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Johnson and Franklin. His correspondence was resumed, and cheerfulness again became an inmate of his retreat at Olney. This happy change was augmented by the presence of a third party, Lady Austen, a widow, who came to reside in the immediate neighbourhood of Olney,and whose conversation for a time charmed away the melancholy spirit of Cowper. She told him the story of John Gilpin, and 'the famous horseman and his feats were an inexhaustible source of merriment. Lady Austen also prevailed upon the poet to try his powers in blank verse, and from her suggestion sprung the noble poem of “The Task.' This memorable friendship was at length dissolved. The lady exacted too much of the time and attention of the poet-perhaps a shade of jealousy on the part of Mrs. Unwin, with respect to the superior charms and attractions of her rival, intervened to increase the alienation and before 'The Task'was finished, its fair inspirer had left Olney without any intention of returning to it." In 1785 the new volume was published. Its success was instant and decided. The public were glad to hear the true voice of poetry and of nature, and in the rural descriptions and fireside scenes of "The Task,' they saw the features of English scenery and domestic life faithfully delineated. “ The Task," says Southey, ‘was at once descriptive, moral, and satirical. The descriptive parts everywhere bore evidence of a thoughtful mind and a gentle spirit, as well as of an observant eye; and the moral sentiment which pervaded them gave a charm in which descriptive poetry is often found wanting. The best didactic poems, when compared with “ The Task,” are like formal gardens in comparison with woodland scenery. As soon as he had completed his labours for the publication of his second volume, Cowper entered upon an undertaking of a still more arduous nature-à translation of Homer. He had gone through the great Grecian at Westminster School, and afterwards read him critically in the Temple, and he was impressed with but a poor opinion of the translation of Pope. Setting himself to a daily task of forty lines, he at length accomplished the forty thousand verses. He published by subscription, in which his friends were generously active. The work appeared in 1791, in two volumes quarto. In the interval the poet and Mrs. Unwin had removed to Weston, a beautiful village about a mile from Olney. His cousin, Lady Hesketh, a woman of refined and fascinating manners, had visited him; he had also formed a friendly intimacy with the family of the Throckmortons, to whom Weston belonged, and his circumstances were comparatively easy.' His malady, however, returned upon him with full force, and Mrs. Unwin being rendered helpless by palsy, the task of nursing her fell upon the sensitive and dejected poet. A careful revision of his Homer, and an engagement to edit a new edition of Milton, were the last literary undertakings of Cowper. The former he completed, but without improving the first edition : his second task was never finished. A deepening gloom settled on his mind, with occasionally bright intervals. A visit to his friend Hayley, at Eartham, produced a short cessation of his mental suffering, and in 1794 a pension of £300 was granted to him from the crown. He was induced, in 1795, to remove with Mrs. Unwin to Norfolk, on a visit to some relations, and there Mrs. Unwin died on the 17th of December 1796. The unhappy poet would not believe that his long-tried friend was actually dead; he went to see the body, and on witnessing the unaltered placidity of death, flung himself to the other side of the room with a passionate expression of feeling, and from that time he never mentioned her name or spoke of her again. He lingered on for more than three years, still under the same dark shadow of religious despondenoy and terror, but occasionally writing, and listening attentively to works read to him by his friends. His last poem was the 'Castaway,' a strain of touching and beautiful verse, which shewed no decay of his poetical powers: at length death came to his release on the 25th of April 1800.

