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more pathetic than their simple tenderness, or more touching than their dignified seriousness ? or, in the lighter compositions, what more airy than their ingeniousness, more polished than their gaiety ? Cowper's fancy, like his character, - at once refined, yet natural - meditative, yet playful — working out thought into new and unexpected, yet pleasing and unforced relations,—peculiarly fitted its possessor for excelling in this walk of poetry. Hence in all the finished specimens of these minor effusions, while we are struck with the general effect, which, according to the subject, takes captive the heart, or gently surprises the imagination, careful reperusal seldom fails to bring out some latent beauty, some recondite allusion which had before escaped us. These productions thus resemble some exquisite cabinet picture, which, by its arrangement and breadth, charms at once as a whole, while it delights on minute examination by its hues, its handling, and its sentiment.
[With these verses Cowper commenced his Occasional Poems, as originally printed. The lines were written in May or June, 1780, and first transcribed in a private letter to Mrs Newton, which ends thus : “ The male dove was smoking a pipe, and the female dove was sewing, while she delivered herself as above. This little circumstance may lead you, perhaps, to guess what pair I had in my eye.” Lest the reader now, from these undove like occupations, should “guess wide,” it may be necessary to add here, that the “ doves” were Mr and Mrs Bull.]
REASONING at every step he treads,
Man yet mistakes his way,
Are rarely known to stray.
One silent eve I wander'd late,
And heard the voice of love ;
And soothed the listening dove :
6 Our mutual bond of faith and truth
No time shall disengage,
Shall cheer our latest age:
« While innocence without disguise,
And constancy sincere,
And mine can read them there;
« Those ills, that wait on all below,
Shall ne'er be felt by me,
As being shared with thee.
“ When lightnings flash among the trees,
Or kites are hovering near,
And know no other fear.
“ 'Tis then I feel myself a wife,
And press thy wedded side,
Death never shall divide.
“ But oh! if fickle and unchaste,
(Forgive a transient thought) Thou should become unkind at last,
And scorn thy present lot,
“ No need of lightning from on high,
Or kites with cruel beak;
This widow'd heart would break.”
Thus sang the sweet sequester'd bird,
Soft as the passing wind;
A lesson for mankind.
[Suggested by a circumstance which actually occurred in an orchard adjoining to the Poet's summer-house and study. The piece is first mentioned in a letter to Newton, and was written in the spring of 1780.]
A RAVEN, while with glossy breast .
(A fault philosophers might blame
[Both of these beautiful little pieces were written in 1780. The young lady to whom the second is addressed, was Miss Shuttleworth, the sister of Mrs W. C. Unwin.]
The lapse of time and rivers is the same,
ADDRESSED TO A YOUNG LADY.
Sweet stream, that winds through yonder glade,