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that she soon received from him the familiar and endearing title of sister Ann.
The great and happy influence, which an incident, that seems at first sight so trivial, produced very rapidly on the imagination of Cowper, will best appear from the following epistle, which, soon after Lady Austen's return to London for the winter, the poet addressed to her, on the seventeenth of December, 1781.
Dear Anna--between friend and friend,
Prose answers every common end;
Serves, in a plain and homely way,
T'express th' occurrence of the day;
Our health, the weather, and the news;
What walks we take, what books we chuse;
And all the floating thoughts we find
Upon the surface of the mind.
But when a poet takes the pen,
Far more alive than other men;
He feels a gentle tingling come
Down to his finger and his thumb,
Deriv'd from nature's noblest part,
The centre of a glowing heart!
And this is what the world, who knows
No flights above the pitch of prosex .
A 2 tis. a
His more sublime vagaries slighting,
Denominates an itch for writing.
No wonder I, who scribble rhyme,
To catch the triflers of the time,
And tell them truths divine and clear,
Which, couch'd in prose, they will not hear;
Who labour hard to allure, and draw,
The loiterers I never saw,
Should feel that itching and that tựngling,
With all my purpose intermingling,
To your intrinsic merit true,
When call’d to address myself to you.
Mysterious are his ways, whose power
Brings forth that unexpected hour,
When minds, that never met before,
Shall meet, unite, and part no more :
It is th' allotment of the skies,
The hand of the Supremely Wise,
That guides and governs our afiections,
And plans and orders our connexions ;
Directs us in our distant road,
And marks the bounds of our abode.
Thus we were settled when you found us,
Peasants and children all around us,
Not dreaming of so dear a friend,
Deep in the abyss of Silver-End.*
* An obscure part of Olney, adjoining to the residence of Cowper, which faced the market-place.
Thus Martha, ev'n against her will,
Perch'd on the top of yonder hill ;
And you, though you must needs prefer
The fairer scenes of sweet Sancerre,*
Are come from distant Loire, to chuse
A cottage on the banks of Ouse.
This page of Providence quite new,
And now just opening to our view,
Employs our present thoughts and pains
To guess, and spell, what it contains:
But day by day, and year by year,
Will make the dark ænigma clear ;
And furnish us perhaps at last,
Like other scenes already past,
With proof, that we, and our affairs,
Are part of a Jehovah's cares:
For God unfolds, by slow degrees,
The purport of his deep decrees ;
Sheds every hour a clearer light
In aid of our defective sight;
And spreads, at length, before the soul,
A beautiful and perfect whole,
Which busy man's inventive brain
Toils to anticipate in vain.
Say, Anna, had you never known, The beauties of a' rose full blown,
* Lady Austen's residence in France,
Could you, tho' luminous your eye,
By looking on the bud descry,
Or guess, with a prophetic power,
The future splendor of the flower ?
Just so th’Omnipotent who turns
The system of a world's concerns,
From mere minutiæ can educe
Events of most important use ;
And bid a dawning sky display
The blaze of a meridjan day,
The works of man tend one and all,
As needs they must, from great to small ;
And vanity absorbs at length
The monuments of human strength,
But who can tell how vast the plan
Which this day's incident began?
Too small perhaps the slight occasion
For our dim sighted observation;
It pass'd unnotic'd, as the bird
That cleaves the yielding air unheard,
And yet may prove, when understood,
An harbinger of endless good.
Not that I deem, or mean to call Friendship a blessing cheap, or small ; But merely to remark, that ours, Like some of nature's sweetest flowers, Rose from a seed of tiny size, That seemed to promise no such prizes
A transient visit intervening,
And made almost without a meaning,
(Hardly the effect of inclination,
Much less of pleasing expectation !)
Produced a friendship, then begun,
That has cemented us in one;
And plac'd it in our power to prove,
By long fidelity and love,
That Solomon has wisely spoken ;
“ A three-fold cord is not soon broken."
In this interesting poem the author expresses a lively and devout presage of the superior productions, that were to arise in the process of time, from a friendship so unexpected, and so pleasing; but he does not seem to have been aware, in the slightest degree, of the evident dangers that must naturally attend an intimacy so very close, yet perfectly innocent, between a poet and two ladies, who, with very different mental powers, had each reason to flatter herself that she could agreeably promote the studies, and animate the fancy of this fascinating bard. .
Genius of the most exquisite kind is sometimes, and perhaps generally, so modest, and diffident, as to require continual solicitation and encouragement, from the voice of sympathy, and friendship, to lead