William Cowper

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For the Lord Chancellor, see William Cowper, 1st Earl Cowper.
Knowledge is proud that he has learned so much;
Wisdom is humble that he knows no more.

William Cowper (26 November 173125 April 1800) was an English poet and hymnodist.


I believe no man was ever scolded out of his sins.
  • Absence from whom we love is worse than death,
    And frustrate hope severer than despair.
    • "Hope, like the short-lived ray that gleams awhile", line 35
  • But oars alone can ne'er prevail
    To reach the distant coast;
    The breath of Heaven must swell the sail,
    Or all the toil is lost.
    • "Human Frailty", line 21 (1779)
  • Reasoning at every step he treads,
    Man yet mistakes his way,
    While meaner things, whom instinct leads,
    Are rarely known to stray.
    • "The Doves", line 1. (1780)
  • Fate steals along with silent tread,
    Found oftenest in what least we dread,
    Frowns in the storm with angry brow,
    But in the sunshine strikes the blow.
    • "A Fable" (or "The Raven"), line 36
  • True Charity, a plant divinely nurs'd.
    • "Charity", line 573. (1781)
  • "Regions Caesar never knew
    Thy posterity shall sway
    Where his eagles never flew,
    None invincible as they."

    Such the bard's prophetic words, Pregnant with celestial fire, Bending as he swept the chords Of his sweet but awful lyre.

    • "Boadicea" (1782)
  • 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.
    • "To a Young Lady" (1782)
  • Candid, and generous, and just,
    Boys care but little whom they trust,
    An error soon corrected—
    For who but learns in riper years
    That man, when smoothest he appears
    Is most to be suspected?
    • "Friendship", line 19 (1782)
  • Thus neither the praise nor the blame is our own.
    • "From a Letter to the Rev. Mr. Newton", line 21. (1782)
  • I believe no man was ever scolded out of his sins.
  • An honest man, close-buttoned to the chin,
    Broadcloth without, and a warm heart within.
    • "Epistle to Joseph Hill", line 62 (1785)
  • Shine by the side of every path we tread
    With such a luster, he that runs may read.
    • "Tirocinium", line 79 (1785)
  • Toll for the brave —
    The brave! that are no more;
    All sunk beneath the wave,
    Fast by their native shore!
    • "On the Loss of the Royal George", st. 1 (1791)
  • And still to love, though prest with ill,
    In wintry age to feel no chill,
    With me is to be lovely still,
    My Mary!
    • "To Mary", st. 11 (1791)
  • I will venture to assert, that a just translation of any ancient poet in rhyme is impossible. No human ingenuity can be equal to the task of closing every couplet with sounds homotonous, expressing at the same time the full sense, and only the full sense of his original.
    • The Iliad of Homer: translated into English blank verse (1791), Preface
  • As when around the clear bright moon, the stars
    Shine in full splendor, and the winds are hush'd,
    The groves, the mountain-tops, the headland-heights
    Stand all apparent, not a vapor streaks
    The boundless blue, but ether open'd wide
    All glitters, and the shepherd's heart is cheer'd.
    • The Iliad of Homer: translated into English blank verse (1791), Book VIII, line 643
  • My soul
    Shall bear that also; for, by practice taught,
    I have learned patience, having much endured.
    • The Odyssey of Homer: translated into English blank verse (1791), Book V, line 264
  • Visits are insatiable devourers of time, and fit only for those who, if they did not that, would do nothing.
    • Letter to the Rev. John Johnson, (29 September1793)
  • Beware of desp'rate steps! The darkest day
    (Live till tomorrow) will have passed away.
    • "The Needless Alarm, Moral" (1794)
  • Misses! the tale that I relate
    This lesson seems to carry —
    Choose not alone a proper mate,
    But proper time to marry.
    • "Pairing Time Anticipated, Moral" (c. 1794)
  • Misery still delights to trace
    Its semblance in another's case.
    • "The Castaway" (1799)
  • No voice divine the storm allay'd,
    No light propitious shone;
    When, snatch'd from all effectual aid,
    We perish'd, each alone;
    But I beneath a rougher sea,
    And whelmed in deeper gulphs than he.
    • "The Castaway" (1799)
  • A knave, when tried on honesty's plain rule,
    And, when by that of reason, a mere fool
    • Hope

