1746
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Estimate of Life. In Three Parts.

The Museum: or the Literary and Historical Register 1 (2 August 1746) 372-79.

John Gilbert Cooper


A moral poem on the Choice of Hercules theme that imitates Milton's L'Allegro and Il Penseroso: "Hark! how the renovating Spring | Invites the feather'd Choir to sing! | The Gay and Youthful all advance, | Together knit in festive Dance; | See blooming HEBE leads the Way, | For Youth is Nature's Holiday." John Gilbert Cooper's agreeable poem was reprinted with additions in the first volume of Dodsley's Collection of Poems. Cooper, a friend and admirer of Mark Akenside, the editor of The Museum, and was a frequent contributor.

Samuel Jackson Pratt: "As a poet, his compositions are characterised by ease, elegance, and sprightliness. He is not destitute of enthusiasm of fancy; but his fancy is not always under proper regulation; and he sometimes fails in the precision of his ideas. His sentiments, though seldom new, are generally liberal and just; his diction, with some exceptions, proper and easy; and his versification sweetly modulated and harmonious" Cabinet of Poetry (1808) 5:ccxii.

Alexander Chalmers: "Why the Estimate of Life was omitted from Dodsley's edition of his works, I know not. It contains more true poetry than half the volume. It was originally published in the Museum, and afterwards in Dodsley's Collection of Miscellaneous Poems" Works of the English Poets (1810) 15:506.

John Bowyer Nichols: "Mr. Gilbert Cooper was descended of a good family in Nottinghamshire, was educated at Westminster School, and was a Fellow-Commoner of Trinity College, Cambridge. He married Susanna, grand-daughter of Sir Nathan Wrighte, Lord Keeper. Mr. Cooper was a man of polite address and accomplishments, and possessed an amiable and affectionate heart. He died April 15, 1769, aged forty-five" in Literary and Miscellaneous Memoirs of Joseph Cradock (1828) 4:92n.

Raymond Dexter Havens: "After 1740 the number of these imitations [of Milton's octosyllabics] increased so rapidly that it would be both impracticable and unprofitable to consider them all. One that should be mentioned, however, not only for its length but because it illustrates the influence of Handel's oratorio L'Allegro, Il Penseroso, ed Il Moderato (1740), is The Estimate of Life (1746), which, like Handel's work, consists of three parts, The Melancholy, The Cheerful, The Moderate. John Gilbert Cooper, the author, who had used the verse and style of Paradise Lost the preceding year in his Power of Harmony, did not hesitate to follow the companion poems" The Influence of Milton (1922) 451.



I. MELPOMENE.
Offspring of Folly and of Noise,
Fantastick Train of airy Joys,
Cease, cease your vain delusive Lore,
And tempt my serious Thoughts no more,
Ye horrid Forms, ye gloomy Throng,
Who hear the Bird of Midnight's Song;
Thou too, Despair, pale Spectre, come,
From the Self-murd'rer's haunted Tomb,
While sad MELPOMENE relates,
How we're afflicted by the Fates.

What's all this wish'd-for Empire Life?
A scene of Mis'ry, Care, and Strife;
Our Youth is silly, idle, vain;
Our Age is full of Care and Pain;
From Wealth accrues Anxiety;
Contempt and want from Poverty;
What Trouble Bus'ness has in store!
How Idleness fatigues us more!
To Reason th' ignorant are blind,
The Learned's Eyes are too refin'd;
Each Wit deems every Wit his Foe,
Each Fool is naturally so;
And ev'ry Rank and ev'ry Station
Meet justly with Disapprobation.

Say, Man, is this the boasted State,
Where all is pleasant, all is great?
Is aught in Pleasure, aught in Pow'r,
Has Wisdom any Gift in store?
Tell me, ye Youthful, who approve
Th' intoxicating Sweets of Love;
What endless, nameless Throbs arise,
What Heart-felt Anguish and what Sighs,
When Jealousy has gnaw'd the Root,
Whence Love's united Branches shoot!
Or grant that Hymen lights his Torch,
To lead you to the Nuptial Porch,
Behold the long'd-for Rapture o'er!
Desire begins to lose its Pow'r,
Then cold Indifference takes Place,
Fruition alters quite the Case;
And what before was Extasy,
Is scarcely now Civility.

Do Pow'r or Wealth more Comfort own?
Behold yon Pageant on a Throne,
Where silken Swarms of Flattery
Obsequious wait his asking Eye;
But view within his tortur'd Breast,
(No more the downy Seat of Rest)
Suspicion casts her poison'd Dart,
And Guilt, that Scorpion stings his heart.

Will Knowledge give us Happiness?
In that (alas) we know there's less!
For every Pang of mental Woe
Springs from the Faculty, to know.

Hark! at the Death-betok'ning Knell
Of yonder doleful Passing-bell,
Perhaps a Friend, a Father's dead,
Or the lov'd Partner of thy Bed!
Perhaps thy only Son lies there,
Breathless upon the sable Bier!
Say, what can ease the present Grief,
Can former Joys afford Relief?
Those former Joys remember'd still,
The more augment the recent Ill.

What Woes from mortal Ills accrue!
And what from natural ensue!
Disease and Casualty attend
Our Footsteps to the Journey's End;
The cold Catarrh, the Gout and Stone,
The Dropsy, Jaundice, join'd in one,
The raving Fever's inward Heat,
The pale Consumption's fatal Sweat;
And thousand more Distempers roam,
To drag us to th' eternal Home.

II. CALLIOPE.
Grim Superstition, hence away,
To native Night, and leave the Day,
Nor let thy hellish Brood appear,
Begot on Ignorance and Fear!
Come gentle Mirth, and Gaiety,
Sweet Daughters of Society;
Whilst fair CALLIOPE pursues
Flights worthy of the chearful Muse.

