefore, that
here and there a man should be found a little wo-
manish, or perhaps a little childish, in this matter,
who will make some amends, by kissing and coax-
ing and laying them in one's bosom. You remem-
ber the little ewe lamb, mentioned by the prophet
Nathan ; the prophet perhaps invented the tale for
the sake of its application to David's conscience ;
but it is more probable that God inspired him with
it for that purpose. If he did, it amounts to a proof,
that he does not overlook, but, on the contrary,
much notices such little partialities and kindnesses
to his dumb creatures, as we, because we articulate,
are pleased to call them.

Your sisters are fitter to judge than I, whether
assembly-rooms are the places, of all others, in
which the ladies may be studied to most advantage.
I am an old fellow, but I had once my dancing
days, as you have now, yet I could never find that
I learned half so much of a woman's real character
by dancing with her as by conversing with her at
home, where I could observe her behaviour at the
table, at the fire-side, and in all the trying circum-
stances of domestic life. We are all good when
we are pleased, but she is the good woman who
wants not a fiddle to sweeten her. If I am wrong,
the young ladies will set me right; in the mean
time I will not tease you with graver arguments



278 LIFE OF COWPER.

on the subject, especially as I have a hope, that
years, and the study of the Scripture, and His
Spirit whose word it is, will, in due time, bring you
to my way of thinking. I am not one of those
sages who require that young men should be as old
as themselves before they have time to be so.
With my love to your fair sisters, I remain,
Dear Sir,

Most truly yours,

W. C.



TO SAMUEL ROSE, ESQ.

The Lodge, June 15, 1791.
My dear Friend — If it will afford you any com-
fort that you have a share in my affections, of that
comfort you may avail yourself at all times. You
have acquired it by means which, unless I should
have become worthless myself to an uncommon de-
gree, will always secure you from the loss of it.
You are learning what all learn, though few at so
early an age, that man is an ungrateful animal ; and
that benefits, too often, instead of securing a due
return, operate rather as provocations to ill-treat-
ment. This I take to be the sitmmmn malum of the
human heart. Towards God we are all guilty of it
more or less ; but between man and man, we may
thank God for it, there are some exceptions. He
leaves this peccant principle to operate, in some de-
i^ee against himself, in all, for our humiliation, I
suppose ; and because the pernicious effects of it



LIFE OF COWPER. 279

in reality cannot injure him, he cannot suffer by
them ; but he knows that, unless he should restrain
its influence on the dealings of mankind with each
other, the bonds of society would be dissolved, and
all charitable intercourse at an end amongst us. It
was said of Archbishop Cranmer, " Do him an ill
turn, and you make him your friend for ever ;" of
others it may be said, " Do them a good one, and
they will be for ever your enemies." It is the grace
of God only that makes the difference.

The absence of Homer, (for we have now shaken
hands and parted) is well supplied by three relations
of mine from Norfolk — my cousin Johnson, an
aunt of his,* and his sister.f I love them all dearly,
and am well content to resign to them the place in
my attentions, so lately occupied by the chiefs of
Greece and Troy. His aunt and I have spent
many a merry day together, when we were some
forty years younger ; and m'c make shift to be merry
together still. His sister is a sweet young woman,
graceful, good-natured, and gentle, just what I had
imagined her to be before I had seen her.J

Farewell,

W. C.

* Mrs. Bodham. t Mrs. Hewitt.

X Mrs. Hewitt fully merited this description. She departed
a iesr years before her brother, the late Dr. Johnson. Their
remains lie in the same vault, at Yaxham, near Dereham,

Norfolk.



280 LIFE OF COWPF.R.



TO DR. JAMES COGSWELL, NEW YORK.

Weston-Underwood, near Olney, Bucks,
June 15, 1791.

Dear Sir — Your letter and obliging present from
SO great a distance deserved a speedier acknow-
ledgment, and should not have wanted one so long,
had not circumstances so fallen out since I received
them as to make it impossible for me to write
sooner. It is indeed within this day or two that I
have heard how, by the help of my bookseller, I
may transmit an answer to you.

