Page images

No; these were vigorous as their sires,

Nor plague nor famine came : This annual tribute Death requires,

And never waves his claim.

Like crowded forest-trees we stand,

And some are mark’d to fall;
The axe will smite at God's command,

And soon shall smite us all.

Green as the bay-tree, ever green,

With its new foliage on,
The gay, the thoughtless, I have seen :

I pass'd, and they were gone.

Read, ye

run, the solemn

With which I charge my page;
A worm is in the bud of youth,
And at the root of


No present health can health ensure

For yet an hour to come ;
No medicine, though it often cure,

Can always baulk the tomb.

And oh! that humble as my lot,

And scorn'd as is my strain, These truths, though known, too much forgot,

I may not teach in vain.

So prays your clerk with all his heart,

And, ere he quits the pen,
Begs you for once to take his part,

And answer all Amen!





[This gentleman was cousin to the poet, and they had been intimate in early life. The Sonnet was first printed anonymously in the Gentleman's Magazine, 1788; General Cowper copied and sent it to the author, as something with which he had been exceedingly pleased.] CowPER, whose silver voice, task'd sometimes hard,

Legends prolix delivers in the ears

(Attentive when thou read'st) of England's peers, Let verse at length yield thee thy just reward.

Thou wast not heard with drowsy disregard,

Expending late on all that length of plea

Thy generous powers ; but silence honour'd thee, Mute as e'er gazed on orator or bard.

Thou art not voice alone, but hast beside
Both heart and head ; and couldst with music sweet,

Of Attic phrase and senatorial tone,
Like thy renown'd forefathers, far and wide
Thy fame diffuse, praised not for utterance meet

Of others' speech, but magic of thy own.


[This little piece, which, according to the decision of a living critic, “ includes one of the most delicate complimentary turns that ever poet paid or woman received,” was presented to Lady Throckmorton on the first day of the year 1788.]

Maria! I have every good

For thee wish'd many a time,
Both sad, and in a cheerful mood,

But never yet in rhyme.

To wish thee fairer is no need,

More prudent, or more sprightly,
Or more ingenious, or more freed

From temper-flaws unsightly.

What favour then not yet possessid,

Can I for thee require,
In wedded love already blest,

To thy whole heart's desire ?

None here is happy but in part:

Full bliss is bliss divine ;
There dwells some wish in every heart,

And, doubtless, one in thine.

That wish, on some fair future day,

Which Fate shall brightly gild,
('Tis blameless, be it what it may,)

I wish it all fulfill’d.



[“ Insurpassably beautiful in conception,” says Montgomery, “ and in itself an answer to the prayer which it contains.” Some of the allusions have perhaps a quaintness which takes from their ease.]

PATRON of all those luckless brains,

That, to the wrong side leaning,
Indite much metre with much pains,

And little or no meaning:

Ah why, since oceans, rivers, streams,

That water all the nations,
Pay tribute to thy glorious beams,

In constant exhalations,

Why, stooping from the noon of day,

Too covetous of drink,
Apollo, hast thou stolen away

A poet's drop of ink?

Upborne into the viewless air

It floats a vapour now,
Impelld through regions dense and rare,

By all the winds that blow.

Ordain'd, perhaps, ere summer flies,

Combined with millions more,
To form an Iris in the skies,

Though black and foul before.

Illustrious drop! and happy then

Beyond the happiest lot
Of all that ever pass'd my pen,

So soon to be forgot!

Phoebus, if such be thy design,

To place it in thy bow,
Give wit, that what is left


shine With equal grace below.


[This piece, and the two following on the same subject, were composed in 1788, with the intention of being printed and dispersed as ballads ; they were not, however, published till they appeared in the first collected edition of the Author's poems.]

Video meliora proboque
Deteriora sequor.

I own I am shock'd at the purchase of slaves,
And fear those who buy them and sell them are

knaves ; What I hear of their hardships, their tortures, and

groans, Is almost enough to draw pity from stones.

I pity them greatly, but I must be mum,
For how could we do without sugar and rum ?
Especially sugar, so needful we see ?
What ! give up our desserts, our coffee, and tea !

Besides, if we do, the French, Dutch, and Danes,
Will heartily thank us, no doubt, for our pains ;
If we do not buy the poor creatures, they will,
And tortures and groans will be multiplied still.

If foreigners likewise would give up the trade,
Much more in behalf of your wish might be said ;
But, while they get riches by purchasing blacks,
Pray tell me why we may not also go snacks?

Your scruples and arguments bring to my mind
A story so pat, you may think it is coin'd
On purpose to answer you out of my mint;
But I can assure you I saw it in print.

A youngster at school, more sedate than the rest,
Had once his integrity put to the test ;
His comrades had plotted an orchard to rob,
And ask'd him to go and assist in the job.

don't go ;

He was shock’d, sir, like you, and answered “ Oh no!
What! rob our good neighbour ! I pray you
Besides the man's poor, his orchard's his bread,
Then think of his children, for they must be fed.”

“ You speak very fine, and you look very grave,
But apples we want, and apples we'll have ;

go with us, you shall have a share, If not, you shall have neither apple nor pear.”

They spoke, and Tom ponder'd—“ I see they will go:
Poor man! what a pity to injure him so !
Poor man! I would save him his fruit if I could,
But staying behind will do him no good.,

66 If the matter depended alone upon me,
His apples might hang till they dropp'd from the tree ;
But, since they will take them, I think I'll go too,
He will lose none by me, though I get a few.”

His scruples thus silenced, Tom felt more at ease,
And went with his comrades the apples to seize ;
He blamed and protested, but join'd in the plan :
He shared in the plunder, but pitied the man.

« PreviousContinue »