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Sailors, you know, when wars obtain, And hostile vessels crowd the main, If they discover from afar A bark as distant as a star, Hold the perspective to their eyes, To learn its colours, strength, and size; And when this secret once they know, Make ready to receive the foe; Let you and I from sailors learn Important truths of like concern.
I closed the day as custom led, With reading till the time of bed; Where Fancy, at the midnight hour, Again displayed her magic power ; (For know that Fancy, like a sprite, Prefers the silent scenes of night,) She lodged me in a neighbouring wood, No matter where the thicket stood; The Genius of the place was nigh, And held two pictures to my eye; The curious painter had portrayed Life in each just and genuine shade. They who have only known its dawn May think these lines too deeply drawn; But riper years, I fear, will show The wiser artist paints too true. One piece presents a rueful wild, Where not a summer's sun had smiled: The road with thorns is covered wide, And Grief sits weeping by the side; Here tears with constant tenor flow, And form a mournful lake below; Whose silent waters, dark and deep, Through all the gloomy valley creep. Passions that flatter, or that slay, Are beasts that fawn, or birds that prey. Here Vice assumes the serpent's shape; There Folly personates the ape :
Here Avarice gripes with harpy claws;
There Malice grins with tiger's jaws;
While sons of Mischief, Art, and Guile,
Are alligators of the Nile.
E'en Pleasure acts a treacherous part ;
She charms the sense, but stings the heart;
And when she gulls us of our wealth,
Or that superior pearl, our health,
Restores us nought but pains and woe,
And drowns us in the lake below.
There a commissioned angel stands
With desolation in his hands;
He sends the all-devouring flame,
And cities hardly boast a name:
Or wings the pestilential blast,
And lo! ten thousand breathe their last.
He speaks-obedient tempests roar,
And guilty nations are no more :
He speaks—the Fury discord raves,
And sweeps whole armies to the graves ;
Or Famine lifts her mildewed hand,
And Hunger howls through all the land.
“Oh! what a wretch is man!" I cried;
“Exposed to death on every side !
And sure as born to be undone,
By evils which he cannot shun!
Besides a thousand baits to sin,
A thousand traitors lodge within !
For, soon as vice assaults the heart,
The rebels take the demon's part.”
I sigh, my aching bosom bleeds ;
When straight the milder plan succeeds.
The lake of tears, the dreary shore,
The same as in the piece before ;
But gleams of light are here displayed
To cheer the eye, and gild the shade ;
Affliction speaks a softer style,
And Disappointment wears a smile:
A group of virtues blossom near;
Their roots improve by every tear.
Here Patience, gentle maid! is nigh,
To calm the storm and wipe the eye;
Hope acts the kind physician's part,
And warms the solitary heart:
Religion nobler comfort brings,
Disarms our griefs, or blunts their stings;
Points out the balance on the whole,
And heaven rewards the struggling soul.
But while these raptures I pursue,
The Genius suddenly withdrew.
WILLIAM COWPER, one of our greatest modern poets, was born in 1731, and died in 1800. His life was clouded by ill health and constitutional melancholy, and presents a most afflicting picture of human weakness; his diffidence was such, that he could not engage in any profession; when he attempted it, the effort was too much for him; and he was compelled to retire to private life. Perhaps it was happy for the world that such was the case, for in his retirement he produced many works, the best of which is his Task. This poem consists of six books, and the title is adopted, in allusion to the injunction of a lady to write a poem, for the subject of which she started the sofa. It commences with a sportive discussion of this subject, but soon falls into a serious strain of rural description, mingled with moral sentiments and portraitures, which is preserved through the six books, ranging from thought to thought, with no perceptible method. As a poet, Cowper possessed that combination of energies which marks the mind of a great genius. He has furnished examples of the sublime, the pathetic, the descriptive, the moral, and the satirical. Nothing seemed beyond his grasp; he was so original, that none of his works remind us of a former muse. His Hymns are some of the most beautiful in the English language.
THE REPENTANT SINNER.
If ever thou hast felt another's pain,
If ever, when he sighed, hast sighed again,
If ever on thy eyelid stood the tear
That pity had engendered, drop one here.
This man was happy-had the world's good word,
And with it every joy it can afford;
Friendship and love seemed tenderly at strife,
Which most should sweeten his untroubled life;
Politely learned, and of a gentle race,
Good breeding and good sense gave all a grace,
And whether at the toilet of the fair
He laughed and trifled, made him welcome there;
Or if in masculine debate he shared,
Ensured him mute attention, and regard.
Alas, how changed! expressive of his mind,
His eyes are sunk, arms folded, head reclined;
Those awful syllables, hell, death, and sin,
Though whispered, plainly tell what works within ;
That conscience there performs her proper part,
And writes a doomsday sentence on his heart.
Forsaking and forsaken of all friends,
He now perceives where earthly pleasure ends;
Hard task! for one who lately knew no care,
And harder still, as learned beneath despair;
His hours no longer pass unmarked away,
A dark importance saddens every day;
He hears the notice of the clock perplexed,
And cries, “ Perhaps eternity strikes next.'
Sweet music is no longer music here,
And laughter sounds like madness in his ear;
His grief the world of all her power disarms,
Wine has no taste, and beauty has no charms;
God's holy word, once trivial in his view,
Now by the voice of his experience true,
Seems as it is, the fountain, whence alone
Must spring that hope he pants to make his own.
Now let the bright reverse be known abroad;
Say man's a worm, and power belongs to God.
As when a felon, whom his country's laws
Have justly doomed for some atrocious cause,
Expects in darkness and heart-chilling fears
The shameful close of all his mispent years,
If chance, on heavy pinions slowly borne,
A tempest usher in the dreadful morn,
Upon his dungeon walls the lightnings play,
The thunder seems to summon him away,
The warder at the door his key applies,
Shoots back the bolt, and all his courage dies :