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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,
While meaner things, whom instinct leads,

Are rarely known to stray.

One silent eve I wander'd late,

And heard the voice of love ;
The turtle thus address'd her mate,

And soothed the listening dove :

6 Our mutual bond of faith and truth

No time shall disengage,
Those blessings of our early youth

Shall cheer our latest age:

« While innocence without disguise,

And constancy sincere,
Shall fill the circles of those eyes,

And mine can read them there;

« Those ills, that wait on all below,

Shall ne'er be felt by me,
Or gently felt, and only so,

As being shared with thee.

“ When lightnings flash among the trees,

Or kites are hovering near,
I fear lest thee alone they seize,

And know no other fear.

“ 'Tis then I feel myself a wife,

And press thy wedded side,
Resolved a union form’d for life

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;
Denied the endearments of thine eye,

This widow'd heart would break.”

Thus sang the sweet sequester'd bird,

Soft as the passing wind;
And I recorded what I heard,

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 .
Her new-laid eggs she fondly press’d,
And on her wickerwork high mounted,
Her chickens prematurely counted,

(A fault philosophers might blame
If quite exempted from the same,)
Enjoy'd at ease the genial day ;
'Twas April, as the bumpkins say,
The legislature call'd it May.
But suddenly a wind as high
As ever swept a winter sky,
Shook the young leaves about her ears,
And fill'd her with a thousand fears,
Lest the rude blast should snap the bough,
And spread her golden hopes below.
But just at eve the blowing weather
And all her fears were hush'd together:
And now, quoth poor unthinking Ralph,
'Tis over, and the brood is safe ;
(For ravens, though as birds of omen
They teach both conj’rers and old women,
To tell us what is to befall,
Can't prophesy themselves at all.)
The morning came, when neighbour Hodge,
Who long had mark'd her airy lodge,
And destined all the treasure there
A gift to his expecting fair,
Climb'd like a squirrel to his dray,
And bore the worthless prize away.

'Tis Providence alone secures,
In every change, both mine and yours :
Safety consists not in escape
From dangers of a frightful shape;
An earthquake may be bid to spare
The man that 's strangled by a hair.
Fate steals along with silent tread
Found oftenest in what least we dread,
Frowns in the storm with angry brow,
But in the sunshine strikes the blow.


[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,
Both speed their journey with a restless stream;
The silent pace with which they steal away,
No wealth can bribe, nor prayers persuade to stay ;
Alike irrevocable both when past,
And a wide ocean swallows both at last.
Though each resemble each in every part,
A difference strikes at length the musing heart :
Streams never flow in vain; where streams abound,
How laughs the land with various plenty crown'd!
But time, that should enrich the nobler mind,
Neglected leaves a weary waste behind..



Sweet stream, that winds through yonder glade,
Apt emblem of a virtuous maid,
Silent and chaste she steals along,
Far from the world's gay busy throng;
With gentle yet prevailing force,
Intent upon her destined course;
Graceful and useful all she does,
Blessing and blest where'er she goes,
Pure-bosom'd as that watery glass,
And heaven reflected in her face.

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