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A friend ! Horatio, cried, and seem'd to start-
Yea, marry, shalt thou, and with all my heart.-
And fetch my cloak; for, though the night be raw,
I'll see him too the first I ever saw.
I knew the man, and knew his nature mild,
And was his plaything often when a child ;
But somewhat at that moment pinch'd him close,
Else he was seldom bitter or morose.
Perhaps his confidence just then betray'd,
His grief might prompt him with the speech he made;
Perhaps 'twas mere good humour gave it birth,
The harmless play of pleasantry and mirth.
Howe'er it was, his language, in my mind,
Bespoke at least a man that knew mankind.
But not to moralize too much, and strain
To prove an evil, of which all complain,
(I hate long arguments verbosely spun,)
One story more, dear Hill, and I have done :
Once on a time an emperor, a wise man,
No matter where, in China or Japan,
Decreed, that whosoever should offend
Against the well-known duties of a friend,
Convicted once should ever after wear
But half a coat, and shew his bosom bare.
The punishment importing this, no doubt,
That all was naught within, and all found out.
O happy Britain ! we have not to fear
Such hard and arbitrary measure here;
Else, could a law, like that which I relate,
Once have the sanction of our triple state,
Some few, that I have known in days of old,
Would run most dreadful risk of catching cold;
While you, my friend, whatever wind should blow,
Might traverse England safely to and fro,
An honest man, close button'd to the chin,
Broad cloth without, and a warm heart within.
[First published in the Gentleman's Magazine for December, 1784. Cowper's love of animals, and the history of his “ Hares” particularly, have been explained in the Life. The following extract shews that the poet's menagerie was occasionally pretty numerous : “ Our friend,” says Lady Hesketh, in a letter to her sister, “is very fond of animals, and had at one time five rabbits, three hares, eight pair of pigeons, two guinea pigs, a magpie, a jay, and a starling ; besides two goldfinches, two canary birds, two dogs, and a squirrel, which used to play with one of the hares continually.”]
Here lies, whom hound did ne'er pursue,
Nor swifter greyhound follow,
Whose foot ne'er tainted morning dew,
Nor heard the huntsman's hallo',
Old Tiney, surliest of his kind,
Who, nursed with tender care,
And to domestic bounds confined,
Was still a wild Jack-hare.
Though duly from my hand he took
His pittance every night,
He did it with a jealous look,
And, when he could, would bite.
His diet was of wheaten bread,
And milk, and oats, and straw ;
Thistles, or lettuces instead,
With sand to scour his maw.
On twigs of hawthorn he regaled,
On pippins' russet peel,
And when his juicy salads fail'd,
Sliced carrot pleased him well.
A Turkey carpet was his lawn,
Whereon he loved to bound,
To skip and gambol like a fawn,
And swing his rump around.
His frisking was at evening hours,
For then he lost his fear,
But most before approaching showers,
Or when a storm drew near.
Eight years and five round rolling moons
He thus saw steal away, Dozing out all his idle noons,
And every night at play.
I kept him for his humour's sake,
For he would oft beguile My heart of thoughts that made it ache,
And force me to a smile.
But now beneath his walnut shade
He finds his long last home,
And waits, in snug concealment laid,
Till gentler Puss shall come.
He, still more aged, feels the shocks
From which no care can save, And, partner once of Tiney's box,
Must soon partake his grave.
Hic etiam jacet,
Qui totum novennium vixit,
Qui præteriturus es,
Et tecum sic reputa—
Nunc neque canis venaticus,
Nec plumbum missile,
• Nec laqueus,
Nec imbres nimii,
Tamen mortuus est-
Et moriar ego.
The scene of this little poem, first published in the Gentle: man's Magazine, January, 1785, is about two miles from Olney, on the banks of the Ouse, where the river expands into a wide and beautiful reach. Trees of considerable magnitude, scions from the primitive roots, now supply the place of “ Cowper's
trees.” The expression, “twelve years,” refers to his long · indisposition; and we can readily conceive the feelings with which such a mind would revisit scenes so long lost, and so recovered.]
The poplars are fell’d, farewell to the shade,
And the whispering sound of the cool colonnade;
The winds play no longer and sing in the leaves,
Nor Ouse on his bosom their image receives.
Twelve years have elapsed since I last took a view
Of my favourite field, and the bank where they grew;
And now in the grass behold they are laid,
And the tree is my seat, that once lent me a shade.
The blackbird has fled to another retreat,
Where the hazels afford him a screen from the heat,
And the scene, where his melody charm'd me before,
Resounds with his sweet-flowing ditty no more. ,
My fugitive years are all hasting away,
And I must ere long lie as lowly as they,
With a turf on my breast, and a stone at my head,
Ere another such grove shall arise in its stead.
'Tis a sight to engage me, if any thing can,
To muse on the perishing pleasures of man;
Though his life be a dream, his enjoyments, I see,
Have a being less durable even than he. *
* Cowper afterwards altered this last stanza in the following
The scenery here described lies about two miles distant in a north-west direction from Olney, and chiefly on the Throckmor. ton estates. The tale seems to have been founded on an event mentioned in one of the Poet's letters, in which he describes himself not only as a spectator of a fox chase, but as accidentally “ in at the death."]
THERE is a field, through which I often pass,
Thick overspread with moss and silky grass,
Adjoining close to Kilwick's echoing wood,
Where oft the bitch-fox hides her hapless brood,
Reserved to solace many a neighbouring squire,
That he may follow them through brake and brier,
Contusion hazarding of neck or spine,
Which rural gentlemen call sport divine.
A narrow brook, by rushy banks conceal'd,
Runs in a bottom, and divides the field;
Oaks intersperse it, that had once a head,
But now wear crests of oven-wood instead;
And where the land slopes to its watery bourne,
Wide yawns a gulf beside a ragged thorn;
Bricks line the sides, but shiver'd long ago,
And horrid brambles intertwine below;
A hollow scoop'd, I judge in ancient time,
For baking earth, or burning rock to lime.
Not yet the hawthorn bore her berries red,
With which the fieldfare, wintry guest, is fed;
Nor autumn yet had brush'd from every spray,
With her chill hand, the mellow leaves away ;
But corn was housed, and beans were in the stack,
Now therefore issued forth the spotted pack,
With tails high mounted, ears hung low, and throats
With a whole gamut fill'd of heavenly notes,
For which, alas ! my destiny severe,
Though ears she gave me two, gave me no ear.
The sun, accomplishing his early march,
His lamp now planted on heaven's topmost arch,