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The concluding lines may be considered as an omen of that celebrity which such a writer, in the process of time, could not fail to obtain. How just a subject of surprise and admiration is it, to behold an author starting under such a load of disadvantages, and displaying on the sudden such a variety of excellence! For, neglected as it was for a few years, the first volume of Cowper exhibits such a diversity of poetical powers as have very rarely indeed been known to be united in the same individual. He is not only great in passages of pathos and sublimity, but he is equally admirable in wit and humor. After descanting most copiously on sacred subjects, with the animation of a prophet and the simplicity of an apostle, he paints the ludicrous characters of common life with the comic force of a Moliere, particularly in his poem on Conversation, and his exquisite portrait of a fretful temper; a piece of moral painting so highly finished and so happily calculated to promote good humor, that a tran
MR. BULL, to whom the following poetical epistle is addressed, has already been mentioned as the person who suggested to Cowper the translation of Madame Guion's Hymns. Cowper used to say of him, that he was the master of a fine imagination, or, rather, that he was not master of it.
TO THE REV. WILLIAM BULL.*
PART THE SECOND.
My dear Friend,
If reading verse be your delight,
script of the verses cannot but interest the reader.
Some fretful tempers wince at every touch;
He takes what he at first profess'd to loath;
O Nymph of Transatlantic fame, Where'er thine haunt whate'er thy name, Whether reposing on the side Of Oroonoquo's spacious tide, Or list'ning with delight not small To Niagara's distant fall, "Tis thine to cherish and to feed The pungent nose-refreshing weed, Which, whether, pulverized it gain A speedy passage to the brain." Or, whether touch'd with fire, it rise In circling eddies to the skies, Does thought more quicken and refine Than all the breath of all the NineForgive the Bard, if Bard be he, Who once too wantonly made free To touch with a satiric wipe That symbol of thy power, the pipe ;
So may no blight infest thy plains, And no unseasonable rains,
And so may smiling Peace once more Visit America's sad shore;
And thou, secure from all alarms
TO THE REV. WILLIAM UNWIN.
My dear Friend,-Though some people pretend to be clever in the way of prophetical forecast, and to have a peculiar talent of sagacity, by which they can divine the meaning of a providential dispensation while its consequences are yet in embryo, I do not. There is at this time to be found, I suppose, in the cabinet, and in both houses, a greater assemblage of able men, both as speakers and counsellors, than ever were contemporary in the same land. A man not accustomed to trace the workings of Providence, as recorded in Scripture, and that has given no attention to this particular subject, while employed in the study of profane history, would assert boldly, that it is a token for good, that much may be expected from them, and that the country, though heavily afflicted, is not yet to be despaired of, distinguished as she is by so many characters of the highest class. Thus he would say, and I do not deny that the event might justify his skill in prognostics. God works by means: and, in a case of great national perplexity and distress, wisdom and political ability seem to be the only natural means of deliverance. But a mind more religiously inclined, and perhaps a little tinctured with melancholy, might with equal probability of success hazard a conjecture directly opposite. Alas! what is the wisdom of man, especially when he trusts in it as the only god of his confidence? When I consider the general contempt that is poured upon all things sacred, the profusion, the dissipation, the knavish cunning, of some, the rapacity of others, and the impenitence of all, I am rather inclined to fear that God, who honors himself by bringing human glory to shame, and by disappointing the expectations of those whose trust is in creatures, has signalized the present day as a day of much human sufficiency and strength, has brought together from all quarters of the land the most illustrious men to be found in it, only that he may prove the vanity of idols, and
that, when a great empire is falling, and he has pronounced a sentence of ruin against it, the inhabitants, be they weak or strong, wise or foolish, must fall with it. I am rather confirmed in this persuasion by observing that these luminaries of the state had no sooner fixed themselves in the political heaven, than the fall of the brightest of them shook all the rest. The arch of their power was no sooner struck than the key-stone slipped out of its place, those that were closest in connexion with it followed, and the whole building, new as it is, seems to be already a ruin. If a man should hold this language, who could convict him of absurdity? The Marquis of Rockingham is minister-all the world rejoices, anticipating success in war and a glorious peace. The Marquis of Rockingham is dead-all the world is afflicted, and relapses into its former despondence. What does this prove, but that the Marquis was their Almighty, and that, now he is gone, they know no other? But let us wait a little, they will find another. Perhaps the Duke of Portland, or perhaps the unpopular whom they now represent as a devil, may obtain that honor. Thus God is forgot, and when he is, his judgments are generally his remembrancers.
How shall I comfort you upon the subject of your present distress? Pardon me that I find myself obliged to smile at it, because, who but yourself would be distressed upon such an occasion? You have behaved politely, and, like a gentleman, you have hospitably offered your house to a stranger, who could not, in your neighborhood at least, have been comfortably accommodated anywhere else. He, by neither refusing nor accepting an offer that did him too much honor, has disgraced himself, but not you. I think for the future you must be more cautious of laying yourself open to a stranger, and never again expose yourself to incivilities from an archdeacon you are not acquainted with.
