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POEMS BY WILLIAM COWPER

EARLY POEMS

VERSES

WRITTEN AT BATH, ON FINDING THE HEEL OF A SHOE, IN 1748

CORTUNE! I thank thee: gentle Goddess, thanks! N Not that my Muse, though bashful, shall deny

She would have thanked thee rather hadst thou cast
A treasure in her way; for neither meed
Of early breakfast, to dispel the fumes
And bowel-racking pains of emptiness,
Nor noontide feast, nor evening's cool repast,
Hopes she from this, presumptuous,—though perhaps
The cobbler, leather-carving artist, might.
Nathless she thanks thee, and accepts thy boon,
Whatever ; not as erst the fabled cock,
Vain-glorious fool, unknowing what he found,
Spurned the rich gem thou gavest him. Wherefore, ah !
Why not on me that favour (worthier sure!)
Conferredst thou, Goddess ? Thou art blind, thou say'st :
Enough! thy blindness shall excuse the deed.

Nor does my Muse no benefit exhale
From this thy scant indulgence;—even here,
Hints, worthy sage philosophy, are found,
Illustrious hints, to moralize my song.
This ponderous heel of perforated hide
Compact, with pegs indented many a row,
Haply (for such its massy form bespeaks)
The weighty tread of some rude peasant clown
Upbore : on this supported oft he stretched,
With uncouth strides, along the furrowed glebe,
Flattening the stubborn clod, till cruel time,
(What will not cruel time?) on a wry step,
Severed the strict cohesion ; when, alas !
He, who could erst with even equal pace

Pursue his destined way with symmetry
And some proportion formed, now on one side,
Curtailed and maimed, the sport of vagrant boys,
Cursing his frail supporter, treacherous prop!
With toilsome step and difficult, moves on.
Thus fares it oft with other than the feet
Of humble villager: the statesman thus,
Up the steep road where proud ambition leads,
Aspiring, first uninterrupted winds
His prosperous way; nor fears miscarriage foul,
While policy prevails and friends prove true:
But that support soon failing, by him left
On whom he most depended,-basely left,
Betrayed, deserted,—from his airy height
Headlong he falls, and through the rest of life
Drags the dull load of disappointment on.

AN ATTEMPT AT THE MANNER OF WALLER

Did not thy reason and thy sense,
With most persuasive eloquence,
Convince me that obedience due
None may so justly claim as you,
By right of beauty you would be
Mistress o'er my heart and me.
Then fear not I should e'er rebel,
My gentle love! I might as well
A forward peevishness put on,
And quarrel with the mid-day sun;
Or question who gave him a right
To be so fiery and so bright.
Nay, this were less absurd and vain
Than disobedience to thy reign;
His beams are often too severe ;
But thou art mild as thou art fair;
First from necessity we own your sway,

Then scorn our freedom, and by choice obey. Drayton, March 1753.

A SONG
The sparkling eye, the mantling cheek,
The polished front, the snowy neck,

How seldom we behold in one!

Glassy locks, and brow serene,
Venus' smiles, Diana's mien,

All meet in you, and you alone.
Beauty, like other powers, maintains
Her empire, and by union reigns ;

Each single feature faintly warms : But where at once we view displayed Unblemished grace, the perfect maid

Our eyes, our ears, our heart alarms. So when on earth the god of day Obliquely sheds his tempered ray,

Through convex orbs the beams transmit. The beams that gently warmed before, Collected, gently warm no more,

But glow with more prevailing heat.

A SONG

On the green margin of the brook

Despairing Phyllida reclined, Whilst every sigh and every look

Declared the anguish of her mind, “Am I less lovely then?” (she cries,

And in the waves her form surveyed ;) “Oh yes, I see my languid eyes,

My faded cheek, my colour fed : These eyes no more like lightning pierced, These cheeks grew pale, when Damon first

His Phyllida betrayed. “ The rose he in his bosom wore,

How oft upon my breast was seen! And when I kissed the drooping flower,

Behold,' he cried, 'it blooms again! The wreaths that bound my braided hair Himself next day was proud to wear

At church, or on the green.” While thus sad Phyllida lamented,

Chance brought unlucky Thyrsis on ; Unwillingly the nymph consented,

But Damon first the cheat begun. She wiped the fallen tears away, Then sighed and blushed, as who should say,

“ Ah! Thyrsis, I am won.”

A SONG

No more shall hapless Celia's ears

Be fluttered with the cries
Of lovers drowned in floods of tears

Or murdered by her eyes ;
No serenades to break her rest,
Nor songs her slumbers to molest,

With my fa, la, la.

The fragrant flowers that once would bloom

And Aourish in her hair,
Since she no longer breathes perfume

Their odours to repair,
Must fade, alas! and wither now,
As placed on any common brow,

With my fa, la, la.

Her lip, so winning and so meek,

No longer has its charms;
As well she might by whistling seek

To lure us to her arms;
Affected once, 'tis real now,
As her forsaken gums may show,

With my fa, la, la.

The down that on her chin so smooth,

So lovely once appeared,
That, too, has left her with her youth,

Or sprouts into a beard;
As fields, so green when newly sown,
With stubble stiff are overgrown,

With my fa, la, la.

Then, Celia, leave your apish tricks,

And change your girlish airs
For ombre, snuff, and politics,

Those joys that suit your years;
No patches can lost youth recall,
Nor whitewash prop a tumbling wall,

With my fa, la, la.

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