My title-page, as it well might, misled you. It
speaks me of the Inner-Temple, and so I am, but a
member of that society only, not as an inhabitant.
I live here almost at the distance of sixty miles
from London, which I have not visited these eight-
and-twenty years, and probably never shall again.
Thus it fell out that Mr. Morewood had sailed
again for America before your parcel reached me,
nor should I (it is likely) have received it at all,
had not a cousin of mine, who lives in the Temple,
by good fortune received it first, and opened your
letter; finding for whom it was intended, he trans-
mitted to me both that and the parcel. Your tes-
timony of approbation of what I have published,
coming from another quarter of the globe, could
not but be extremely flattering, as was your obliging
notice that " The Task" had been reprinted in your
city. Both volumes, I hope, have a tendency to



LIFE OF COWPER. '281

discountenance vice, and promote the best interests
of mankind. But how far they shall be effectual
to these invaluable purposes depends altogether on
his blessing, whose truths I have endeavoured to
inculcate. In the mean time I have sufficient proof,
that readers may be pleased, may approve, and yet
lay down the book unedified.

During the last five years I have been occupiea
with a work of a very different nature, a trans-
lation of the Iliad and Odyssey into blank verse,
and the work is now ready for publication. I under-
took it, partly because Pope's is too lax a version,
which has lately occasioned the learned of this coun-
try to call aloud for a new one ; and partly because
I could fall on no better expedient to amuse a mind
too much addicted to melancholy.

I send you, in return for the volumes with which
you favoured me, three on religious subjects, po-
pular productions that have not been long published,
and that may not therefore yet have reached your
country : " The Christian Officer's Panoply, by a
marine officer" — " The Importance of the Manners
of the Great," and " An Estimate of the Religion
of the Fashionable World." The two last are said
to be written by a lady. Miss Hannah More, and
are universally read by people of that rank to which
she addresses them. Your manners, I suppose,
may be more pure than ours, yet it is not unlikely
that even among you may be found some to whom
her strictures are applicable. I return you my
thanks, sir, for the volumes you sent me, two of



282 LIFE OF COWPER.

which I have read with pleasure, Mr. Edwards's 7-
book, and the Conquest of Canaan. The rest I
have not had time to read, except Dr. Dwight's
Sermon, which pleased me almost more than any
that I have either seen or heard.

I shall account a correspondence with you an
honour, and remain, dear Sir,

Your obliged and obedient servant,

w. c.



TO THE REV. JOHN NEWTON.*

Weston, June 24, 1791.

My dear Friend — Considering the multiplicity of
your engagements, and the importance, no doubt,
of most of them, I am bound to set the higher value
on your letters, and, instead of grumbling that they
come seldom, to be thankful to you that they come
at all. You are now going into the country, where, I
presume, you will have less to do, and I am rid of
Homer. Let us try, therefore, if, in the interval
between the present hour and the next busy season,
(for I, too, if I live, shall probably be occupied
again,) we can continue to exchange letters more
frequently than for some time past.

You do justice to me and Mrs. Unwin, when you
assure yourself that to hear of your health will give

t The celebrated American Edwards, well known for his
two great works on " The Freedom of the Human Will." and
on " Religious Affections.'' Dr. Dwight's Sermons are a bod/
of sound and excellent theology.

* Private Correspondence.



LIFE OF COWPER. 283

US pleasure : I know not, in truth, whose health and
well-being could give us more. The years that we
have seen together will never be out of our remem-
brance ; and, so long as we remember them, we must
remember you with affection. In the pulpit, and
out of the pulpit, you have laboured in every pos-
sible way to serve us ; and we must have a short
memory indeed for the kindness of a friend could
we by any means become forgetful of yours. It
would grieve me more than it does to hear you com-
plain of the effects of time were not I also myself
the subject of them. While he is wearing out you
and other dear friends of mine he spares not me ; for
which I ought to account myself obliged to him,
since I should otherwise be in danger of surviving
all that I have ever loved — the most melancholy lot
that can befal a mortal. God knows what will be
my doom hereafter ; but precious as life necessarily
seems to a mind doubtful of its future happiness, I
love not the world, I trust, so much as to wish a
place in it when all my beloved shall have left it.

