1805 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Cowper

C—n, "On reading the Life of William Cowper" The Monthly Magazine 19 (February 1805) 39.



— Plunged deep in sorrow,
And dead to all those phantom-forms of bliss,
Which once awoke this soul to keen delight;
To Nature's charms, to Friendship's sacred glow,
And e'en to Hope's delicious transports dead,
What magic power shall set the prisoner free,
And give again forgotten extacies?
Is it a dream, or do those favour'd souls,
Who from high Heav'n inhale celestial light,
Is it a dream, or do they round my home,
This little nook obscure, diffuse their beams,
Steal the torn heart once more from Mis'ry's grasp,
And bid it rise, and glow with Virtue's fire?
Yes, 'tis Reality, the saint, the bard,
Discloses the mild graces of his soul,
Refinement, tenderness, benevolence,
And with a charm ineffable, unfolds
All that is excellent in human kind.
I thank thee, Heaven, that earth is not so poor
As once I deem'd it; that there still is left
Who taste of friendship's hallow'd mysteries,
Who fill domestic life with peace and love,
Who carry on celestial intercourse,
And who, by Virtue's animating aid,
Make Life's uneven path, "a downy road;"
And though there comes an hour, an awful hour,
When Mary's soothing voice is heard no more,
And Cowper's throbbing spirit sinks to rest,
Yet die they cannot; renovated souls,
Translated where the just made perfect dwell,
Live, rise, and reign for ever; and when night
Veils Earth's mysterious miseries from my view,
I see their sainted forms, hear their soft hymns,
And fain would dream, that me, such intercourse
Denied below, they beckon to their rest!

Hayley, this impotence of praise forgive,
Forgive presumption, which thy work inspires.
To snatch from mis'ry's grasp, and fling delight
Long, long untasted o'er an ardent mind,
To thee is higher bliss, or much I err,
Than to bestow on them another rose,
Whose path already Fate has strewed with flowers.

Friend of the sainted Bard, farewel, farewel!
But, if perchance, when Sorrow's school shall close,
Admitted to the threshold of the place
Where holy souls convene, in better strains
There will I thank thee for suspended grief,
For richest gleams of intellectual bliss,
Lighting a darksome passage to the tomb.