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Weigh the vessel up,
Once dreaded by our foes !
The tear that England owes.
And she may float again,
And plough the distant main.
His victories are o'er;
Shall plough the wave no more." No poet of the last century did as much as Cowper for the restoration of the admirable music of the then neglected blank verse. When Cowper died, in the year 1800, exactly one hundred years after the death of Dryden, English poetry was again in possession of all its varied endowment of verse. In a course of lectures which I delivered here some ten years ago, I concluded a lecture on Cowper by quoting a poem then new and little known -the stanzas entitled “Cowper's Grave," by Elizabeth Browning, then known by her maiden name of Barrett. While I have avoided, as far as possible, repetitions from my former courses, I am tempted to repeat the stanzas now, because on the former occasion they made, as I have been informed, an impression that was not lost. The merit of the poem is not only in the happy allusions to Cowper's character and career of checkered cheerfulness and gloom, but also in its depth of passion and imagination.
May feel the heart's decaying-
May weep amid their praying
And wrought within his shattered brain
Such quick poetic senses,
Harmonious influences !
Kept his within its number;
Refreshed him like a slumber.
Wild timid hares were drawn from woods
To share his home caresses,
With sylvan tendernesses:
From falsehood's ways removing,
Beside him, true and loving !
But while, in blindness he remained
Unconscious of the guiding,
The sweet sense of providing,
Though frenzy-desolated Nor man nor nature satisfy,
Whom only God created !
Like a sick child that knoweth not
His mother while she blesses,
The coolness of her kisses;
“My mother! where's my mother?”— As if such tender words and looks
Could come from any other!
The fever gone, with leaps of heart
He sees her bending o'er him;
The unweary love she bore him!
Thus woke the poet from the dream
His life's long fever gave him, Beneath those deep pathetic Eyes,
Which closed in death to save him.
Thus! oh, not thus! no type of earth
Could image that awaking,
Of seraphs round him breaking-
Of soul from body parted;
“My Saviour! not deserted!"
Deserted! who hath dreamt that when
The cross in darkness rested Upon the Victim's hidden face,
No love was manifested ? What frantic hands outstretched have e'er
The atoning drops avertedWhat tears have washed them from the soul
That one should be deserted ?
Deserted! God could separate
From his own essence rather :
The righteous Son and Father;
His universe hath shakenIt went up single, echoless,
“My God, I am forsaken!"
It went up from the Holy's lips
Amid his lost creation,
Those words of desolation;
Should mar not hope's fruition; And I, on Cowper's grave, should see
His rapture, in a vision !
Literature of the Nineteenth Century.
Literature of our own times—Influence of political and social rela
tions—The historic relations of literature—The French Revolution, and its effects—Infidelity-Thirty years' Peace-Scientific progress coincident with letters—History-Its altered tone-Arnold-Prescott-Niebuhr-Gibbon-Hume—Robertson—Religious element in historical style-Lord Mahon-Macaulay's History–Historical romance-Waverley Novels—The pulpit-Sydney Smith-ManningPoetry of the early part of the century-Bowles and Rogers—Campbell-Coleridge's Christabel-Lay of the Last Minstrel-Scott's poetry.
In my last lecture, I noticed the date of the death of Cowper, in the year 1800, as conveniently marking the close of the literature of the eighteenth century. The excellence of his prose, as well as of his poetry, and his share in that literary revival which began during the latter part of that century, make such a use of his name subservient, in a reasonable rather than an arbitrary manner, to the purposes of literary chronology. We pass thence into what may be entitled 66 The Literature of our own Times," or, having nearly completed its era of fifty years, “ The Literature of the first half of the Nineteenth Century.” It has its characteristics—distinctive qualities, with their origin from within, in the minds of those whose writings make the literature, and from without, in the influence exerted on those minds by the world's doings
* January 21, 1850.