You speak of your late loss in a manner that
affected me much ; and when I read that part of
your letter, I mourned with you and for you. But
surely, I said to myself, no man had ever less rea-
son to charge his conduct to a wife with any thing
blame-worthy. Thoughts of that complexion, how-
ever, are no doubt extremely natural on the occasion
of such a loss ; and a man seems not to have valued
sufficiently, when he possesses it no longer, what,
while he possessed it, he valued more than life. I
am mistaken too, or you can recollect a time when



284 LIFE OF COWPER.

you had fears, and such as became a Christian, of
loving too much ; and it is Hkely that you have even
prayed to be preserved from doing so. I suggest
this to you as a plea against those self-accusations,
which I am satisfied that you do not deserve, and
as an effectual answer to them all. You may do
well too to consider, that had the deceased been the
survivor she would have charged herself in the same
manner, and, I am sure you will acknowledge, with-
out any sufficient reason. The truth is, that you
both loved at least as much as you ought, and, I
dare say, had not a friend in the world who did not
frequently observe it. To love just enough, and
not a bit too much, is not for creatures who can do
nothing well. If we fail in duties less arduous,
how should we succeed in this, the most arduous of
all?

I am glad to learn from yourself that you are
about to quit a scene that probably keeps your ten-
der recollections too much alive. Another place and
other company may have their uses : and, while your
church is undergoing repair, its minister may be re-
paired also.

As to Homer, I am sensible that, except as an
amusement, he was never worth my meddling with ;
but, as an amusement, he was to me invaluable.
As such he served me more than five years ; and,
in that respect, I know not where I shall find his
equal. You oblige me by saying, that you will read
him for my sake. I verily think that any person of
a spiritual turn may read him to some advantage.
He may suggest reflections that may not be unser-



LIFE OF COWPER. 285

viceable even in a sermon ; for I know not where we
can find more striking exemplars of the pride, the
arrogance, and the insignificance of man ; at the
same time that, by ascribing all events to a divine
interposition, he inculcates constantly the belief of
a Providence ; insists much on the duty of charity
towards the poor and the stranger ; on the respect
that is due to superiors, and to our seniors in parti-
cular ; and on the expedience and necessity of
prayer and piety toward the gods, a piety mistaken,
indeed, in its object, but exemplary for the punc-
tuality of its performance. Thousands, who will
not learn from Scripture to ask a blessing either on
their actions or on their food, may learn it, if they
please, from Homer.

My Norfolk cousins are now with us. We are
both as well as usual ; and with our affectionate re-
membrances to Miss Catlett,

I remain, sincerely yours,

W. C.



We are indebted to the kindness of a friend for
tl:e following letter.

TO MRS. BODHAM, SOUTH GREEN, MATTISHALL,
NORFOLK.

Weston Underwood, Julv 7, 1791.
My dearest Cousin — Most true it is, however
strange, that on the 25th of last month I wrote you
a long letter, and verily thought I had sent it : but.



286 LIFE OF COWPER.

opening my desk the day before yesterday, there I
found it. Such a memory have I— a good one never,
but at present worse than usual, my head being filled
with the cares of publication,* and the bargain that
I am making with my bookseller.

I am sorry that through this forgetfulness of mine
you were disappointed, otherwise should not at all
regret that my letter never reached you ; for it con-
sisted principally of such reasons as I could muster
to induce you to consent to a favourite measure to
which you have consented without them. Your
kindness and self-denying disinterestedness on this
occasion have endeared you to us all, if possible,
still the more, and are truly worthy of the Rose t
that used to sit smiling on my knee, I will not say
how many years ago.

Make no apologies, my dear, that thou dost not
write more frequently : — write when thou canst,
and I shall be satisfied. I am sensible, as I believe
I have already told you, that there is an awkward-
ness in writing to those with whom we have hardly
ever conversed, in consideration of which I feel
myself not at all inclined either to wonder at
or to blame your silence. At the same time,
be it known to you, that you must not take
encouragement from this my great moderation, lest,
disuse increasing the labour, you should at last
write not at all.

That I should visit Norfolk at present is not pos-

• The publication of the translation of Homer.

t The name he gave to Mrs. Bodham when a child.



LIFE OF COWPER. 287

sible. 1 have heretofore pleaded my engagement to
Homer as the reason, and a reason it was, while it
subsisted, that was absolutely insurmountable. But
there are still other impediments, which it would
neither be pleasant to me to relate nor to you to
know, and which could not well be comprised in a
letter. Let it suffice for me to say that, could they
be imparted, you would admit the force of them.
It shall be our mutual consolation, that, if we cannot
meet at Mattishall, at least we may meet at Weston,
and that we shall meet here with double satisfaction,
being now so numerous.

