Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

Review.Cowper's Poems.

10 tions that were previously unpublish

* Toll for the bravc ! ed, some readers will regard the edi

Brave Kempenfelt is gone ; tor as sufficiently bountiful. But we

His last sea-fight is fought; feel so greatly indebted to him for his

His work of glory done. sketch of bis kiosman's life, which

It was not in the battle ; we shall soon notice, that we are vot No tempest gave the shock; disposed to make any complaints or She sprang no fatal leak;

She ran upon no rock, pass any censures.

Cowper's admirable good sense His sword was in its sheath ; qualified him for placing in a clear

His fingers held the pen, and striking light every subject in

When Kempenfelt went down,

With twice four hundred men." which the manners of men are concerned: nor would it be easy to men

Mague, qui nomen, licèt incanorum, tion any poem, of its class, at once so

Traditum ex multis atavis tulisti ! instructive and interesting as the ver

At tuos olim memorabit ævum ses on Friendship, preserved, though

Omne triumphos. not for the first time printed, in the

Non hyems illos furibunda mersit, present volume. The following stan

Non mari in clauso scopuli latentes, zas, in particular, are deserving of

Fissa non rimis abies nec atrox being impressed on the memory, and

Abstulit ensis. will indeed be very easily retained :

Navitæ sed tum nimium jocosi “ As similarity of mind,

Voce fallebant hilari laborem, Or something not to be defin'd,

Et quiescebat, calamoque dextram in. First rivets ur attention;

pleverat heros." (96.) So, manners .cent and polite,

Some of our readers will here call The same we practis'd at first siglil, Must say, it from declension.

to mind the frequent recurrence of

the compellation Magne in the PharThe man who hails yon Tom-or Jack, salia of Lucan, and the dignified and And proves, by thumping on your back, plaintive manner in which that poet His sense of your great merit,

applies it. Is such a friend, that one had need

With the life of Cowper the public Be very much his friend indeed,

had already been made acquainted To pardon, or to bear it.”

by Mr. Hayley. There was still In these lines there are singular wanting, however, the sketch of it justness of thought, fidelity of descrip- which Dr. Jolinson has exhibited in tion, poignancy of satire and spright- the present volume. He speaks of liness and terseness of expression. this composition with the greatest moTheophrastus himself was never more desty. Yet, in truth, it possesses successful.

distinguished excellence as a biograThe Montes Glaciales, a truly clas- phical narrative, and is characterized sical poem, was written by Cowper pot only by faithfulness of delineation, in 1799, at a time when his health, but also by that simple and artless, both of body and mind, was consi- that lively and decorously minute derably impaired. But he appears to relation of circumstances which renhave been fond of composing Latin ders us, for the time, the companions verses, which he framed with a read. of Cowper and his kinsman." In iliness and felicity demonstrative of his lustration of this remark we transcribe having left Westminster school with a passage descriptive of some inci“ scholastic attainments of the first dents on the journey of the poet and order."

of Mrs. Unwin from Weston into His lines on the loss of the Royal Norfolk ; whither they were attended George (Aug. 29, 1782], he translated by the editor: lii. into the language of ancient Rome :

6 As it was highly important to guard and he has well preserved the simpli ayainst the effect of noise and tumit on city, pathos and force of the original; the shattered nerves of the desponding tram an elegiac ballad of uncommon merit. veller, caie was taken that a relay of Let the rendering of the following horses should be ready on the skirts of stanzas be a specimen:

the towns of Bedford and Cambridge, by

which means be passed through those the idea of these poems pot baving been places without stoppiog. On the evening before published.

of the first day, the quiet village of St.

a

Neot's, near Eaton, afforded as convenient per clung exceedingly to thosc about him, a resting place for the party as could have and seemed to be haunted with a continual been devised; and the peaceful moon-light dread that they would leave him alone in scenery of the spot, as Cowper walked his solitary mansion. Sunday, therefore, with his kinsman up and down the church. was a day of more than ordinary appreyard, bad so favourable an effect on his hension to him ; as the furthest of his spirits, that he conversed with him, with kinsinan's churches being fifteen miles much composure, on the subject of Thom- from the Lodge, he was necessarily abson's Seasons, and the circumstances un- sent during the whole of the Sabbath. On der which they were probably written.” these occasions, it was the constant pracIn August, 1795, the two invalids, tice of the dejected poet to listen frequent

ly on the steps of the hall-door, for the together with Dr. Johnson, went barking of dogs at a farın house, which in u to the village of Mundsley, on the the stillness of the night, though at nearly Norfolk Coast; having previously re- the distance of two miles, invariably an. sided, for a very short time, at North nounced the approach of his companion." Tuddenham, in that county." How- lx. ever, “ the effect of air and exercise

