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6. sages. Cp. A. Marvell's Thoughts in a Garden (G. T., CXLII); and Cowley's lines:
"O solitude, first state of humankind
Which blest remained till man did find
As soon as two alas! together joined
But one of the greatest of sages, Aristotle, has said that society is essential to man; to be independent of it one must be Onpiov Ocos, either brute or God,' either less than man or more than man (Politics, I. ii. 14).
7. Cp. the words of Achilles when Odysseus met him in Hades: "Rather would I live on ground as the hireling of another, with a landless man who had no great livelihood, than bear sway among all the dead that be departed" (Homer, Odyssey, XI. 491, trans. Butcher and Lang).
17. Cp. Aristotle, Ethics, VIII. i. 3 (trans. Peters): "Love seems to be implanted by nature in the parent towards the offspring, and in the offspring towards the parent, not only among men, but also among birds and in most animals; and in those of the same race towards one another, among men especially -for which reason we commend those who love their fellowmen. And when one travels one may see how man is always akin to and dear to man."
19. Cp. Psalms, LV. 6, "O that I had wings like a dove."
24. sallies, properly 'leapings'-French saillir from Lat. salire, 'to leap'; specially used of outbursts of animal spirits.' So Swift wrote: "Some sallies of levity ought to be imputed to youth."
After this line Mr. F. T. Palgrave excised a stanza which developes more fully the thought of 1. 22.
33. fleet. Cp. Virgil's animum celerem (Aeneid, IV. 285) finely rendered by Tennyson in the Passing of Arthur, "This way and that dividing the swift mind."
52. Mary! I want a lyre with other strings
"THE Editor would venture to class in the very first rank this Sonnet, which, with ccrv., records Cowper's gratitude to the Lady whose affectionate care for many years gave what sweetness he could enjoy to a life radically wretched. Petrarch's sonnets have a more ethereal grace and a more perfect finish; Shakespeare's more passion; Milton's stand supreme in stateliness; Wordsworth's in depth and delicacy. But Cowper's unites with an exquisiteness in the turn of thought which the Ancients would have called Irony, an intensity of pathetic tenderness peculiar to
his loving and ingenuous nature. There is much mannerism, much that is unimportant or of now exhausted interest in his poems; but where he is great, it is with that elementary greatness which rests on the most universal human feelings. Cowper is our highest master in simple pathos" (F.T.P.).
Cowper said that his poem On the receipt of my Mother's Picture out of Norfolk had given him more pleasure in the writing than any other, with one exception. "That one was addressed to a lady who has supplied to me the place of my own mother,—my own invaluable mother, these six and twenty years.' This Sonnet to Mrs. Unwin is the poem to which he thus refers. He had become an inmate of her house at Huntingdon in 1765, and he was never separated from her till her death in 1796.
Metre. See the appendix on the sonnet in the present editor's edition of Golden Treasury, Book IV. Cowper's Sonnet follows the Petrarchan model, used by Milton.
2. feign'd. In allusion to poetic invocations of the Muse.
5. shed my wings. In contrast with Horace, who playfully represents his attainment of poetic immortality under the figure of turning into a swan (Odes, II. xx.), Cowper speaks more modestly of his poetic wings as if they were only his as long as he continued to write.
9. a Book. "And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works" (Revelation, xx. 12). Very beautiful reference to the same Book' is made in another English sonnet-Leigh Hunt's on Abou Ben Adhem.
53. The twentieth year is well-nigh past
"CETTE tendre et incomparable plainte, écrite avec des larmes (This tender and incomparable lament, written with tears)— Sainte-Beuve, Causeries du Lundi.
"Presently we reached the same poet's stanzas to Mary Unwin. He read them, yet could barely read them, so deeply was he touched by their tender, their almost agonizing pathos.”—Personal Recollections of Tennyson, by F. T. Palgrave, in Tennyson's Life, II. 501.
Written in 1793. "Still he exerted himself as much as it was possible for any person to do in such a state of mind; indeed no other case has been recorded of such a continued struggle against insanity. He sought relief in employment, in exercise, in improving his garden and orchard, in the society of those whom he loved, whenever it could be obtained, and sometimes, it appears,
whenever his malady did not preclude him from that resource, in prayer. These persevering efforts might perhaps have again availed for a while, as they had formerly done, had it not been for the melancholy spectacle, which was now continually before him, of his dear companion's increasing infirmities of body and of mind. About this time it was that he addressed to her one of the most touching, and certainly the most widely known of all his poems, for it has been read by thousands and tens of thousands who have never perused the Task, nor perhaps seen, or heard of, any other of his works. Hayley believed it to be the last original piece which he produced at Weston, and says, he questioned whether any language on earth can exhibit a specimen of verse more exquisitely tender."-Southey, Life of Cowper, ch. 17.
1. twentieth year. Cowper had suffered from a severe attack of his malady in 1773. It was really the second attack, but it was the first after he had gone to live with the Unwins.
10. heretofore, up to this point of time, as adhuc in Latin and 'hitherto ' in English are used of time as well as of place.
18. magic art. In ancient incantations threads were often bound round the image of the person whose love it was sought to bind cp. Virgil, Eclogue VIII. 73.
