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swered her, "if you will give me a subject." "Oh, you can write on any subject; write upon this Sofa," she jestingly replied. And the result is that long poem which opens, "I sing the Sofa." His excuse is that "the Fair commands the song."

The Task reveals the main characteristic of Cowper a power to enter sympathetically into the humbler household activities and feelings and to give these emotions intimate, deep-felt, and realistic expression. In this he was somewhat hampered, inasmuch as the public taste had not yet escaped the artificial bondage of the age of Pope; but he was one whose work and silent influence prepared the world for the complete emancipation that came with the more important and more magnificent work of Wordsworth and Coleridge a generation later. And every one who reads Cowper's life and his poetry will gladly join in the eloquent eulogy which Mrs. Browning voices over his grave:

It is a place where poets crowned may feel the heart's decaying;

It is a place where happy saints may weep amid their praying;

Yet let the grief and humbleness as low as silence languish : Earth surely now may give her calm to whom she gave her anguish.

O poets, from a maniac's tongue was poured the deathless singing!

O Christians, at your cross of hope a hopeless hand was clinging!

O men, this man in brotherhood your weary paths beguiling, Groaned inly while he taught you peace, and died while ye were smiling!

And now, what time ye all may read through dimming tears his story,

How discord on the music fell and darkness on the glory, And how when, one by one, sweet sounds and wandering lights departed,

He wore no less a loving face because so broken-hearted,

He shall be strong to sanctify the poet's high vocation,
And bow the meekest Christian down in meeker adoration;

Nor ever shall he be, in praise, by wise or good forsaken, Named softly as the household name of one whom God hath taken.

With quiet sadness and no gloom I learn to think upon him, With meekness that is gratefulness to God whose heaven hath won him,

Who suffered once the madness-cloud to His own love to bind him,

But gently led the blind along where breath and bird could find him;

And wrought within his shattered brain such quick poetic


As hills have language for, and stars, harmonious influences: The pulse of dew upon the grass kept his within its number, And silent shadows from the trees refreshed him like a slum


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Her timbers yet are sound,
And she may float again
Full charged with England's thunder,
And plough the distant main:

But Kempenfelt is gone,
His victories are o'er;
And he and his eight hundred
Shall plough the wave no more.



SWEET stream, that winds through yonder glade,
Apt emblem of a virtuous maid
Silent and chaste she steals along,
Far from the world's gay busy throng:
With gentle yet prevailing force,
Intent upon her destined course;
Graceful and useful all she does,
Blessing and blest where'er she goes;
Pure-bosom'd as that watery glass,
And Heaven reflected in her face.


THE poplars are fell'd; farewell to the shade
And the whispering sound of the cool colonnade;
The winds play no longer and sing in the leaves,
Nor Ouse on his bosom their image receives.




Twelve years have elapsed since I first took a view 5
Of my favourite field, and the bank where they grew:
And now in the grass behold they are laid,
And the tree is my seat that once lent me a shade!

The blackbird has fled to another retreat

Where the hazels afford him a screen from the heat; And the scene where his melody charm'd me before Resounds with his sweet-flowing ditty no more.

My fugitive years are all hasting away,
And I must ere long lie as lowly as they,
With a turf on my breast and a stone at my head, 15
Ere another such grove shall arise in its stead.

The change both my heart and my fancy employs ;
I reflect on the frailty of man and his joys:
Short-lived as we are, yet our pleasures, we see,
Have a still shorter date, and die sooner than we. 20


O HAPPY shades! to me unblest!

Friendly to peace. but not to me!
How ill the scene that offers rest,
And heart that cannot rest, agree!

This glassy stream, that spreading pine,
Those alders quivering to the breeze,
Might soothe a soul less hurt than mine,
And please, if anything could please.

But fix'd unalterable Care

Foregoes not what she feels within,
Shows the same sadness everywhere,

And slights the season and the scene.

For all that pleased in wood or lawn

While Peace possess'd these silent bowers, Her animating smile withdrawn,

Has lost its beauties and its powers.

The saint or moralist should tread
This moss-grown alley, musing, slow,
They seek like me the secret shade,

But not, like me, to nourish woe!

Me, fruitful scenes and prospects waste
Alike admonish not to roam;
These tell me of enjoyments past,
And those of sorrows yet to come.





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