Olney Hymns (1779)[edit]

God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill,
He treasures up his bright designs,
And works his sovereign will.
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.
Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain;
God is his own interpreter,
And he will make it plain.
  • Oh! for a closer walk with God,
    A calm and heav'nly frame;
    A light to shine upon the road
    That leads me to the Lamb!
    • No. 1, "Walking With God"
  • What peaceful hours I once enjoyed!
    How sweet their memory still!
    But they have left an aching void
    The world can never fill.
    • No. 1, "Walking With God"
  • And Satan trembles when he sees
    The weakest saint upon his knees.
    • No. 29, "Exhortation to Prayer"
  • God moves in a mysterious way,
    His wonders to perform;
    He plants his footsteps in the sea,
    And rides upon the storm.
    • The opening statement is often paraphrased: God works in mysterious ways his wonders to perform.
    • No. 35, "Light Shining out of Darkness"
  • Behind a frowning providence
    He hides a smiling face.
    • No. 35, "Light Shining out of Darkness"
  • Deep in unfathomable mines
    Of never failing skill,
    He treasures up his bright designs,
    And works his sovereign will.
    • No. 35, "Light Shining out of Darkness"
  • His purposes will ripen fast,
    Unfolding every hour;
    The bud may have a bitter taste,
    But sweet will be the flower.
    • No. 35, "Light Shining out of Darkness"
  • Blind unbelief is sure to err,
    And scan his work in vain;
    God is his own interpreter,
    And he will make it plain.
    • No. 35, "Light Shining out of Darkness"
  • There is a fountain fill'd with blood
    Drawn from Emmanuel's veins;
    And sinners, plung'd beneath that flood,
    Lose all their guilty stains.
    • No. 79, "Praise for the Fountain Opened"

Table Talk (1782)[edit]

  • I play with syllables and sport in song
    • From:First of the Moral Satires
  • Glory, built
    On selfish principles, is shame and guilt.
    • Line 1
  • Is base in kind, and born to be a slave.
    • Line 28
  • As if the world and they were hand and glove.
    • Line 173
  • Thus happiness depends, as Nature shows,
    Less on exterior things than most suppose.
    • Line 246
  • Freedom has a thousand charms to show,
    That slaves, howe'er contented, never know.
    • Line 260
  • Manner is all in all, whate'er is writ,
    The substitute for genius, sense, and wit.
    • Line 542
  • Ages elapsed ere Homer's lamp appear'd,
    And ages ere the Mantuan swan was heard:
    To carry nature lengths unknown before,
    To give a Milton birth, ask'd ages more.
    • Line 556
  • Elegant as simplicity, and warm
    As ecstasy.
    • Line 588
  • Low ambition and the thirst of praise.
    • Line 591
  • Made poetry a mere mechanic art.
    • Line 654
  • Nature, exerting an unwearied power,
    Forms, opens, and gives scent to every flower;
    Spreads the fresh verdure of the field, and leads
    The dancing Naiads through the dewy meads.
    • Line 690

The Progress of Error (1782)[edit]

  • Lights of the world, and stars of human race.
    • Line 97
  • Remorse, the fatal egg by Pleasure laid.
    • Line 240
  • How much a dunce that has been sent to roam
    Excels a dunce that has been kept at home!
    • Line 415
  • No wild enthusiast ever yet could rest,
    Till half mankind were like himself possess'd.
    • Line 470

Conversation (1782)[edit]

