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and fervent strain unknown, and perhaps unfelt since the days of Milton. Cowper has been termed "original in strength and dignity" by a certain learned but auonymous writer: yet surely, however original he may be thought, strength and dignity are as foreign from his poetry as from his character. There were cer tain moments when he could express himself with considerable energy, but his strongest expressions of indignation were mixed with a species of colloquial familiarity, or dashed with a mixture of complaining petulance, which, if we consider him in the light of a satirist, leave a very small portion indeed of the force and majesty of a Juvenal, or a Dryden, a Boileau, or a Johnson. Cowper's forte was sensibility, a quality which is not merely to be found in his tender and delicate addresses upon any or every subject to his female friends, but tempers even the more energetic parts of his writings, and except where his indignation was excited, or a vein of irony was opened (a talent, however, in which he by no means excelled) is the predominant trait of his compositions. Another remarkable feature in Cowper's poems is the extreme facility which pervades the most elevated as well as the most languid effusions of his ever ductile muse, a quality peculiar to himself, and which needed not the slow and painful labour which Prior is said to have used in giving an easy and unembarrassed air to the most elaborate works of his playful genius.
Sponte sua carmen numeros veniebat ad aptos."
We will presently take a brief view of the opinions and sentiments of our poet, but must first take notice of the volume now before us, which contains his posthumous poetry, with a sketch of his life, collected by his kinsman Mr. Johnson: thus forming a companion to the two former volumes which the public have for some time possessed. We are informed in the preface that although by far the greater part of these miscellaneous verses have been already published by Mr. Hayley, a desire to have a fresh and detached collection of all his minor poems being expressed by his friends is the editor's principal motive for presenting them to the world. It would be ungenerous, perhaps, to censure in very severe terms the misguided fondness, and enthusiastic admiration which has induced Mr. Johnson thus scrupulously to collect the few scattered and remaining flowers which were hitherto wanting to complete the poet's garland: but we must be allowed to observe, that although the enraptured devotee may treasure up the obscurest relic of his favou rite saint, it is not every floating feather, even of the noblest plumage even of the "pulos síov, which is worth preserving and the most affectionate as well as the most ardent of Cow
per's admirers will regret the appearance of a publication which may compel him to lower his estimate of the merits of a favou rite writer, or prompt him at least to exclaim in the words of the poet-Indignor quandoque bonus dormitat Homerus.
It sometimes happens that a posthumous publication may exhibit many interesting specimens of an author's early genius, and may beam, like the portfolio of Gray, with a new store of thought and knowledge, the more delightful as it is the least expected, and calculated to excite such sentiments of admiration. But the present volume is most decidedly inferior to the former two, not as being utterly devoid of merit, but as positively deficient in a single long poem of thought and sustained interest, and filled partly with puny and second-rate translations of Horace and Virgil, and partly abounding with a strange farrago of Epigrams and Sonnets, Latin and English Enigmas, and extemporaneous effusions in the mock-heroic and stanzaic measures, not indeed without a due proportion of talent, but ill-recommended by the meanness of such subjects as the Heel of a Shoe, a Sparrow, a Needle, or a Pincushion. But though we cannot help lamenting what we conceive to be a degradation of an art which is formed to instruct as well as to please, and unworthy of the contemplative faculties and finely wrought mind of Cowper; there are two most beautiful pieces in this volume which breathe a spirit of the most exquisite tenderness, and address themselves in the most attractive and pathetic strain to the best feelings and sympathies of the female heart. The one is the well known Address to Mrs. Unwin, the other is the Ode to some fair Incognita, occasioned on the reading of a poem called the Prayer for Indifference.
What can be more beautiful than the three following stanzas of this latter poem, or the gentle insinuation of reproach with which it opens
"And dwells there in a female heart,
"Dwells there a wish in such a breast
To smother in ignoble rest
At once both bliss and woe?
"Far be the thought, and far the strain,
VOL. V. FEB. 1816.
What more attractive, and at the same time, so animating and pathetic, as the conclusion?