We cannot resist the temptation of on the dejected poet being, by no making a few more extracts : means such as his friends had hoped,

6-in the month of April (1796) Mrs. change of scene was resorted to as

Unwin received a visit from her daughter the next expedient:" lvii.

and son-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Powley. “ About six miles to the south of Munds. The tender and even filial attention which ley, and also on the coast, is a village to exercise towards his aged and infirm

the compassionate invalid had never ceased called Happisburgh, or Hasboro', whicl. in the days of his youth Cowper had visi companion, was now shared by her affected from Catfield, the residence of his mo

tionate relatives ; to whom it could not ther's brother. An excursion therefore to

but be a gratifying spectacle to see their this place was projected, and happily ac

venerable parent so assiduously watched complished, by sea ; a mode of convey. riods of depression. The visit of these ex

over by Cowper, even in his darkest peance which had at least novelty to recombut a gale of wind having spring advantage to their friends, as their salu

emplary persons was productive also of up soon after his arrival there, the return by water was unexpectedly precluded, and tary custom of reading a chapter in the he was under the necessity of effecting it Bible to their mother, every morning beon foot through the neighbouring villages of this Memoir, who, as the dejected poet

fore she rose, was continued by the writer To the agreeable surprise of his conductor; always visited the chamber of his poor old this very considerable walk was performed with scarcely any fatigue to the invalid.” friend, the moment he had finished his

breakfast, took care to read the chapter The party afterwards took up their át that time.” Ixi. residence at Dunham Lodge, in the "-Being encouraged by the result of vicinity of Swaffbam. Here (lix), the above experiment, the conductor of

the devotions of this retired family venAs the season advanced, the amuse- tured in the course of a few days, to let ment of walking being rendered imprac- the members of it meet for prayers in the ticable, and his spirits being by no means

room where Cowper was, instead of assemsufficiently recovered to admit of his re- bling in another apartment, as they bisuming either his pen or his books, the therto had done, under the influence, as only resource which was left to the poet, it proved, of a misconception, with regard was to listen incessantly to the reading of to his ability to attend the service. On his companion. The kind of books that the first occurrence of this new arrangeappeared most, and indeed solely to attract ment, of which no intimation had been him, were works of fiction; and so happy

previonsly given him, he was preparing to was the influence of these in rivetting bis

leave the rooin, but was prevailed on to attention, and abstracting him, of course, resume his seat, by a word of soothing and from the contemplation of his miseries, whispered entreaty.” Ixii. that he discovered a peculiar satisfaction when a production of fancy of more than

We pass over the narrative of the ordinary length, was introduced by his occasion of Cowper's engaging in a kinsman. Túis' was no sooner perceived, revisal of his Homer : the account is than he was furnished with the voluminous deeply interesting, but has long been pages of Richardson, to which he listened in possession of the public.* with the greater interest, as he had been personally acquainted with that ingenious writer.”

Preface to the 2nd ed. of Cowper's “ At this time, the tender spirit of Cow- Translation of the Iliad,

mend it;

165

Review.Cowper's Poems. Who can be unaffected in reading further from the truth. On the contrary, the following anecdote?

all those alleviations of sorrow, those de" —as a faithful şervant of his dying those healing consolations to a wounded

lightful anticipations of heavenly rest, friend (Mrs. Unwin) and himself was opening the window of his chamber on the spirit, of which he was permitted to taste morning of the day of her decease, he said at the periods when uninterrupted reason to her, in a tone of voice at once plaintive, be ascribed to the operation of those very

resumed its sway, were unequivocally to and full of anxiety as to what might be the principles and views of religion, which, situation of his aged coinpanion, Sally, is in the instance before us, have been there life above stairs ?" Ixv.

charged with producing so opposite an efof the last moments of Cowperfect. The primary aberrations of bin his kinsinan has left a record, from mental faculties were wholly to be attriwhich we make a single extract: lxxvii. buted to other causes. But the time was « In the course of the night [of Thurs- tion of a gracious Providence, he was to

at band, when, by the happy interposiday, April 24th, 1800], when he appear. be the favoured subject of a double emaned to be exceedingly exhausted, some re- cipation. The captivity of his reason was freshment was presented to him by Miss about to terminate ; and a bondage, though Browne. From a persuasion, however, hitherto unmentioned, yet of a much longthat nothing could ameliorate his feelings, er standing, was on the point of being though without any apparent impression exchanged for the most delightful of all that the hand of death was already upon freedom.” him, he rejected the cordial with these words, the very last that he was heard to

The event to which the biographer utter, What can it signify?"

of Cowper alludes, touk place on “At five in the morning, of Friday the July 25th, 1764: xix. 25th, a deadly change in his features was