  • 'Tis hard if all is false that I advance,
    A fool must now and then be right by chance.
    • Line 96
  • He would not, with a peremptory tone,
    Assert the nose upon his face his own.
    • Line 121
  • A moral, sensible, and well-bred man
    Will not affront me, and no other can.
    • Line 193
  • Pernicious weed! whose scent the fair annoys,
    Unfriendly to society's chief joys,
    Thy worst effect is banishing for hours
    The sex whose presence civilizes ours.
    • Line 251
  • I cannot talk with civet in the room,
    A fine puss-gentleman that's all perfume.
    • Line 283
  • The solemn fop; significant and budge;
    A fool with judges, amongst fools a judge.
    • Line 299
  • His wit invites you by his looks to come,
    But when you knock it never is at home.
    • Line 303
  • I pity bashful men, who feel the pain
    Of fancied scorn and undeserved disdain,
    And bear the marks upon a blushing face,
    Of needless shame, and self-impos'd disgrace.
    • Line 347
  • Our wasted oil unprofitably burns,
    Like hidden lamps in old sepulchral urns.
    • Line 357
  • That good diffused may more abundant grow.
    • Line 443
  • But that disease when soberly defined
    Is the false fire of an o'erheated mind.
    • Line 667; of fanaticism
  • But Conversation, choose what theme we may,
    And chiefly when religion leads the way,
    Should flow, like waters after summer show'rs,
    Not as if raised by mere mechanic powers.
    • Line 703

Retirement (1782)[edit]

  • A business with an income at its heels
    Furnishes always oil for its own wheels.
    • Line 615
  • Absence of occupation is not rest,
    A mind quite vacant is a mind distressed.
    • Line 623
  • An idler is a watch that wants both hands;
    As useless when it goes as when it stands.
    • Line 681
  • Built God a church, and laugh'd his word to scorn.
    • Line 688
  • Philologists, who chase
    A panting syllable through time and space,
    Start it at home, and hunt it in the dark
    To Gaul, to Greece, and into Noah's ark.
    • Line 691
  • I praise the Frenchman [Voltaire], his remark was shrewd —
    How sweet, how passing sweet, is solitude!
    But grant me still a friend in my retreat
    Whom I may whisper — solitude is sweet.
    • Line 739

Verses supposed to be written by Alexander Selkirk (1782)[edit]

O solitude! where are the charms
That sages have seen in thy face?
Better dwell in the midst of alarms
Than reign in this horrible place.
Society friendship and love
Divinely bestow'd upon man,
O had I the wings of a dove
How soon I would taste you again!
This was Cowper's tribute to Alexander Selkirk the actual man whose shipwrecked existence upon an island inspired Daniel Defoe to write Robinson Crusoe.
  • I am monarch of all I survey,
    My right there is none to dispute;
    From the center all round to the sea
    I am lord of the fowl and the brute.
    • Line 1
  • O solitude! where are the charms
    That sages have seen in thy face?
    Better dwell in the midst of alarms
    Than reign in this horrible place.
    • Line 5
  • I am out of humanity's reach.
    I must finish my journey alone,
    Never hear the sweet music of speech;
    I start at the sound of my own.
    • Line 9
  • Society friendship and love
    Divinely bestow'd upon man,
    O had I the wings of a dove
    How soon I would taste you again!
    • Line 17
  • Religion! what treasure untold
    Resides in that heavenly word!
    • Line 25
  • My friends, do they now and then send
    A wish or a thought after me?
    O tell me I yet have a friend,
    Though a friend I am never to see.
    • Line 37
  • There is mercy in every place,
    And mercy, encouraging thought!
    Gives even affliction a grace
    And reconciles man to his lot.
    • Line 53

The Diverting History of John Gilpin (1785)[edit]

  • Though on pleasure she was bent,
    She had a frugal mind.
    • St. 8
  • The dogs did bark, the children screamed,
    Up flew the windows all;
    And every soul cried out, "Well done!"
    As loud as he could bawl.
    • St. 28
  • A hat not much the worse for wear.
    • St. 46
  • Now let us sing — Long live the king,
    And Gilpin, long live he;
    And, when he next doth ride abroad,
    May I be there to see!
    • St. 63

