1805 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Cowper

Anonymous, "An Elegy on the Death of Wm. Cowper" Evening Fire-Side [Philadelphia] 1 (21 December 1805) 402-03.



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 the pearl of precious price,
Which stands recorded in the sacred page.

Yet, spite of all that wisdom could impart,
And all the fervour of religious flame;
Grief pour'd a tide of anguish through his heart,
And shook the fabric of the mental frame.

Too nice, too great, his sympathy of soul,
For oh! his feelings were so well 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, while sceptics to the effects of chance,
Ascribe creation's ever varying form;
To see, distinctly at the first slite glance,
Who wings the lightning, and who drives the storm.

To brush the cobweb follies from the great,
Which art with all his sophistry has spread;
Uphold the honours of a sinking state,
And bid religion raise her drooping head;

Such were 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, tho' death has added to his list,
As sweet a bard as ever swept the lyre;
In death's despite his memory 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.