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the most polished and interesting effusions of poetry. Witness, his apostrophe to Liberty, his description of Music, the concluding lines of the Expostulation, his address to Greenland, the poem entitled the Shrubbery, and, above all, the verses on receiving his Mother's picture.
His descriptions are often new, always striking. Among these, the following possesses great merit. Speaking of man, he observes
His passions, like the watʼry stores that sleep
To frown and rour, and shake his feeble form.
THE description of Discipline, in the second book of 'The Task,' is not to be excelled.
His sentiment, also, is often as peculiar as his description. Indeed, I know not any thing of this kind more delicately touching than the turtle's address to her mate, in the tale of The Doves :
When lightnings flash among the trees,
Or kites are hov'ring near,
1 fear lest thee alone they seize,
'Tis then 1 feel myself a wife,
And press thy wedded side,
But, oh! if, fickle and unchaste,
No need of lightnings from on high,
Denied th' endearments of thine eye,
WHAT a lively and affecting sensibility is displayed in the following reflection, when, on recollecting a beloved mother, and combining with her the remembrance of local scenes, the poet exclaims
Where once we dwelt our name is heard no more,
THE thought in the last line seems perfectly original. Not less valuable, though of a different tendency, is the following reproval of atheism:
in an insect and a flower,
THE satire of Cowper, though in general playful, and undirected to particular persons, takes, now and then, a keener bent. For example, what he has said of the Jewish women, is plainly levelled at females of a more recent age.
Her women, insolent and self-caress'd,
To modest cheeks, and borrowed one from art;
Were just such trifles, without worth or use,
As silly pride and idleness produce;
They stretch'd the neck, and rolled the wanton eye,
BUT, THE TASK is Cowper's great work; it is here that he has exerted his best powers, here that he has expanded and confirmed his leading opinions. There is, however, something too ludicrous, at the commencement of this admired poem, in the following passage,
As yet black breeches were not; satin smooth,
SHOULD any one contend, that the introduction to 'The Task,' being a species of mock-heroic, may so far countenance the foregoing verses; he will, perhaps, find it difficult to assign a reason, why this digression, which the occasion did not naturally demand, and which really degrades so valuable a poem, was at all admitted. There could be no necessity for remarking that the Picts sat unbreech'd on the ground, in order to convince us that their descendants were afterwards indulged with chairs and sofas.
It might be considered unnecessary to particularize the numerous beauties of this favourite production; a production which displays so much goodness and piety of heart, so much strength and elevation of thought, such dignified satire, such uncommon wit, so sublime and creative an imagination,
as fully justify the success with which it has been crowned. But, what has often imparted delight, will not shrink from the test of investigation; nor is it one of our most reprehensible wishes, that we are anxious to become more intimately acquainted with that which has once administered to our satisfaction. These observations apply with as much propriety to books as to men; and to no writings, with more justice, than to those of the present Author. She must have dull nerves, who shall peruse, unmoved, these pointed strictures on Cards:
The paralytic, who can hold her cards,
But cannot play them, borrows a friend's hand
Till the stout bearers lift the corpse again.
THE poet has revived the state of morals and manners with salutary severity. Who that possesses a heart capable of feeling, and a head calculated for reflection, but must admit the truth of the following lines?—They afford us an example of great satiric powers, directed to the noblest purposes.
Knew their own masters; and laborious hinds,
Now the legitimate and rightful lord
Is but a transient guest, newly arriv'd,
And soon to be supplanted. He that saw
Sells the last scantling, and transfers the price
The country starves, and they that feed th' o'ercharg'd
WERE it required to specify, in the works of this Author, evidences of the sublime, proofs of that illustrious energythat divine spirit-which invariably distinguish the legitimate son of the Muses, the reader might be confidently referred to several passages of 'The Task';-to the allusion to the storm of 1783, to the subsequent reflection on Sicily; to the description of the earth preparatory to the final dissolution of all things, the prospective view of the millenium, and to that august imprecation of the second advent, which occur in the sixth book of this Poem. But the sublime is far from constituting the only gratification to be derived from the perusal of 'The Task." Its Author having contemplated Nature with the intelligence of the philosopher aud the enthusiasm of the poet, it abounds with just and obvious representations of rural objects and scenery, familiar and yet pleasing its digressions, as that of Crazy Kate, are often highly descriptive; and it is interspersed, throughout, with valuable moral, political, and religious truths: nor does the