The Task (1785)[edit]

Book I, The Sofa[edit]

  • United yet divided, twain at once:
    So sit two kings of Brentford on one throne.
    • Line 77
  • Nor rural sights alone, but rural sounds,
    Exhilarate the spirit, and restore
    The tone of languid nature.
    • Line 181
  • The earth was made so various, that the mind
    Of desultory man, studious of change
    And pleased with novelty, might be indulged.
    • Line 506
  • Doing good,
    Disinterested good, is not our trade.
    • Line 673
  • God made the country, and man made the town.
    • Line 749

Book II, The Timepiece[edit]

  • Oh for a lodge in some vast wilderness,
    Some boundless contiguity of shade,
    Where rumor of oppression and deceit,
    Of unsuccessful or successful war,
    Might never reach me more.
    • Line 1
  • Mountains interposed
    Make enemies of nations, who had else
    Like kindred drops, been mingled into one.
    • Line 17
  • I would not have a slave to till my ground,
    To carry me, to fan me while I sleep
    And tremble when I wake, for all the wealth
    That sinews bought and sold have ever earn'd.
    • Line 29
  • We have no slaves at home. ─ Then why abroad?
    • Line 37
  • Slaves cannot breathe in England; if their lungs
    Receive our air, that moment they are free!
    They touch our country, and their shackles fall.
    • Line 40
  • Fast-anchor'd isle.
    • Line 151
  • England, with all thy faults, I love thee still—
    My country! and, while yet a nook is left
    Where English minds and manners may be found,
    Shall be constrained to love thee.
    • Line 206
  • Presume to lay their hand upon the ark
    Of her magnificent and awful cause.
    • Line 231
  • Praise enough
    To fill the ambition of a private man,
    That Chatham's language was his mother tongue.
    • Line 235
  • There is a pleasure in poetic pains
    Which only poets know.
    • Line 285
  • Transforms old print
    To zigzag manuscript, and cheats the eyes
    Of gallery critics by a thousand arts.
    • Line 363
  • Reading what they never wrote,
    Just fifteen minutes, huddle up their work,
    And with a well-bred whisper close the scene.
    • Line 411
  • Whoe'er was edified, themselves were not.
    • Line 444
  • O Popular Applause! what heart of man
    Is proof against thy sweet seducing charms?
    • Line 481
  • Variety's the very spice of life,
    That gives it all its flavour.
    • Line 606
  • She that asks
    Her dear five hundred friends.
    • Line 642
  • His head,
    Not yet by time completely silvered o'er,
    Bespoke him past the bounds of freakish youth,
    But strong for service still, and unimpaired.
    • Line 702

Book III, The Garden[edit]

  • Domestic happiness, thou only bliss
    Of Paradise that has survived the fall!
    • Line 41
  • I was a stricken deer that left the herd
    Long since.
    • Line 108
  • Dream after dream ensues;
    And still they dream that they shall still succeed;
    And still are disappointed.
    • Line 127
  • Great contest follows, and much learned dust
    Involves the combatants; each claiming truth,
    And truth disclaiming both.
    • Line 161
  • From reveries so airy, from the toil
    Of dropping buckets into empty wells,
    And growing old in drawing nothing up.
    • Line 188
  • Riches have wings, and grandeur is a dream.
    • Line 265
  • Detested sport,
    That owes its pleasures to another's pain.
    • Line 326
    • Of fox-hunting
  • How various his employments whom the world
    Calls idle, and who justly in return
    Esteems that busy world an idler too!
    • Line 352
  • Who loves a garden loves a greenhouse too.
    • Line 566
  • So manifold, all pleasing in their kind,
    All healthful, are the employs of rural life,
    Reiterated as the wheel of time,
    Runs round; still ending, and beginning still.
    • Line 624

Book IV, The Winter Evening[edit]