"-Before he left the room in which observed to take place. He remained in he bad breakfasted, be observed a Bible an insensible state from that time till about lying in the window-seat. He took it up. five minntes before five in the afternoon, Éxcept in a single instance, and that two when he ceased to breathe.”

months before, he had not ventured to The assiduity, the wisdom, the af- open one, since the early days of bis abode fection and the tenderness with which ai St. Alban's. But the time was now Dr. Johnson soothed the dejected come when he might do it to purpose. spirits of his relative, do much bonour The profitable perusal of that divine book to his principles and feelings, and had been provided for in the most effectual claim the gratitude of the numerous manner, by the restoration at once of the admirers of Cowper, as a poet and a

powers of his understanding, and the suman. Though he is solely desirous' Under these favourable circumstances, họ

peradded gift of a spiritual discernment. of directing our regard to his kinsman, opened the sacred volume at that passage yet we cannot be insensible to the of the epistle to the Romans where the illustration of his own excellencies apostle says, that Jesus Christ is set forth presented in this sketch. His theo- to be a propitiation through faith in his logical creed appears to be that of his blood, to declare his righteousness for the relation. This creed, however, is not remişsion of sins that are past, through the obtruded on the reader: nor is it de- forbearance of God.' To use the expres. fended with bitterness and rancour; ten document, from which this portion of

sion employed by Cowper himself in a writ. and we can respect the motives which his history is extracted, he received dictated the following paragraphs and strength to believe it ;t to see the suitthe spirit which breathes in them, ableness of the atonement to his own nethough we may not fully assent to the cessity, and to embrace the gospel with reasoning they contain: xvii. gratitude and joy.” XX.

« À most erroneous and unhappy idea We doubt pot that “ the primary has occupied the minds of some persons, aberrations of" this poet's “ mental that those views of Christianity which faculties were wholly to be attributed Cowper adopted, and of which, when en- to other causes" than any theological joying the intervals of reason, he was so sentiments whatever. But the return bright an ornament,* had actnally contributed to excite the malady with which and the continuance of his disorder he was aflicted. It is capable of the seem to have been owing, in some clearest demonstration that nothing was

+ It appears that Cowper was prepared • There is an incongruity between the for the impression by previous trains of words views and ornament. Rev. thought and feeling. Rxy.

degree at least, to the peculiarities of present time. With an Appendix his religious creed. What is the tes- on the Origin, Progress and Pretimony of his last original composi- sent State of Christianity in Britain. tion in this volume, The Cast-Away? 8vo. 4 vols. Portraits. Button and 329. We leave the decision with our Son. 1808-1814. readers; only remarking, in the lan- NOME of our periodical critics affect guage of Dr. Jobpson, that Cowper's malady, “ while for many subsequent term “ Antiquities" to Meeting-house years [after 1770] it admitted of his es. Dr. Miluer would be equally exhibiting the most masterly and de. amused with its being bestowed on lightful display of poetica!, epistolary, any thing belonging to the Protestant and conversational ability, on the Church of Eogland. Some meeting. greatest variety of subjects, it con- houses are ancient compared with strained him from that period, both others that are modern. Protestant in bis conversation and letters, siu- Episcopal Churches are of a little diously to abstain from every allusion greyer age; but for antiquity in its of a religious nature.” xxvii.

most venerable sease we must go to Our own acquaintance with Cow. periods before the Reformation, and per's poetry, was occasioned by the even before Christianity if not before publication of his T'ask : our admira. Judaism itself

. Westininster Abbey tion of it has been cherished and in- is of yesterday compared with the ai. creased by a repeated perusal of his tars of Stonehenge and the pyramids volumes. That' as a writer he has of Egypt. some defects, it were useless to dis. In point of age as well as of archipute: these however are of little ac. tecture, meeting-houses are indeed count, when weighed against his ex- mean subjects of history ; and in this cellencies. It is seldom, after all, that view, no one will condescend to regard we meet with so much taste and ge- them : but there is a light in which nius united with a spirit so devotion- they are exceedingly interesting, and al, benevolent and pure. On this invite and will reward the historian : ground we recommend Cowper's pa- they have heen places of voluntary ges to our younger readers in parti- assembly to such Christians as have cular, and entreat them, in estimating followed the guidings of conscience, his merits, to make just allowances disdained and scorned the slavery of for the occasional influence of a me- the mind, and asserted religious li. lancholy imagination and of what we berty, in the midst of perils and by humbly think an unscriptural theo- the severest sacrifices. In such places logy. The improvement of the men

