1782
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Winter Nosegay.

Poems by William Cowper, of the Inner Temple, Esq.

William Cowper


A pastoral lyric in three double-quatrain stanzas. In this reflection on friendship and devotion William Cowper develops the art and nature theme around the topic of hot-house flowers that blooms in the winter season: "See how they have safely surviv'd | The frowns of a sky so severe, | Such Mary's true love that has liv'd | Through many a turbulent year."

Gentleman's Magazine: "We have perused, with great pleasure, both the serious and humour pieces, the Latin and English, of which this collection consists. The author we know to have been a keen sportsman in the classic fields of Westminster, and was a coadjutor of the celebrated Mr. Town in The Connoisseur" 52 (March 1782) 130.

Critical Review: "These Poems are written, as we learn from the title-page, by Mr. Cowper, of the Inner Temple, who seems to be a man of a sober and religious turn of mind, with a benevolent heart, and a serious wish to inculcate the precepts of morality; he is not, however, possessed of any superior abilities, or powers of genius, requisite to so arduous an undertaking; his verses are, in general, weak and languid, and have neither novelty, spirit, or animation, to recommend them; that mediocrity so severely condemned by Horace, 'Non Dii nor homines,' &c. pervades the whole; and, whilst the author avoids every thing that is ridiculous or contemptible, he, at the same time, never rises to any thing that we can commend or admire" 53 (April 1782) 287.

London Magazine: "An entertaining collection upon a variety of subjects, temporary, moral, and satirical; composed with sound judgment, good taste, and no small share of wit and humour" 51 (May 1782) 245.

Town and Country Magazine: "Horatius Flaccus, had he been living, would not, in all probability, have given his plaudit to these poems, as they possess only that mediocrity which he so severely condemns. However, to give Mr. Cowper as fair play as possible, to speak in the jockey stile, and as all candidates for fame in the poetical line, may be considered as racers towards Mount Parnassus, we shall submit the following quotation to our readers, as not the worst of these poems" 14 (May 1782) 269.



What nature, alas! has denied
To the delicate growth of our isle,
Art has in a measure supplied,
And winter is deck'd with a smile.
See Mary what beauties I bring
From the shelter of that sunny shed,
Where the flow'rs have the charms of the spring,
Though abroad they are frozen and dead.

'Tis a bow'r of Arcadian sweets,
Where Flora is still in her prime,
A fortress to which she retreats,
From the cruel assaults of the clime.
While earth wears a mantle of snow,
These pinks are as fresh and as gay,
As the fairest and sweetest that blow,
On the beautiful bosom of May.

See how they have safely surviv'd
The frowns of a sky so severe,
Such Mary's true love that has liv'd
Through many a turbulent year.
The charms of the late blowing rose,
Seem grac'd with a livelier hue,
And the winter of sorrow best shows
The truth of a friend, such as you.

[pp. 346-47]