Your sister is well : — Kitty,* I think, better than
when she came ; and Johnny -j- ails nothing, except
that if he eat a little more supper than usual, he is
apt to be riotous in his sleep. We have an excellent
physician at Northampton, whom our dear Cathe-
rine wishes to consult, and I have recommended
it to Johnny to consult him at the same time. His
nocturnal ailment is, I dare say, within the reach
of medical advice, and, because it may happen some
time or other to be very hurtful to him, I heartily
wish him cured of it. Light suppers and early
rising perhaps might alone be effectual — but the
latter is a difficulty that threatens not to be easily
surmounted.

We are all of one mind res^pecting you ; therefore
I send the love of all, though I shnll see -lone of the
party till breakfast calls us together. Threat prepa-

* Miss Johnson, afterwards Mrs. Hewitt.
t Mr. Johnson.



tiS8 LIFE OF COWPER.

ration is making in the empty house. The spiders
have no rest, and hardly a web is to be seen where
lately there were thousands.

I am, my dearest cousin, with best respects to
Mr. Bodham, most affectionately yours,

w. c.



TO THE REV. JOHN NEWTON.

Weston, July 22, 1791.

My dear Friend — I did not foresee, when I chal-
lenged you to a brisker correspondence, that a new
engagement of all my leisure was at hand ; — a new,
and yet an old one. An interleaved copy of my
Homer arrived soon after from Johnson, in which
he recommended it to me to make any alterations
that might yet be expedient with a view to another
impression. The altei'ations that I make are indeed
but few, and they are also short ; not more, perhaps,
than half a line in two thousand. But the lines
are, I suppose, nearly forty thousand in all, and to
revise them critically must consequently be a work
of labour. I suspend it, however, for your sake,
till the present sheet be filled, and that I may not
seem to shrink from my own offer.

Mr. Bean has told me that he saw you at Bedford,
and gave us your reasons for not coming our way.
It is well, so far as your own comfortable lodging
and our gratification were concerned, that you did
not ; for our house is brimful, as it has been all the

* Private CoiTes))ondence.



LIFE OF eOWPER. 289

summer, with my relations from Norfolk. We
should all have been mortified, both you and we,
had you been obliged, as you must have been, to
seek a residence elsewhere.

I am sorry that Mr. Venn's * labours below are
so near to a conclusion. I have seen few men whom
I could have loved more, had opportunity been given
me to know him better. So, at least, I have thought
as often as I have seen him. But when I saw him
last, which is some years since, he appeared then
so much broken that I could not have imagined he
would last so long. Were I capable of envying, in
the strict sense of the word, a good man, I should
envy him, and Mr. Berridge,t and yourself, who have
spent, and while they last, will continue to spend,
your lives in the service of the only Master worth
serving ; labouring always for the souls of men, and
not to tickle their ears, as I do. But this I can say
— God knows how much rather I would be the
obscure tenant of a lath-and-plaster cottage, with
a lively sense of my interest in a Redeemer, than

* The Rev. Henry Venn, successively vicar of Huddersfield,
Yorkshire, and rector of Yelling, Hijjntingdonshire, eminent
for his piety and usefulness. He was the author of " The
Complete Duty of Man," the design of which was to correct
the deficiencies so justly imputable to "The Whole Duty of
Man,'' by laying the foundation of moral duties in the prin-
ciples inculcated by the Gospel. There is an interesting and
valuable memoir of this excellent man, edited by the Rev.
Henry Venn, B.D., his grandson, which we recommend to the
notice of the reader.

t Mr. Berridge was Vicar of Everton, Beds ; a most zealous
and pious minister.

VOL. IV. U



290 LIFE OF COWPER.

the most admired object of public notice without it.
AJas ! what is a whole poem, even one of Homer's,
compared with a single aspiration that finds its way
immediately to God, though clothed in ordinary lan-
guage, or perhaps not articulated at all ! These are
my sentiments as much as ever they were, though
my days are all running to waste among Greeks and
Trojans. The night cometh when no man can
work : and, if I am ordained to work to better pur-
pose, that desirable period cannot be very distant.
My day is beginning to shut in, as every man's


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Online LibraryWilliam CowperThe life and works of William Cowper (Volume 4) → online text (page 18 of 23)