  • I burn to set the imprison'd wranglers free,
    And give them voice and utterance once again.
    Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
    Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
    And while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
    Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
    That cheer but not inebriate wait on each,
    So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
    • Line 34
  • Which not even critics criticise.
    • Line 51
  • What is it but a map of busy life,
    Its fluctuations, and its vast concerns?
    • Line 55
  • And Katerfelto, with his hair on end
    At his own wonders, wondering for his bread.
    'T is pleasant, through the loopholes of retreat,
    To peep at such a world,—to see the stir
    Of the great Babel, and not feel the crowd.
    • Line 86
  • While fancy, like the finger of a clock,
    Runs the great circuit, and is still at home.
    • Line 118
  • O Winter, ruler of the inverted year!
    • Line 120
  • With spots quadrangular of diamond form,
    Ensanguined hearts, clubs typical of strife,
    And spades, the emblems of untimely graves.
    • Line 217
  • In indolent vacuity of thought.
    • Line 297
  • It seems the part of wisdom.
    • Line 336
  • All learned, and all drunk!
    • Line 478
  • Gloriously drunk, obey the important call.
    • Line 510
  • Those golden times
    And those Arcadian scenes that Maro sings,
    And Sidney, warbler of poetic prose.
    • Line 514
  • The Frenchman's darling.
    • Line 765
  • Some must be great. Great offices will have
    Great talents. And God gives to every man
    The virtue, temper, understanding, taste,
    That lifts him into life, and lets him fall
    Just in the niche he was ordain'd to fill.
    • Line 788

Book V, The Winter Morning Walk[edit]

  • Silently as a dream the fabric rose —
    No sound of hammer or of saw was there.
    • Line 144
  • But war's a game, which, were their subjects wise,
    Kings would not play at.
    • Line 187
  • The beggarly last doit.
    • Line 316
  • As dreadful as the Manichean god,
    Adored through fear, strong only to destroy.
    • Line 444
  • The still small voice is wanted.
    • Line 685
  • He is the freeman whom the truth makes free.
    • Line 733
  • With filial confidence inspired,
    Can lift to Heaven an unpresumptuous eye,
    And smiling say, My Father made them all!
    • Line 745
  • Acquaint thyself with God, if thou would'st taste
    His works. Admitted once to his embrace,
    Thou shalt perceive that thou was blind before:
    Thine eye shall be instructed; and thine heart
    Made pure shall relish with divine delight
    Till then unfelt, what hands divine have wrought.
    • Line 779
  • Give what Thou canst, without Thee we are poor;
    And with Thee rich, take what Thou wilt away.
    • Line 905

Book VI, Winter Walk at Noon[edit]

  • There is in souls a sympathy with sounds;
    And as the mind is pitched the ear is pleased
    With melting airs or martial, brisk, or grave:
    Some chord in unison with what we hear
    Is touched within us, and the heart replies.
    How soft the music of those village bells
    Falling at intervals upon the ear
    In cadence sweet!
    • Line 1
  • Here the heart
    May give a useful lesson to the head,
    And Learning wiser grow without his books.
    • Line 85
  • Knowledge and Wisdom, far from being one,
    Have oft-times no connexion, Knowledge dwells
    in heads replete with thoughts of other men,
    Wisdom in minds attentive to their own.
    • Line 88
  • Knowledge, a rude unprofitable mass,
    The mere materials with which wisdom builds,
    Till smoothed and squared and fitted to its place,
    Does but encumber whom it seems to enrich.
    Knowledge is proud that he has learned so much;
    Wisdom is humble that he knows no more.