Though I did not mention it, I felt with you what you suffered by the loss of Miss
-; I was only silent because I could minister no consolation to you on such a subject, but what I knew your mind to be already stored with. Indeed, the application of comfort in such cases is a nice business, and perhaps when best managed might as well be let alone. I remember reading many years ago a long treatise on the subject of consolation, written in French, the author's name I forgot, but I wrote these words in the margin. Special consolation! at least for a Frenchman, who is a creature the most easily comforted of any in the world!
We are as happy in Lady Austen, and she in us, as ever-having a lively imagination, and being passionately desirous of consolidating all into one family (for she has taken
her leave of London), she has just sprung a project which serves at least to amuse us and to make us laugh; it is to hire Mr. Small's house, on the top of Clifton-hill, which is large, commodious, and handsome, will hold us conveniently, and any friends who may occasionally favor us with a visit; the house is furnished, but, if it can be hired without the furniture, will let for a trifle-your sentiments if you please upon this demarche!
I send you my last frank-our best love attends you individually and all together. I give you joy of a happy change in the season, and myself also. I have filled four sides in less time than two would have cost me a week ago; such is the effect of sunshine upon such a butterfly as I am.
them at first, but a loud hiss engaged me to attend more closely, when behold-a viper! the largest that I remember to have seen, rearing itself, darting its forked tongue, and ejaculating the aforesaid hiss at the nose of a kitten, almost in contact with his lips. I ran into the hall for a hoe with a long handle, with which I intended to assail him, and returning in a few seconds, missed him: he was gone, and I feared had escaped me. Still, however, the kitten sat watching immoveably on the same spot. I concluded, therefore, that sliding between the door and the threshold, he had found his way out of the garden into the yard. I went round immediately, and there found him in close conversation with the old cat, whose curiosity being excited by so novel an appearance, inclined her to pat his head repeatedly with her fore foot, with her claws however sheathed, and not in anger, but in the way of philosophie inquiry and examination. To prevent her falling a victim to so laudable an exercise of her talents, I interposed in a moment with the hoe, and performed upon him an act of decapitation, which, though not immediately mortal, proved so in the end. Had he slid into the passages, where it is dark, or had he, when in the yard, met with no interruption from the cat, and secreted himself in any of the out-houses, it is hardly possible but that some of the family must have been bitten; he might have been trodden upon without being perceived, and have slipped away before the sufferer could have distinguished what foe had wounded him. Three years ago we discovered one in the same place, which the barber slew with
TO THE REV. WILLIAM UNWIN.
My dear Friend,-Entertaining some hope that Mr. Newton's next letter would furnish me with the means of satisfying your inquiry on the subject of Dr. Johnson's opinion, I have till now delayed my answer to your last; but the information is not yet come, Mr. Newton having intermitted a week more than usual, since his last writing. When I receive it, favorable or not, it shall be communicated to you; but I am not over-sanguine in my expectations from that quarter. Very learned and very critical heads are hard to please. He may perhaps treat me with lenity for the sake of the subject and design, but the composition, I think, will hardly escape his censure. But though all doctors Our proposed removal to Mr. Small's was, may not be of the same mind, there is one as you may suppose, a jest, or rather a jocodoctor at least, whom I have lately discovered, serious matter. We never looked upon it as my professed admirer.* He too, like John- entirely feasible, yet we saw in it something son, was with difficulty persuaded to read, so like practicability that we did not esteem having an aversion to all poetry, except the it altogether unworthy of our attention. It "Night Thoughts," which, on a certain occa- was one of those projects which people of sion, when being confined on board a ship lively imaginations play with and admire for he had no other employment, he got by heart. a few days, and then break in pieces. Lady He was however prevailed upon, and read me Austen returned on Thursday from London, several times over, so that if my volume had where she spent the last fortnight, and sailed with him instead of Dr. Young's, I whither she was called by an unexpected opperhaps might have occupied that shelf in his portunity to dispose of the remainder of her memory which he then allotted to the Doctor. | lease. She has therefore no longer any connexion with the great city, and no house but at Olney. Her abode is to be at the vicarage, where she has hired as much room as she wants, which she will embellish with her own furniture, and which she will occupy as soon as the minister's wife has produced another child, which is expected to make its entry in October.
It is a sort of paradox, but it is true: we are never more in danger than when we think ourselves most secure, nor in reality more secure than when we seem to be most in danger. Both sides of this apparent contradiction were lately verified in my experience: passing from the greenhouse to the barn, I saw three kittens (for we have so many in our retinue) looking with fixed attention on something which lay on the threshold of a door nailed up. I took but little notice of
* Dr. Franklin.
