Page images

If breaking windows be the sport,

Who bravely breaks the most.

But oh! for him my fancy culls

The choicest flowers she bears,
Who constitutionally pulls

Your house about your ears.

Such civil broils are my delight,

Though some folks can't endure them,
Who say the mob are mad outright,

And that a rope must cure them.

A rope! I wish we patriots had

Such strings for all who need 'em -
What! hang a man for going mad!

Then farewell British freedom.




[Cowper had borrowed the Biographia Britannica from Mr Unwin, to whom, in consequence, these admirably sarcastic lines were sent in September, 1780.]

Oh, fond attempt to give a deathless lot
To names ignoble, born to be forgot !
In vain, recorded in historic page,
They court the notice of a future age :
Those twinkling tiny lustres of the land
Drop one by one from Fame's neglecting hand;
Lethæan gulfs receive them as they fall,
And dark oblivion soon absorbs them all.

So wher, a child, as playful children use,
Has burnt to tinder a stale last year's news,
The flame extinct, he views the roving fire
There goes my lady, and there goes the squire ;
There goes the parson, O illustrious spark !
And there, scarce less illustrious, goes the clerk !




[This piece, which a critic has pronounced, “ in gravity of ridi. cule unexcelled," appears to have been a favourite with the author ; for in his letters it is more than once transcribed. The first copy was sent to Mr Hill, December, 1780.

BETWEEN Nose and Eyes a strange contest arose,

The spectacles set them unhappily wrong;
The point in dispute was, as all the world knows,

To which the said spectacles ought to belong.

So Tongue was the lawyer, and argued the cause

With a great deal of skill, and a wig full of learning ; While chief baron Ear sat to balance the laws,

So famed for his talent in nicely discerning.

6 In behalf of the Nose, it will quickly appear,

And your lordship,” he said, “ will undoubtedly find, That the Nose has had spectacles always in wear,

Which amounts to possession, time out of mind.”


Then holding the spectacles up to the court “ Your lordship observes they are made with

straddle, As wide as the ridge of the nose is ; in short

Design'd to sit close to it, just like a saddle.

Again, would your lordship a moment suppose

('Tis a case that has happen'd, and may be again) That the visage or countenance had not a nose,

Pray who would, or who could, wear spectacles then ?

“ On the whole it appears, and my argument shows,

With a reasoning the court will never condemn, That the spectacles plainly were made for the Nose,

And the Nose was as plainly intended for them.”

Then shifting his side, (as a lawyer knows how,)

He pleaded again in behalf of the Eyes :
But what were his arguments few people know,

For the court did not think they were equally wise.

So his Lordship decreed, with a grave solemn tone,

Decisive and clear, without one if or but That, whenever the Nose put his spectacles on,

By daylight or candlelight - Eyes should be shut ! *





[Written on the morning of the 22d June, 1780. Lord Mansfield's house was burnt on the night of the 8-9th, as we learn from the journal of Crabbe, the poet, then a nameless, almost houseless, wanderer in the streets of the metropolis, yet destined to divide with Cowper the honour of being England's domestic bard."]

So, then, the Vandals of our isle,

Sworn foes to sense and law,
Have burnt to dust a nobler pile

Than ever Roman saw !

And MURRAY sighs o'er Pope and Swift,

And many a treasure more,
The well judged purchase, and the gift,

That graced his letter'd store.

Their pages mangled, burnt and torn,

The loss was his alone ;
But ages yet to come shall mourn

The burning of his own.

* There is “ sly reserve” in this decision without the implication of absurdity, as most readers understand it: we instinctively close the eye on the approach of any object, and on putting on spectacles, people invariably look very grave, and shut both eyes. This the poet seems to have had in view, and has expressed with that admirable quaintness, which constitụtes tủe essence of humour.


When wit and genius meet their doom

In all devouring flame,
They tell us of the fate of Rome,

And bid us fear the same.

O’er MURRAY's loss the muses wept

They felt the rude alarm,
Yet bless'd the guardian care that kept

His sacred head from harm.

There memory, like the bee, that's fed

From Flora's balmy store,
The quintessence of all he read

Had treasured up before.

The lawless herd, with fury blind,

Have done him cruel wrong ;
The flowers are gone -- but still we find

The honey on his tongue.




[The original order is retained in placing this poem, the date of which is not exactly fixed.]

Thus says the prophet of the Turk,
“Good Mussulman, abstain from pork;
There is a part in every swine
No friend or follower of mine
May taste, whate'er his inclination,
On pain of excommunication.”
Such Mahomet's mysterious charge,

And thus he left the point at large. * It may be proper to inform the reader, that this piece has already appeared in print, having found its way, though with some unnecessary additions by an unknown band, into the Leeds Joure nal, without the author's privity. — Author's note.

Had he the sinful part express'd,
They might with safety eat the rest;
But for one piece they thought it hard
From the whole hog to be debarr’d;
And set their wit at work to find
What joint the prophet had in mind.
Much controversy straight arose,
These choose the back, the belly those ;
By some 'tis confidently said
He meant not to forbid the head ;
While others at that doctrine rail,
And piously prefer the tail.
Thus, conscience freed from every clog,
Mahometans eat up the hog.

You laugh - 'tis well — the tale applied
May make you laugh on tother side.
Renounce the world — the preacher cries :
We do- a multitude replies.
While one as innocent regards
A snug and friendly game at cards ;
And one, whatever you may say,
Can see no evil in a play ;
Some love a concert or a race,
And others shooting and the chase.
Reviled and loved, renounced and follow'd,
Thus bit by bit the world is swallow'd;
Each thinks his neighbour makes too free,
Yet likes a slice as well as he;
With sophistry their sauce they sweeten,
Till quite from tail to snout 'tis eaten.

THE LILY AND THE ROSE. [The order adopted by Cowper has been retained here : the poem was first transcribed in a letter to Unwin, but without date, in which the author says, “ No man, I believe, has less to do with ladies' cheeks than I have : my mind was never in a more trifling butterfly humour than when I composed these verses."]

The nymph must lose her female friend,

If more admired than she-
But where will fierce contention end,

If flowers can disagree ?

« PreviousContinue »