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(From the Shipwreck.)
In vain the cords and axes were prepared, For now the audacious seas insult the yard ; High o'er the ship they throw a horrid shade, And o'er her burst, in terrible cascade. Uplifted on the surge, to heaven she flies, Her shattered top half buried in the skies, Then headlong plunging thunders on the ground, Earth groans, air trembles, and the deeps resound! Her giant bulk the dread concussion feels, And quivering with the wound, in torment reels; So reels, convulsed with agonizing throes, The bleeding bull beneath the murderer's blows. Again she plunges; bark! a second shock Tears her strong bottom on the marble rock! Down on the vale of death, with dismal cries, The fated victims shuddering roll their eyes In wild despair; while yet another stroke, With deep convulsion, rends the solid oak: Till, like the mine, in whose infernal cell The lurking demons of destruction dwell, At length asunder torn her frame divides, And crashing spreads in ruin o'er the tides.
At the close of the day, when the hamlet is still,
And mortals the sweets of forgetfulness prove, When nought but the torrent is heard on the hill,
And nought but the nightingale's song in the grove: 'T was thus, by the cave of the mountain afar,
While his harp rung symphonious, a hermit began: No more with himself or with nature at war,
He thought as a sage, though he felt as a man.
“Ah! why, all abandoned to darkness and woe,
Why, lone Philomela, that languishing fall? For spring shall return, and a lover bestow,
And sorrow no longer thy bosom inthral: But, if pity inspire thee, renew the sad lay,
Mourn, sweetest complainer, man calls thee to mourn, O soothe him, whose pleasures like thine pass away:
Full quickly they pass — but they never return.
Now gliding remote on the verge of the sky,
The moon half extinguished her crescent displays:
Roll on, thou fair orb, and with gladness pursue
The path that conducts thee to splendour again; But man's faded glory what change shall renew ?
Ah fool! to exult in a glory so vain !
"T is night, and the landscape is lovely no more;
I mourn, but, ye woodlands, I mourn not for you; For morn is approaching, your charms to restore,
Perfumed with fresh fragrance, and glittering with dew: Nor yet for the ravage of winter I mourn;
Kind nature the embryo blossom will save. But when shall spring visit the mouldering urn !
O when shall day dawn on the night of the grave!
"T was thus, by the glare of false science betrayed,
That leads, to bewilder; and dazzles, to blind; My thoughts wont to roam, from shade onward to shade,
Destruction before me, and sorrow behind. • pity, great Father of Light,' then I cried,
Thy creature, who fain would not wander from thee; Lo, humbled in dust, I relinquish my pride:
From doubt and from darkness thou only canst free! And darkness and doubt are now flying away,
No longer I roam in conjecture forlorn.
The bright and the balmy effulgence of morn.
And Nature all glowing in Eden's first bloom !
And beauty immortal awakes from the tomb."
The name of William CowPER (1731–1800), is now generally taken by writers on English Belles Lettres, as the beginning of a new era, and that the most brilliant one, in the history of our literature.
“ The great variety and abundance of the literature of the present age might, in some measure, have been predicted from the progress made during the thirty or forty years preceding the American Revolutiori, in which, as Johnson said, almost every man had come to write and to express himself correctly, and the number of readers had been multiplied a thousand fold. There were many great public events and accidental circumstances which assisted in bringing about a change. The American war, by exciting the eloquence of Chatham and Burke, awakened the spirit of the nation. The enthusiasm was continued by the poet Cowper, who sympathized keenly with his fellow-men, and had a warm love of his native country. Cowper wrote from no system; he had not read a poet for seventeen years; but he drew the distinguishing features of English life and scenery with such graphic power and beauty, that the mere poetry of art and fashion, and the stock images of descriptive verse, could not but appear mean, affected, and commonplace. Since then, every department of literature has been cultivated with success. In fiction, the name of Scott is inferior only to that of Shakspeare; in criti
cism, a new era may be dated from the establishment of the Edinburgh Review; and in historical composition, if we have no Hume or Gibbon, we have the results of far more valuable and diligent research. Truth and nature have been more truly and devoutly worshipped, and real excellence more highly prized. It has been feared by some that the principle of utility, which is recognized as one of the features of the present age, and the progress of mechanical knowledge, would be fatal to the higher efforts of imagination, and diminish the territories of the poet. This seems a groundless fear. It did not damp the ardour of Scott or Byron, and it has not prevented the poetry of Wordsworth from gradually working its way into public favour. If we have not the chivalry and romance of the Elizabethan age, we have the everliving passions of human nature, and the wide theatre of the world, now accurately known and discriminated, as a field for the exercise of genius. We have the benefit of all past knowledge and literature to exalt our standard of imitation and taste, and a more sure reward in the encouragement and applause of a populous and enlightened nation.”—Chalmers.
“ The nature of Cowper's works makes us peculiarly identify the poet and the man in perusing them. As an individual, he was retired and weaned from the vanities of the world; and, as an original writer, he left the ambitious and luxuriant subjects of fiction and passion, for those of real life and simple nature, and for the development of his own earnest feelings, in behalf of moral and religious truth. His language has such a masculine idiomatic strength, and his manner, whether he rises into grace or falls into negli