25. auburn bright, practically a compound adj. like Collins' 'dim-discovered" (No. 35. 37). The double epithet, in which the two adjectives do not modify each other's meaning, is different: e.g. ' genial loved' and ‘gradual dusk' in No. 35.
54. Obscurest night involved the sky
"COWPER'S last original poem, founded upon a story told in Anson's Voyages. It was written, March 1799; he died in next year's April" (F.T.P.). The story of Cowper's life at the time the Castaway was composed may best be read in Southey's moving narrative (Life of Cowper, ch. 18).
"If we try to discover what it is that gives the poem its intense pathos, we shall find that this is chiefly produced by the studied simplicity of the language, the absence of rhetoric or metaphor, the calmness of the narrator-a calmness of despair. The whole poem, except the last stanza, is a description of the agonies of the drowning man; but the key-note is struck in the third line, and we are conscious all along it is himself that Cowper is describing; he is the destined wretch,' the hopeless, helpless, friendless castaway."-F. Storr.
The passage in Anson's Voyage Round the World (ch. 8) runs as follows: "But in less than twenty-four hours we were attacked by another storm still more furious than the former; for it proved
a perfect hurricane, and reduced us to the necessity of lying to under our bare poles. As our ship kept the wind better than any of the rest, we were obliged in the afternoon to wear ship, in order to join the squadron to the leeward, which otherwise we should have been in danger of losing in the night. And as we dared not venture any sail abroad, we were obliged to make use of an expedient, which answered our purpose; this was putting the helm a weather, and manning the fore shrouds. But though this method proved successful for the end intended, yet in the execution of it, one of our ablest seamen was canted overboard; and notwithstanding the prodigious agitation of the waves, we perceived that he swam very strong, and it was with the utmost concern that we found ourselves incapable of assisting him; and we the more grieved at his unhappy fate, since we lost sight of him struggling with the waves, and conceived from the manner in which he swam, that he might continue sensible for a considerable time longer, of the horror attending his irretrievable situation."
3. destined, 'doomed,' a rare use of the word.
7. Albion, an old name for England, found in Pliny's Natural History, IV. xxx., and often used by the English poets. It is said to be derived from the white cliffs of Kent and Sussex.
19. had, i.e. would have.
52. Anson, George, Lord Anson, 1697-1762; sailed round the world, 18th Sept., 1740-15th June, 1744; defeated the French fleet off Finisterre, 3rd May, 1747.
56. Descanting, making observations, commenting. Cp. Shakespeare, Richard III., 1. i. 27, "to spy my shadow in the sun And descant on mine own deformity. It is properly a musical term, to play or sing an air in harmony with a fixed theme.' 61. Cp. Matthew, VIII. 26.
55. In the downhill of life, when I find I'm declining "VERY little except his name appears recoverable with regard to the author of this truly noble poem, which appeared in the Scripscrapologia, or Collins' Doggerel Dish of All Sorts, with three or four other pieces of merit, Birmingham, 1804" (F.T.P.). Of all the other poems in this book we may say that their reputation rests securely on the judgment of the world of letters, although in many or all cases the Golden Treasury has widely extended the circle of their admirers. It seems only fair to the student to point out that this poem, rescued from oblivion by the judgment of one critic, stands on a somewhat different level. Some account of John Collins' life-he was an actor and
reciter-will be found in the Dictionary of Nat. Biography. He died in 1808.
With the feeling shown in this poem compare Herrick's Thanksgiving to God for His House, beginning "Lord, thou hast given me a cell Wherein to dwell."
Metre.-Anapaestic. Four accents in the first, three in the second, line of each couplet. tuted for the first anapaest. accented syllable which gives ending.
An iambus is sometimes substiSome of the lines have an unthem a trochaic or 'feminine'
5. pad-pony, an easy paced pony. Pad is connected with path, and a pad-pony is properly a pony for riding on roads. Cp. the expression 'roadster,' used of a horse or bicycle.
15. Nabob. This name was given by the English in the eighteenth century to those of their countrymen who had acquired large fortunes in India and returned to England to spend them. These men became very unpopular from their ostentatious display of wealth. See the account of them in Macaulay's Essay on Clive.
19. Cp. W. Collins' Ode to Evening, No. 35. 3, and S. Rogers in No. 36. 3-4.
28. thread. Cp. Milton's Lycidas (G. T., LXXXIX. 75), “Comes the blind Fury with the abhorred shears And slits the thin-spun life."
32. Everlasting. "Used with side-allusion to a cloth so named at the time when Collins wrote " (F.T.P.).
56. Life! I know not what thou art
ANNA LAETITIA AIKIN (Mrs. BARBAULD), 1743-1825, was a notable figure in English life at the close of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth century. Her Female Speaker, a collection of 'elegant extracts' for young ladies, was a real educational force for many years; and her brother's Evenings at Home, to which she contributed, has not yet exhausted its usefulness. Her highwater mark in original poetry is reached in the beautiful lines which Mr. F. T. Palgrave excerpted from her Ode to Life-lines which are said to have attracted the admiration of Wordsworth. We have seen the gentle melancholy of Gray and Collins deepen into the settled gloom of Cowper's last utterances. It is well that in its last two poems the Third Book of the Golden Treasury should end upon a happier note.