Mr. Bull, a dissenting minister of Newport, a learned, ingenious, good-natured, pious friend of ours, who sometimes visits us, and whom we visited last week, put into my
hands three volumes of French poetry, composed by Madame Guion-a quietist, say you, and a fanatic, I will have nothing to do with her.-'Tis very well, you are welcome to have nothing to do with her, but, in the meantime, her verse is the only French verse I ever read that I found agreeable; there is a neatness in it equal to that which we applaud, with so much reason, in the compositions of Prior. I have translated several of them, and shall proceed in my translations till I have filled a Lilliputian paper-book I happen to have by me, which, when filled, I shall present to Mr. Bull. He is her passionate admirer; rode twenty miles to see her picture in the house of a stranger, which stranger politely insisted on his acceptance of it, and it now hangs over his chimney. It is a striking portrait, too characteristic not to be a strong resemblance, and, were it encompassed with a glory, instead of being dressed in a nun's hood, might pass for the face of an angel. Yours, W. C.
To this letter we annex a very lively lusus poeticus from the pen of Cowper, on the subject mentioned in the former part of the preceding letter.
Close by the threshold of a door nail'd fast,
A viper, long as Count de Grasse's queue.
And rob our household of our only cat,
Lady Austen became a tenant of the vicarage at Olney. When Mr. Newton occupied that parsonage, he had opened a door in the garden-wall, which admitted him in the most commodious manner to visit the sequestered poet, who resided in the next house. Lady Austen had the advantage of her society, both to Cowper and to Mrs. this easy intercourse; and so captivating was be almost said to make one family, as it beUnwin, that these intimate neighbors might came their custom to dine always together, alternately in the houses of the two ladies.
The musical talents of Lady Austen inliar sweetness and pathos, to suit particular duced Cowper to write a few songs of pecuairs that she was accustomed to play on the harpsichord. We insert three of these, as proofs that, even in his hours of social amusement, the poet loved to dwell on ideas of tender devotion and pathetic solemnity.
The following song, adapted to the march in Scipio, obtained too great a celebrity not to merit insertion in this place. It relates to the loss of the Royal George, the flag-ship of Admiral Kempenfelt, which went down with nine hundred persons on board, (among whom was Rear-Admiral Kempenfelt,) at Spithead, August 29, 1782. The song was a favorite production of the poet's; so much so, that he amused himself by translating it into Latin verse. We take the version from one of his subsequent letters, for the sake of annexing it to the original.
SONG, ON THE LOSS OF THE ROYAL GEORGE.
Toll for the brave!
The brave that are no more!
Fast by their native shore!
Eight hundred of the brave,
Whose courage well was tried, Had made the vessel heel,
And laid her on her side.
A land-breeze shook the shrouds,
Toll for the brave!
Brave Kempenfelt is gone; His last sea-fight is fought; His work of glory done.
It was not in the battle;
No tempest gave the shock; She sprang no fatal leak;
She ran upon no rock.
His sword was in its sheath;
His fingers held the pen, When Kempenfelt went down With twice four hundred men.
Weigh the vessel up,
Once dreaded by our foes! And mingle with our cup
The tear that England owes.
Her timbers yet are sound,
And she may float again. Full-charged with England's thunder, And plough the distant main.*
But Kempentelt is gone.
His victories are o'er;
And he and his eight hundred
Shall plough the wave no more.
Attempts have recently been made to recover this vessel; and some of the guns have been raised, and found to be in excellent order.
Plangimus fortes. Periere fortes,
IN SUBMERSIONEM NAVIGII, CUI GEORGIUS, REGALE NOMEN, INDITUM.
Navis, innitens lateri, jacebat,
Plangimus fortes. Nimis, heu, caducam
Nec sinunt ultrà tibi nos recentes
Magne, qui nomen, licèt incanorum,
Non hyems illos furibunda mersit, Non mari in clauso scopuli latentes, Fissa non rimis abies, nec atrox Abstulit ensis.
Navitæ sed tum nimium jocosi Voce fallebant hilari laborem,
Et quiescebat, calamoque dextram impleverat heros.
Vos, quibus cordi est grave opus piumque,
Hi quidem (sic diis placuit) fuere:
Let the reader, who wishes to impress on his mind a just idea of the variety and extent of Cowper's poetical powers, contrast this heroic ballad of exquisite pathos with his diverting history of John Gilpin!
That admirable and highly popular piece of pleasantry was composed at the period of which we are now speaking. An elegant and judicious writer, who has favored the public with three interesting volumes relating to the early poets of our country,* conjectures, that a poem, written by the celebrated Sir Thomas More in his youth, (the merry jest of the Serjeant and Frere) may have suggested to Cowper his tale of John Gilpin; but this singularly amusing ballad had a different origin; and it is a very remarkable fact, that, full of gayety and humor as this favorite of the public has abundantly proved itself to be, it was really composed at a time when the spirit of the poet was very deeply tinged with his depressive malady. It hap pened one afternoon, in those years when his accomplished friend, Lady Austen, made a part of his little evening circle, that she observed him sinking into increasing dejection.
* See Ellis's "Specimens of the early English Poets, with an historical sketch of the rise and progress of English poetry and language."