have been found men of eminent bib. tal powers as well as of the heart, can lica) learning, of powerful eloquenco Scarcely fail to be the consequence of and of unsullied lives; the best advofamiliarity with a writer who is at cates of divine revelation, the most once simple and correct, lively and successful expositors of evangelical energetic, moral and pious. In the truth, the truest benefactors of their present age we have no abundance of species ; reformers, confessors, marmodels of good composition, either in tyrs and saints. Their history is the poctry or prose. Gaudiness is often history of the Bible, of sound faith substituted for ornament : and in ma. and real virtue, and is in our judgny instances metaphors are pronounc- ment more abundant in all that awaed fine merely on account of their he. kens, purifies and exalts the mind ing extravagant, unnatural and con- than the history of churches spread fused. Propter hoc ipsum, qnod sunt over empires and ages in which imprava, laudantur. *

plicit faith on the one part and eccle

siastical tyranny on the other have Art. II.-The History and Antiqui, norance, and cramped and fettered

bound down the human mind in ig. ties of Dissenting Churches and the heart, and thus prevented the Meeting-Houses, in London, West bighest exercises of the understanding minster and Southwark ; including and the most kindly operation of the the Lives of their Ministers from affections. The human mind awake the Rise of Nonconformity to the and active, in the humblest condition

of our nature, is a far nobler sight Quinct, Iustit.- L. ii. Sect. 5. than it can present when laid aeleep

Review,—Wilson's Dissenting Churches,

107 even in the soft and stately repose of Jibility will teach us a lesson of canpalaces,

dour to others." We shall have ocWith this unfashionable associa: casion, hereafter, to point out intion of ideas with meeting-houses, stances in which Mr. Wilson appears where the mind fashions the church to us to have lost sight of these Chrisand not the church the mind, we tian sentiments; but it is only justice have been from the first not a little to him to observe, that there is a growanxious for the success of Mr. Wil- ing liberality in the work as it adson's design. No history of “ Dis- vances, which we take as a pledge seuting Churches” was ever before that should the public patronage ever drawn up, and it is evident that in a iuduce the author to revise his vovery little time all traces of some of lumes, he would correct some pasthem would have been worn out! All sages which in their present form ofthat could be collected by diligence fend such readers as consider History is here recorded with regard to the degraded when, instead of being the churches in the cities of London and handmaid of truth, it is made the serWestminster and the Borough of vant of a party. Southwark. The author's desigo ex- At the same time we are willing to tended farther; he had planned and make allowances for prepossessions prepared materials for a history of which spring from a sense of religion all the Dissenting places of worship and a zeal for its promotion; and we in the Metropolis and the circumja- applaud that strong attachment to the cent villages, which would have filled commos principles of dissent which another volume ; but a scanty sub- our historian every where manifests. scription-list, of scarcely three hun- Without such an attachment, he could dred persons, afforded not encourage- not have been expected to qualify ment enough for the undertaking. himself for his labourious task or to This fact is by no means creditable to accomplish it with credit. His own the Dissenters. It is not perhaps too ardour, however, leads him to form late to repair the neglect, and we an unfavourable, and we hope an untake up these volumes with some faint just estimate of the temper of his felhope of exciting such attention to the low-dissenters. The compliment which work as may dispose the author to in the following passage is paid to one pursue and complete his design. denomination to the prejudice of the

Mr. Wilson, we understand, is now others is a hasty and censorious repursuing a learned profession, but flection :was engaged at the period of the com

“ A spirit of inquiry as to the distin. mencement of his work in a consi- guishing features of nonconformity, bas, derable book-trade in London, which with the exception of the Baptists, wholly we mention only to shew that he had fed from the different sects. The Presa opportunities rarely enjoyed by au- byterians have either deserted to the world thors of collecting materials for his or sunk under the influence of a lukewariu history, which lay scattered in num- ministry; and the Independents have gone berless single sermons and painphlets. over in a body to the Methodists. IndifThese authorities are carefully ac

ference and enthusiasm have thinned the knowledged, and of themselves form main behind are lost in the crowd of mo.

ranks of the old stock, and those who reun index to the literary history of the dern religionists.” Pref. pr. xi, xii. Disseuters.

The first qualification of the histo- We have no wish to disparage the rian of Dissenting Churches is a spi- Baptists as Dissenters, but we fear rit of religious impartiality. Of the that there are striking examples avalue of this, our author is fully aware, mongst them of an attempt to gain and remarks very justly (Pref. p. v.), popularity by sinking the principles that “ to arrive at trutli

, we must di- of 'nonconformity. They have not vest ourselves of sectarian prejudices, certainly been accustomed to take weigh well the opinions of others and the lead in the assertion and defence be diffident of our own judgmeist," of religious liberty; nor do the Presand that “true wisdom is always al- byterians and Independents of the lied to modesty, and whilst it be- present day yield to any generation comes us to be decided in our own of their fathers in zeal on behalf of opinions, a recollection of human fal- the rights of conscience. And may

« AnteriorContinua »