1786 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Cowper

Anna Seward to T. S. Whalley, 1 February 1786; Letters, ed. Scott (1811) 1:120-21.



A new star is arisen in our poetic hemisphere, with very powerful lustre; yet I by no means think its generally red and angry beams very auspicious to human happiness, or to human virtue. The name of this luminary is Cowper; his work, entitled The Task, has many and great poetic beauties, both as to imagery, landscape, and sentiment; yet the author perpetually shews himself to be a sarcastic misanthropist. It opens, however, with a gay and enchanting genealogy of seats, from the three-legged stool of Alfred to the accomplished sofa of George the Third; but this delicious gaiety of spirit soon shuts in. Do you remember these lines in an old Scotch ballad, called The Flowers of the Forest?

I have seen Tweed streaming
With sun-beams bright gleaming,
Grow drumly and black as he rolls on his way.

So it is with the muse of Cowper.