1856 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Henry Cogswell Knight

George and Evert Duyckinck, in Cyclopedia of American Literature (1856; 1875) 1:870.



Henry Cogswell Knight was born at Newburyport, about the year 1788. He was early left with his brother an orphan, and found a home with his maternal grandfather, Dr. Nathaniel Cogswell, at the family seat in Rowley, Massachusetts, the beauties of which he has celebrated in one of his poems. Entering Brown University, he took his degree there in 1812, and prepared himself for the ministry of the Protestant Episcopal Church, in which he took orders. He began to preach, and published two volumes of sermons, but was never settled over a congregation. He was much occupied in literature. A collection of his youthful poems appeared in 1809. It is headed by The Cypriad, in two cantos, a celebration of the tender passion, which he subsequently worked over in his poem, The Trophies of Love. In 1815, he published at Philadelphia a volume of poems, with the title The Broken Harp, containing "Earl Kendorf and Rosabelle, a Harper's Tale," a number of grave and light pieces, and translations from the classical and modern Latin poets. A third collection of his poems, in two neat volumes, appeared from the press of Wells and Lilly, at Boston, in 1821. He died in 1835.

Mr. Knight's poems, if not always highly finished, are at least elegant and scholarlike performances. He took for his subjects, when he was not writing cantos on love, topics involving thought and reflection, though he handled them in a light vein. His "Crusade" has an elaborate "argument," setting forth the subtleties of theology. It is a playful satirical poem, on a serious theme. Another, "The Grave," is emulous of the didactic fervors of Cowper. In his "Sciences in Masquerade," an amusing illustration of the old theme of Sir Thomas More's "Praise of Folly," he sports gaily in a light rhyming measure. In his classical tastes he was fond of Horace, Ovid, the Epigrammatists, and such modern Latinists as Bonefonius. His muse was equally ready for the grave or gay — a sonnet or an epitaph.