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1731-18oo. BORN at Great Berkhampstead, in Hertfordshire, and educated at Westminster. When only six years old he lost his mother. He was intended for the bar, but was totally unfit for public life. A profound melancholy settled on him, resulting in periodical attacks of insanity. In 1767 went to live with a kind and cheerful family, named Unwin, first at Huntingdon, and afterwards at Olney (Bucks). Fifty years old when he began to write poetry ; indeed, the whole of the works of this gentle and retiring poet were composed in the intervals of reason which he had between the year 1780 and that of his death in 1800, four years after the death of his devoted friend, Mary Unwin. Cowper's principal poems are Table Talk, Hope, The Progress of Error, The Task, John Gilpin, Verses to his Mother's Picture, a translation of Homer, etc. Cowper is also distinguished as a letter writer.
THE DOG AND THE WATER-LILY.
The moon was shady, and soft airs
Swept Ouse's silent tide,
I wandered on his side.
My spaniel, prettiest of his race,
And high in pedigree
That spaniel found for me),
Now starting into sight,
With scarce a slower flight.
1 Ouse, the Great Ouse, which rises in Northamptonshire, and flows through the counties of Buckingham, Bedford, Huntingdon, Cambridge, and Norfolk, and falls into the Wash.
2 Literary cares, the cares of an author. 3 Spaniel, one of the most sagacious and affectionate of the dog tribe.
4 Pedigree, race or birth. 5 Two nymphs, two young ladies. 6 Wanton, to rove without restraint.
It was the time when Ouse displayed
His lilies newly blown ;
And one wished my own.
With cane extended far I sought
To steer it close to land;
Escaped my eager hand.
With fixed, considerate face ;
To comprehend the case.
Dispersing all its dream,
The windings of the stream.
My ramble ended, I returned ;
Beau, trotting far before,
And plunging left the shore.
Impatient swim to meet
The treasure at my feet. Charmed with the sight, The world, I cried,
Shall hear of this thy deed; My dog shall mortify the pride
Of man's superior breed.
But chief myself I will enjoin,
Awake at duty's call,
To Him who gives me all.
Cherup, a cheering sound.
VERSES. Supposed to be written by Alexander Selkirk, 1 during his solitary
abode in the island of Juan Fernandez.
My right there is none to dispute ;
I am lord of the fowl and the brute.
That sages? have seen in thy face?
Than reign in this horrible place.
I must finish my journey alone,
I start at the sound of my own.
My form with indifference see ;
Their tameness is shocking to me.
Divinely bestowed upon man:
How soon would I taste you again!
In the ways of religion and truth,
And be cheered by the sallies* of youth.
Resides in that heavenly word !
Or all that this earth can afford.
1 Alex. Selkirk, a sailor, who for mutiny was put ashore (1705) on the desolate island of Juan Fernandez (in the Pacific), where he lived for about three years, at the end of which he was discovered by an English captain, and brought away. It is said that from his adventures originated the celebrated “ Robinson Crusoe."
2 Sages, wise men. 3 Assuage, to soften or soothe. 4 Sallies, frolics.
But the sound of the church-going bell
These valleys and rocks never heard, Never sighed at the sound of a knell,
Or smiled when a sabbath appeared. Ye winds that have made me your sport,
Convey to this desolate shore Some cordial endearing report
Of a land I shall visit no more. My friends, do they now and then send
A wish or a thought after me? Oh, tell me I yet have a friend,
Though a friend I am never to see. How fleet” is a glance of the mind !
Compared with the speed of its flight, The tempest itself lags behind,
And the swift-winged arrows of light. When I think of my own native land,
In a moment I seem to be there ; But, alas ! recollection at hand
Soon hurries me back to despair. But the seafowl is gone to her nest,
The beast is laid down in his lair ;3 Even here is a season of rest,
And I to my cabin repair. There's mercy in every place,
And mercy, encouraging thought! Gives even affliction a grace,
And reconciles man to his lot.
1 Knell, a funeral bell.
2 Fleet, swift.
ROBERT BURNS. 1759--1796. BORN near the Bridge of Doon, in the parish of Alloway, Ayrshire. His parents were in humble circumstances, and when only eleven years of age, Robert was taken from school to help on his father's farm. In early youth he had to contend much with adverse circumstances; and as he grew up he contracted habits of improvidence and dissipation. His first volume of poems, published in 1786, established his fame as a poet. In 1788 he took a farm near Dumfries, and soon after settling upon it obtained the post of exciseman. The farm proved a failure, and Burns went to live at Dumfries on his salary of £70 a year-his salary as a revenue officer. Here sickness and debt severely harassed him, and he died at Dumfries on the 21st of July, 1796.
Burns is celebrated chiefly for his Lines to a Mountain Daisy; Elegy on Captain Matthew Henderson; The Cottar's Saturday Night; Tam ó Shanter; Lament for James, Earl of Glencairn; and his songs, among which may be mentioned his Highland Mary; To Mary in Heaven; Scots, wha hae, etc.
Scots, wha? hae3 wi' Wallace* bled,
Or to glorious victorie !
Edward ! chains and slaverie !
Traitor! coward! turn and flee?
i Bannockburn, in Stirlingshire, where a battle was fought in 1314, between Edward II., of England, and Robert Bruce of Scotland. The object of the Scots was to recover their independence, which they had lost in the reign of Edward I. This object they gained by the total defeat of the English, who lost by death and capture 50,000 men.
2 Wha, who 3 Hae, have.
4 Wallace, a celebrated Scottish hero, who was captured by the English in the reign of Edward I., and executed (1305).