    Books are not seldom talismans and spells.
    • Line 92
  • Some to the fascination of a name
    Surrender judgment hoodwink'd.
    • The Task, book vi. Winter Walk at Noon, line 101
  • Nature is but a name for an effect,
    Whose cause is God.
    • Line 223
  • Not a flower
    But shows some touch, in freckle, streak or stain,
    Of his unrivall'd pencil.
    • Line 240
  • But many a crime deem'd innocent on earth
    Is register'd in Heaven; and these no doubt
    Have each their record, with a curse annex'd.
    Man may dismiss compassion from his heart,
    But God will never.
    • Line 439
  • I would not enter on my list of friends,
    (Though graced with polish'd manners and fine sense,
    Yet wanting sensibility) the man
    Who needlessly sets foot upon a worm.
    An inadvertent step may crush the snail
    That crawls at evening in the public path;
    But he that has humanity, forewarn'd,
    Will tread aside, and let the reptile live.
    • Line 560

The Negro's Complaint (1788)[edit]

  • Forced from home and all its pleasures
    Afric's coast I left forlorn,
    To increase a stranger's treasures
    O'er the raging billows borne.
    Men from England bought and sold me,
    Paid my price in paltry gold;
    But, though slave they have enrolled me,
    Minds are never to be sold.
    • Lines 1-8
  • Fleecy locks and black complexion
    Cannot forfeit nature's claim;
    Skins may differ, but affection
    Dwells in white and black the same.
    • Lines 13-16
  • Deem our nation brutes no longer,
    Till some reason ye shall find
    Worthier of regard and stronger
    Than the colour of our kind.
    • Lines 49-52
  • Prove that you have human feelings,
    Ere you proudly question ours!
    • Lines 55-56

The Yardley Oak (1791)[edit]

  • Survivor sole, and hardly such, of all
    that once lived here
    • Lines 1-2
  • It seems idolatry with some excuse,
    When our forefather Druids in their oaks
    Imagined sanctity.
    • Lines 9-11
  • Thou wast a bauble once; a cup and ball,
    Which babes might play with; and the thievish jay
    Seeking her food, with ease might have purloined
    The auburn nut that held thee, swallowing down
    Thy yet close-folded latitude of boughs
    And all thine embryo vastness at a gulp.
    But fate thy growth decreed.
    • Lines 18-23
  • So Fancy dreams. Disprove it, if ye can,
    Ye reasoners broad awake, whose busy search
    Of argument, employed too oft amiss,
    Sifts half the pleasures of short life away!
    • Lines 29-32

Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919)[edit]

Quotes reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).
  • Just knows, and knows no more, her Bible true,—
    A truth the brilliant Frenchman never knew.
    • Truth, line 327
  • The sounding jargon of the schools.
    • Truth, line 367
  • When one that holds communion with the skies
    Has fill'd his urn where these pure waters rise,
    And once more mingles with us meaner things,
    'T is e'en as if an angel shook his wings.
    • Charity, line 435
  • A kick that scarce would move a horse
    May kill a sound divine.
    • The Yearly Distress
  • But the sound of the church-going bell
    These valleys and rocks never heard;
    Ne'er sigh'd at the sound of a knell,
    Or smiled when a Sabbath appear'd.
    • Verses supposed to be written by Alexander Selkirk
  • How fleet is a glance of the mind!
    Compared with the speed of its flight
    The tempest itself lags behind,
    And the swift-winged arrows of light.
    • Verses supposed to be written by Alexander Selkirk
  • There goes the parson, O illustrious spark!
    And there, scarce less illustrious, goes the clerk.
    • On observing some Names of Little Note
  • And the tear that is wiped with a little address,
    May be follow'd perhaps by a smile.
    • The Rose
  • 'T is Providence alone secures
    In every change both mine and yours.
    • A Fable, Moral
  • I shall not ask Jean Jacques Rousseau
    If birds confabulate or no.
    • Pairing Time Anticipated
  • The path of sorrow, and that path alone,
    Leads to the land where sorrow is unknown.
    • To an Afflicted Protestant Lady
  • Oh that those lips had language! Life has pass'd
    With me but roughly since I heard thee last.
    • On the Receipt of my Mother's Picture
  • The son of parents pass'd into the skies.
    • On the Receipt of my Mother's Picture
  • The man that hails you Tom or Jack,
    And proves, by thumping on your back,
    His sense of your great merit,
    Is such a friend that one had need
    Be very much his friend indeed
    To pardon or to bear it.
    • On Friendship
  • A worm is in the bud of youth,
    And at the root of age.
    • Stanzas subjoined to a Bill of Mortality
  • There is a bird who by his coat,
    And by the hoarseness of his note,
    Might be supposed a crow.
    • The Jackdaw (translation from Vincent Bourne)
  • He sees that this great roundabout
    The world, with all its motley rout,
    Church, army, physic, law,
    Its customs and its businesses,
    Is no concern at all of his,
    And says—what says he?—Caw.
    • The Jackdaw (translation from Vincent Bourne)
  • For 't is a truth well known to most,
    That whatsoever thing is lost,
    We seek it, ere it come to light,
    In every cranny but the right.
    • The Retired Cat
  • He that holds fast the golden mean, 22
    And lives contentedly between
    The little and the great,
    Feels not the wants that pinch the poor,
    Nor plagues that haunt the rich man's door.
    • Translation of Horace, book ii, Ode x
  • But strive still to be a man before your mother.
    • Connoisseur. Motto of No. iii


