1800 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Cowper

C., 25th reg. infantry, "Elegy on the Death of Wm Cowper, Esq." Bath Chronicle (8 May 1800).



And is the spirit of the Poet fled?
Yes, from its earthly tenement 'tis flown!
And Death, at length, has added to the dead
The sweetest Minstrel that the world has known.

Untainted with the blandishments of vice,
Which mark the manners of the present Age,
He sought, and found, that pearl of peerless price,
Which stands recorded in the sacred page.

Yet spite of all that wisdom could impart,
And all the fervour of Religion's flame,
Grief pour'd a tide of anguish through his heart,
And shook the fabrick of his mental frame!

Too nice, too great his sympathy of soul;
For oh! his feelings were so much refin'd,
That Sense became impatient of controul,
And Madness seiz'd the empire of his mind!

But when Reflection threw her eagle-eye
Athwart the gloom of unpropitious fate,
Faith op'd a splendid vista to the sky,
And gave an earnest of a happier state.

To see, — whilst sceptics to th' effects of chance,
Ascribe creation's ever-varying form,—
To see distinctly, at the first slight glance,
Who wings the light'ning, and Who drives the storm:

To brush the cobweb follies from the great,
Which Art with all her sophistry has spread,
Uphold the honour of a sinking state,
And bid Religion raise her drooping head:—

Such are the duties of th' enraptur'd Bard;
In such — His lucid intervals he pass'd!
And finding Virtue was her own reward,
Woo'd and rever'd the Vestal to the last.

Know then, though death has added to his list
As sweet a Bard as ever swept the lyre;
In death's despite, his mem'ry shall exist
In numbers pregnant with celestial fire.

Yes, COWPER! with thy own expressive lays,
(Lays, which have haply many a mind illum'd)
Thy name shall triumph o'er the lapse of days,
And only perish, when the world's consum'd.
Norwich, April 28.