So sad and strange a destiny has never before or since been that of a man of genius. With wit and humour at will, he was nearly all his life plunged in the darkest melancholy. Innocent, pious, and confiding, he lived in perpetual dread of everlasting punishment: he could only see between him and heaven a high wall which he despaired of ever being able to scale; yet his intellectual vigour was not subdued by affliction. What he wrote for amusement or relief in the midst of 'supreme distress,' surpasses the elaborate efforts of others made under the most favourable circumstances; and in the very winter of his days, his fancy was as fresh and blooming as in the spring and morning of existence. That he was constitutionally prone to melancholy and insanity, seems undoubted; but the predisposing causes were as surely aggravated by his strict and secluded mode of life. Lady Hesketh was a better guide and companion than John Newton; and no one can read his letters without observing that cheerfulness was inspired by the one, and terror by the other. The iron frame of. Newton could stand unmoved amidst shocks that destroyed the shrinking and apprehensive mind of Cowper. All, however, have now gone to their account—the stern yet kind minister, the faithful Mary Unwin, the gentle high-born relations who forsook ease, and luxury, and society to soothe the misery of one wretched being, and that immortal being himself has passed away, scarcely conscious that he had bequeathed an imperishable treasure to mankind. We have greater and loftier poets than Cowper, but none so entirely incorporated, as it were, with our daily existence—none so completely a friend-our companion in woodland wanderings, and in moments of serious thought-ever gentle and affectionate, even in his transient fits of ascetic gloom-a pure mirror of affections, regrets, feelings, and desires which we have all felt or would wish to cherish. Shakspeare, Spenser, and Milton are spirits of ethereal kind; Cowper is a steady and valuable friend, whose society we may sometimes neglect for that of more splendid and attractive associates,

but whose unwavering principle and purity of character, joined to rich intellectual powers, overflow upon us in secret, and bind us to him forever.

It is scarcely to be wondered at that Cowper's first volume was coldly received. The subjects of his poems (" Table Talk,' The Progress of Error,' Truth,' * Expostulation,' Hope,''Charity,'&c.) did not promise much, and his manner of handling them was not calculated to conciliate a fastidious public. He was both too harsh and too spiritual for general readers. Johnson had written moral poems in the same form of verse, but they possessed a rich declamatory grandeur and brilliancy of illustration which Cowper did not attempt, and probably would, from principle, have rejected. There are passages, however, in these evangelical works of Cowper of masterly execution and lively fancy. His character of Chatham has rarely been surpassed even by Pope or Dryden :

A. Patriots, alas! the few that have been found,
Where most they flourish, upon English ground,
The country's need have scantily supplied ;
And the last left the scene when Chatham died.

B. Not so: the virtue still adorns our age,
Though the chief actor died upon the stage.
In him Demosthenes was heard again;
Liberty taught him her Athenian strain ;
She clothed him with authority and awe,
Spoke from his lips, and in his looks gave aw.
His speech, his form, his action full of grace,
And all his country beaming in his face,
He stood as some inimitable hand
Would strive to make a Paul or Tully stand.
No sycophant or slave that dared oppose
Her sacred cause, but trembled when he rose ;
And every venal stickler for the yoke,

Felt himself crushed at the first word' he spoke. Neither has the fine simile with which the following retrospect closes :

Ages elapsed ere Homer's lamp appeared,
And ages ere the Mantuan swan was heard ;
To carry nature lengths unknown before,
To give a Milton birth asked ages more.
Thus genius rose and set at ordered times,
And shot a day-spring into distant climes,
Ennobling every region that he chose.
He sunk in Greece, in Italy he rose;
And, tedious years of Gothic darkness past, .
Emerged all splendour in our isle at last.
Thus lovely halcyons dive into the main,

Then shew far off their shining plumes again. . The poem of Conversation' in this volume is rich in Addisonian humour and satire, and formed no unworthy prelude to 'The Task.' In 'Hope' and 'Retirement,' we see traces of the descriptive powers and natural pleasantry afterwards so finely developed. The highest flight in the whole, and the one most characteristic of Cowper, is his sketch of

The Greenland Missionaries.
That sound bespeaks salvation on her way,
The trumpet of a life-restoring day;
"Tis heard where England's eastern glory shines,
And in the gulfs of her Cornubian mines.
And still it spreads. See Germany send forth
Her sons to pour it on the furthest north;
Fired with a zeal peculiar they defy
The rage and rigour of a polar sky,
And plant successfully sweet Sharon's rose
On icy plains and in eternal snows.