  • Ever let the Fancy roam,
    Pleasure never is at home.
    • Actually the opening lines of Keats's "Fancy" (1820)
  • No man can be a patriot on an empty stomach.
  • The innocent seldom find an uncomfortable pillow.
    • A misquotation of "The innocent seldom find an uneasy pillow", from James Fenimore Cooper's The Red Rover (1827), ch. 23.

Quotes about Cowper[edit]

  • The mind of Cowper was, so to speak, naturally terrestrial. If a man wishes for a nice appreciation of the details of time and sense, let him consult Cowper's miscellaneous letters. Each simple event of every day—each petty object of external observation or inward suggestion, is there chronicled with a fine and female fondness, a wise and happy faculty, let us say, of deriving a gentle happiness from the tranquil and passing hour.
  • Cowper, writing after Pope, had the advantage of knowing what to avoid; but he was misled by a false analogy, and seeing in Milton a great epic poet, austere in his manner and repellent of meretricious ornament, attempted to force on Homer a style which, rightly considered, is almost as artificial as Virgil's, and which, moreover, he was himself unequal to wield.
    • John Conington, on Cowper's translation of Homer, in Oxford Essays (1855), "The Poetry of Pope", p. 30
  • Have you ever read the letters of the poet Cowper? He had nothing—literally nothing—to tell anyone about; private life in a sleepy country town where Evangelical distrust of "the world" denied him even such miserable society as the place would have afforded. And yet one reads a whole volume of his letters with unfailing interest. How his tooth came loose at dinner, how he made a hutch for a tame hare, what he is doing about his cucumbers—all this he makes one follow as if the fate of empires hung on it.
    • C. S. Lewis, letter to his father (25 February 1928) — in Letters of C. S. Lewis (1966), p. 124
  • We can not but admire a man who, subject to a lifelong illness that inflicted with frequent recurrence an intense mental agony, fought persistently against his weakness—at times their master, at times a victim to their influence. Still he did not flinch even under this torture, but held his pen and pressed it to write in a cause which was distinctly unpopular. Cowper was preeminently a poet of feelings; he may have been melancholy, but he pointed out to his readers how they were themselves subjects of emotion. He owed a debt to Providence, and he rebuked the people for their follies. In doing so he was regardless of his own fame and of their opprobrium. He gave them tolerable advice, and strove to awaken them from their apathy to a sense of their duty towards their neighbours. First of poets, since the days of Milton, to champion the sacredness of religion, he was the forerunner of a new school that disliked the political satires of the disciples of Pope, and aimed at borrowing for their lines of song from the simple beauties of a perfect nature.
    • A. Edmund Spender, "The Centenary of Cowper", in The Westminster Review, Vol. 153 (May, 1900), p. 545

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