1812 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Cowper

Charles Caleb Colton, in Hypocrisy, a Satire (1812) 76-77.



Cowper, whom of this charge we must acquit
Yet fails in splendour, sprightliness, and wit,
Of their bright wheels deprived, his cumbrous Verse
Drags on, more slow and solemn than an hearse;
Thro' tides of ink it moves, as heavily
As Pharaoh's Chariot thro' th' o'erwhelming Sea;
Where oft, mid froth and foam of words, we trace
Some tame trite truth, correct and common place;
Good moral stuff, that neither heals nor harms,
Disgusts us never, but too seldom charms.
He flew too low, hence nobler game he missed,
Nor pounced his prey, a mousing Satyrist.

Yet can this melancholy Bird of night
Sustain at times a loftier, bolder flight,
Hence twice perused, I throw the volume down,
Glad to approve, and scarce inclined to frown.
If two, the least complacent of the nine,
Thy suit rejected, all the rest were thine;
Though Homer blame thy too officious quill,
Cowper, "with all thy faults I love thee still."
Most when with vivid flash thy genius proud,
Illumes thy grief, the lightning of the cloud!
When beaming through the tear, thy brightning eye
Perceives the Rainbow in thy troubled sky;
Then faith and hope proclaim, with holy joy,
Storms may o'erwhelm thee, but shall not destroy.