1805 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Cowper

Anonymous, "Lines written after reading Hayley's Life of Cowper" Port Folio [Philadelphia] 5 (6 April 1805) 103.



Sweet melancholy bard! whose piercing thought
Found humblest themes with pure instruction fraught;
How hard for mortal sight to trace the ways
Of heaven throughout thy life's mysterious maze!
Why was it ordered that thy gentle mind,
By fancy fir'd, by piety refin'd,
Should in this guilty world be forc'd to dwell,
Like some base culprit in his gloomy cell,
Rous'd from its due repose by feverish dreams,
By goblin forms, by din of fancied screams?
Why was that fertile genius waste and chill'd
By wint'ry blasts, its opening blossoms kill'd?
A soil where Yemen's spicy buds might blow,
And Persia's rose a purer fragrance know!
Why bloom'd so late those sweet poetic flowers,
Bless'd by no summer suns, no vernal showers,
Which in the autumn of thy days were rear'd
By friendship's dew, by fickle zephyrs cheer'd?—
I hear a distant seraph bid me "Hold,
Nor tempt high Heav'n by inquiries bold.
Weak-sighted mortal! can'st thou not discern
What from thy native reason thou might'st learn?
Had fortune's sunshine cheer'd his early days,
Fann'd by the soft favonian breath of praise;
These fruitful virtues, which sprung up so fair;
Those blossoms, breathing odours on the air,
By noxious weeds have bloom'd, and died unknown.
Presumptuous mortal! 'twould become thee well
On this thy fellow mortal's life to dwell.
His actions, vice, and folly view with shame;
His lessons foul-mouth'd envy dares not blame;
His well-lov'd image still calls many a tear;
His cherish'd name all ages shall revere."