"Still may my melting bosom cleave
"So Pity shall take Virtue's part,
And fashioning my soften'd heart,
"This artless vow may heav'n receive,
"So may the rosy-finger'd hours
"And suns to come, as round they wheel,
With all a tender heart can feel,
Or lively fancy guess." P. 27.
In the poem to Mary, we have an instance of the commonest employment of a good house-wife, metaphorically applied by the poet in the most elegant and touching expressions to the susceptible nature of his own heart.
"Thy needles, once a shining store,
"For though thou gladly wouldst fulfil
"But well thou play'dst the housewife's part,
Equally beautiful and replete with the most confirmed sentiments of unwearied affection are the following stanzas.
My Mary!" P. 235.
"And still to love, though prest with ill,
My Mary!" P. 236.
The poem on Friendship which occurs in the second volume as well as the third, possesses some strong and pointed rules for the acquisition and preservation of this rare but sweetest of all human blessings. It is relieved also by an air of pleasantry which casts a grace over the sober maxims it inculcates; but while it charms us, as usual, with the representation of a virtue so fondly idolized by the amiable and excellent describer, it is nevertheless tarnished with the fault of a diction rather too common, and below the scale even of the humblest species of poetry, together with some metaphorical allusions of a mean and mechanical nature, and a general want of elevation which is too frequent a desideratum in our poet's compositions. The loss of the Royal George, a little ode consisting of a few stanzas, is written with spirit, though it is rather loose and careless. But one of the finest specimens of his lyric poetry is the Boadicea, a short but noble production in the second volume, which breathes a strain of indignant feeling, uttered in a high and majestic tone, well adapted to the grandeur of the subject, and a no unworthy companion to the bard of Gray. We need scarcely observe that the verses on Alexander Selkirk, and the history of John Gilpin have long enjoyed an abundant share of popular favour, but by no means greater than their very different style of excellence deserves and it is no light proof of the versatility of a poet's genius, that the same able and dexterous
faculty was able to describe with equal ease and taste the elegant and sentimental stanzas of the weeping Rose, to draw forth at another time the sad effusions of a desolate Islander, and then caricature with such an incomparable vein of humour, the ludicrous adventures of a run-away citizen of the metropolis. But as the most material part of Cowper's fame is grounded upon the value annexed to his higher compositions, we shall briefly take a view of the sentiments and opinions he was known to profess, as well as the style of expression with which those. sentiments were clothed, that we may be the better able to form a true estimate of the poet's genius, and decide whether greatness, or ardour, or any peculiar sentiment of enthusiasm be its predominant feature. Now the series of poems commencing with "Table Talk," and ending with "Retirement," as well as the six books of the "Task," being the longest and most finished productions of the author's time and thoughts, bear the stamp of a fervent but even disposition of mind, highly tinctured with certain determined opinions of right and wrong, and while deeply imbued with the sacred love of our holy religion, disdaining to recommend the practice of virtue from any other examples than the purest characters in Holy Writ, or with any other motives less than a genuine Christian faith, or the reasonable hope of a Christian's immortality. With feelings so predominant as these, and with a mind keenly susceptible, and ardently fond of truth, it might have been expected perhaps, that some corresponding marks of a great and powerful genius would be traced in some part of these compositions, if not in his homely subjects, at least in the cause of "Truth," " Hope," and Charity," whose battles he was the foremost to fight, like an able and undaunted champion, but not always in the most radiant panoply. Yet though the peculiar keenness of Cowper's judgment, and the general correctness of his observations must ever rescue the matter of his poetry from the imputation of dulness or poverty of scutiment, we confess that our appetite is inclined to a more highly seasoned fare, and a species of satire, either more brilliant, more uniformly sustained, or at all events with a less tendency to prosaic mediocrity. The examples of both ancient and modern satirists may safely be adduced in favour of our opinion. In few parts of Cowper shall we find traces of the playful and airy elegance of Horace or Pope, much less any traits that can remind us of the lofty characters of Juvenal, Dryden, or Churchill. We have before said, that he possessed a considerable share of energy, and we shall doubtless be reminded that an author is the best director of his own talents, and that Cowper exerted to the utmost the colloquial style of sarcasm in which he was formed to excel: but