O Life, thou great essential Good!
Where ev'ry Blessing's understood!
Where Plenty, Freedom, Pleasure meet,
To make each fleeting Moment sweet,
Where moral Loves and Innocence,
The Balm of sweet Content dispense,
Where Peace expands her Turtle Wings,
And Hope a constant Requiem sings;
With easy Thought my Breast inspire,
To thee I tune the sprightly Lyre.
From Heav'n this Emanation flows,
To Heav'n again the Wand'rer goes,
And whilst employ'd beneath on Earth,
Its boon Attendants Ease and Mirth,
Join'd with the social Virtues three,
And their calm Parent, Charity,
Conduct it to the sacred Plains,
Where Happiness terrestrial reigns.
'Tis Discontent alone destroys
The Harvest of our ripening Joys;
Resolve to be extempt from Woe,
Your Resolution keeps you so.
Whate'er is needful, Man receives,
Nay more, superfluous, Nature gives;
Indulgent Parent, Source of bliss,
Profuse of Goodness to Excess!
'Tis, Man, for thee the Zephyr blows,
For thee the purple Vintage flows,
Each flow'r its various hue displays,
The Lark exalts her vernal Lays;
To view yon azure Vault is thine,
And my EUDOCIA's Form divine.

Hark! how the renovating Spring
Invites the feather'd Choir to sing!
The Gay and Youthful all advance,
Together knit in festive Dance;
See blooming HEBE leads the Way,
For Youth is Nature's Holiday.

If dire Misfortune should employ
Her Dart to wound the timely Joy,
Solicit Bacchus with your Pray'r,
Nor earthly Goblin dares come near,
Care puts an easier Aspect on,
Pale Anger smooths her threat'ning Frown,
Mirth comes in Melancholy's Stead,
And Discontent conceals her Head.
The thoughts on vagrant Pinions fly,
And mount exulting to the Sky;
There with enraptur'd View look down,
On golden Empires all their own.

Or let, when Fancy spreads her Sails,
Love waft you on with easier Gales,
Where in the soul-bewitching Groves,
EUPHROSYNE, sweet Goddess, roves;
This all the ancient Bards employ'd,
'Twas all the ancient Gods enjoy'd,
Who often from the Realms above
Came down on earth t' indulge in Love.

Still there's one greater Bliss in Store,
'Tis virtuous Friendship's social Hour;
When Goodness from the Heart sincere
Pours forth Compassion's balmy Tear,
For from those Tears such Transports flow,
As none but Friends and Angels know,

Blest State! where ev'ry thing conspires
To fill the Breast with heav'nly Fires!
Where for a while the Soul must roam,
To preconceive the State to come,
And when thro' Life the Journey's past,
Without Repining or Distaste,
Again the Spirit will repair,
To breathe a more coelestial Air,
And reap, where blessed Beings glow,
Completion of the Joys below.

III. TERPSICHORE.
Descend, Astraea, from above,
Where Jove's celestial daughters rove,
And deign once more to bring with thee
Thy earth-deserting Family;
Calm Temperance, and Patience mild,
Sweet Contemplation's heavenly Child,
Reflection firm and Fancy free,
Religion pure and Probity,
Whilst all the Heliconian Throng
Shall join TERPSICHORE in Song.

Ere Man, great Reason's Lord was made;
Or the World's first Foundations laid;
As high in their divine Abodes,
Consulting sat the mighty Gods,
Jove on the Chaos looking down,
Spoke thus from his imperial Throne.
Ye Deities, and Potentates,
Aerial Pow'rs and heav'nly States,
Lo, in that gloomy Place below,
Where Darkness reigns and Discord now,
There a new World shall grace the Skies,
And a new Creature form'd arise,
Who shall partake of our Perfections,
And live and act by our Directions.
Let therefore ev'ry Godhead give,
What this new Being should receive.
But Care important must be had,
To mingle well of Good and Bad,
That by th' allaying Mixture, he
May not approach to Deity.

The Sov'reign spake, the Gods agree,
And each began in his Degree.
Behind the Throne of Jove there stood
Two Vessels of coelestial Wood,
Containing just two equal Measures,
One fill'd with Pains, and one with Pleasures;
The Gods drew out from both of these,
And mix'd 'em with their Essences,
(Which Essences are heav'nly still,
When undisturb'd by nat'ral Ill,
And Man to moral Good is prone,
Let but the moral Pow'rs alone,
And not pervert them by Tuition,
Or conjure 'em by Superstition.)
Hence Man partakes an equal Share
Of pleasing Thoughts and gloomy Care,
And Plain and Pleasure e'er shall be,
As PLATO says, in Company.

Those who with pious Pains pursue
Calm Virtue by her sacred Clue,
Will surely find the mental Treasure
Of Virtue, true and real Pleasure:
Follow the pleasurable Road,
That fatal Siren reckons good,
'Twill lead thee to the gloomy Cell,
Where Pain and Melancholy dwell.
Health is the Child of Abstinence,
Disease, of a luxurious Sense;
Despair, that hellish Fiend, proceeds
From loosen'd Thoughts and impious Deeds;
And the sweet Offspring of Content,
Flows from the Mind's soft Government.
Thus, Man, thy State is free from Woe,
If thou would'st chuse to make it so;
Murmur not then at Heav'n's Decree,
The Gods have given thee Liberty;
And plac'd within thy conscious Breast,
Reason, as an unerring Test,
And should'st thou fix on Misery,
The Fault is not in them but thee.

[pp. 372-79]