O blest within the inclosure of your rocks,
Nor herds have ye to boast, nor bleating flocks;
No fertilising streams your fields divide,
That shew reversed the villas on their side;
No groves have ye; no cheerful sound of bi
Or voice of turtle in your land is heard :
Nor grateful eglantine regales the smell
Of those that walk at evening where ye dwell;
But Winter, armed with terrors here unknown,
Sits absolute on his unshaken throne,
Piles up his stores amidst the frozen waste,
And bids the mountains he has built stand fast;
Beckons the legions of his storms away
From happier scenes to make your lands a prey;
Proclaims the soil a conquest he has won,
And scorns to share it with the distant sun.
Yet Truth is yours, remote unenvied isle !
And Peace, the genuine offspring of her smile;
The pride of lettered ignorance, that binds
In chains of error our accomplished minds,
That decks with all the splendour of the true,
A false religion, is unknown to you.
Nature indeed vouchsafes for our delight
The sweet vicissitudes of day and night;
Soft airs and genial moisture feed and cheer
Field, fruit, and flower, and every creature here;
But brighter beams than his who fires the skies
Have risen at length on your admiring eyes,
That shoot into your darkest caves the day

From which our nicer optics turn away. In this mixture of argument and piety, poetry and plain sense, we have the distinctive traits of Cowper's genius. The freedom acquired by composition, and especially the presence of Lady Austen, led to more valuable results; and when he entered upon The Task,' he was far more disposed to look at the sunny side of things, and to launch into general description. His versification underwent a simi. lar improvement. His former poems were often rugged in style and expression, and were made so on purpose to avoid the polished uni. formity of Pope and his imitators. He was now sensible that he had erred on the opposite side and accordingly “The Task' was made to unite strength and freedom with elegance and harmony. No poet has introduced so much idiomatic expression into a grave poem of blank verse; but the higher passages are all carefully finished, and rise or fall, according to the nature of the subject, with inimitable grace and melody. In this respect, Cowper, as already mentioned, has greatly the advantage of Thomson, whose stately march is never relaxed, however trivial be the theme. The variety of The Task' in style and manner, no less than in subject, is one of its greatest charms. The mock-heroic opening is a fine specimen of his humour, and from this he slides into rural description and moral reflection so naturally and easily, that the reader is carried along apparently without an effort. The scenery of the Ouse-its level plains and spacious meads—is described with the vividness of painting, and the poet then elevates the character of his picture by a rapid sketch of still nobler features:

Rural Sounds.
Nor rural sights alone, but rural sounds,
Exhilarate the spirit and restore
The tone of languid nature. Mighty winds
That sweep the skirt of some far-spreading wood
Of ancient growth, make music not unlike
The dash of ocean on his winding shore,
And lull the spirit while they fill the mind,
Unnumbered branches waving in the blast,
And all their leaves fast fluttering all at once.
Nor less composure waits upon the roar
Of distant floods, or on the softer voice
Of neighbouring fountain, or of rills that slip
Through the cleft rock, and chiming as they fall
Upon loose pebbles, lose themselves at length
In matted grass, that with a livelier green
Betrays the secret of their silent course.
Nature inanimate displays sweet sounds,
But animated nature sweeter still,
To soothe and satisfy the human ear.
Ten thousand warblers cheer the day, and one
The livelong night; nor these alone whose notes
Nice-fingered art must emulate in vain,
But cawing rooks, and kites that swim sublime
In still-repeated circles, screaming loud,
The jay, the pie, and even the boding owl
That hails the rising moon, have charms for me.
Sounds inharmonious in themselves and harsh,
Yet heard in scenes where peace forever reigns,

And only there, please highly for their sake. The freedom of this versification, and the admirable variety of pause and cadence, must strike the most uncritical reader. With the same playful strength and equal power of landscape-painting, he describes

The Diversified Character of Creation.
The earth was made so various, that the mind
Of desultory man, studious of change
And pleased with novelty, might be indulged.
Prospects, however lovely, may be seen
Till half their beauties fade; the weary sight,
Too well acquainted with their smiles, slides off
Fastidious, seeking less familiar scenes.
Then snug inclosures in the sheltered vale,
Where frequent hedges intercept the eye,

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