« PreviousContinue »
SUPPOSED TO BE WRITTEN BY ALEXANDER SELKIRK, DURING
HIS SOLITARY ABODE IN THE ISLAND OF JUAN FERNANDEZ.
[Cowper's exquisite verses, and the admirable fiction of De Poe, have cast a romantic tenderness over the story of Selkirk's life, which it is painful to find unsustained by his natural dispositions. This adventurer, the son of a fisherman of Nether Largo, a village on the Fifeshire coast, was born in 1676, and in consequence of a family quarrel, arising out of his own irascible temper, went to sea. After several years' absence he returned, bringing with him the gun, chest, and drinking cup which he had used during his abode on Juan Fernandez: the two latter of these are still in possession of his surviving relative, a grand-niece, residing in the cottage where Alexander was born. He remained about nine months at home, leading a recluse life, going out only at night or early in the morning; and seems to have regretted his solitude, for he was often overheard lamenting the loss of “his island.”
This sentiment, the only poetical feeling which we can discover about the man, probably sent him out again a wanderer over the waste of waters; but of his subsequent fate, nothing was ever known.]
I am monarch of all I
I am lord of the fowl and the brute.
sages have seen in thy face ?
Than reign in this horrible place.
I am out of humanity's reach,
I must finish my journey alone,
I start at the sound of my own.
My form with indifference see ;
Their tameness is shocking to me.
Society, friendship, and love,
Divinely bestow'd upon man,
How soon would I taste you again!
My sorrows I then might assuage
In the ways of religion and truth, Might learn from the wisdom of age,
And be cheer'd by the sallies of youth.
Religion ! what treasure untold
Resides in that heavenly word ! More precious than silver and gold,
Or all that this earth can afford. But the sound of the church-going bell
These valleys and rocks never heard, Never sigh'd at the sound of a knell,
Or smiled when a sabbath appear’d.
Ye winds, that have made me your sport,
Convey to this desolate shore Some cordial endearing report
Of a land I shall visit no more. My friends, do they now and then send
A wish or a thought after me? O tell me I yet have a friend,
Though a friend I am never to see.
How fleet is a glance of the mind !
Compared with the speed of its flight, The tempest itself lags behind,
And the swift-wing'd arrows of light. When I think of my own native land,
In a moment I seem to be there; But, alas! recollection at hand
Soon hurries me back to despair.
But the sea-fowl is gone to her nest,
The beast is laid down in his lair ; Even here is a season of rest,
And I to my cabin repair. There's mercy in every place,
And mercy, encouraging thought ! Gives even affliction a grace,
And reconciles man to his lot.
ON THE PROMOTION OF
EDWARD THURLOW, ESQ.
LORD HIGH CHANCELLORSHIP OF ENGLAND.
[The first mention of these verses occurs in a note to Mr Hill, dated November 14, 1779, in which the author feelingly says, “I wrote them, indeed, on purpose for you ; for my subjects are not always such as I could hope would prove agreable to you. My mind has always a melancholy cast, and is like some pools I have seen, which, though filled with a black and putrid water, will, nevertheless, in a bright day, reflect the sunbeams from their surface.” Thurlow's ungenerous neglect of the disinterested and elegant compliment, was alike dishonourable to his own heart, and distressing to Cowper's affectionate temper. See Life and Letters.]
Round Thurlow's head in early youth,
And in his sportive days,
And Genius shed his rays.
See ! with united wonder cried
The experienced and the sage,
With all the skill of age !
Discernment, eloquence, and grace
Proclaim him born to sway
And bear the palm away.
The praise bestow'd was just and wise ;
He sprang impetuous forth
Attends superior worth.
So the best courser on the plain
Ere yet he starts is known,
ODE TO PEACE.
[These verses were composed in the commencement of Cowper's second attack of mental indisposition.]
COME, peace of mind, delightful guest !
Once more in this sad heart :
We, therefore, need not part.
Where wilt thou dwell, if not with me,
And pleasure's fatal wiles ?
The banquet of thy smiles ?
The great, the gay, shall they partake
And wilt thou quit the stream,
grove and the sequester'd shed,
For thee I panted, thee I prized,
Whate'er I loved before ;
• Farewell! we meet no more !”
From morn to dewy eve,
With open hand she showers
And soothe the silent hours.
It is content of heart
Gives Nature power to please ;
Enlivens all it sees ;
Seem bright as smiling May,
As peep of early day.
The vast majestic globe,
So beauteously array'd
With wond'rous skill display'd,
A dreary wild at best ;
And longs to be at rest.
THE MODERN PATRIOT.
[The poet speaks of verses under the same title, suggested by some of Burke's political schemes, but adds, that he burned them next morning. These seem, however, to be the same ; they were composed in 1780.]
REBELLION is my theme all day,
I only wish 'twould come
A little nearer home.
Yon roaring boys, who rave and fight
On t'other side the Atlantic,
But most so when most frantic.
When lawless mobs insult the court,
That man shall be my toast,