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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
Yet let the grief and humbleness,
As low as silence, languish;
To whom she gave her anguish.
O poets ! from a maniac's tongue
Was poured the deathless singing! O Christians! at your cross of hope
A hopeless hand was clinging! O men! this man in brotherhood,
Your weary paths beguiling, Groaned inly while he taught you peace,
And died while ye were smiling!
And now, what time ye all may read
Through dimming tears his storyHow discord on the music fell,
And darkness on the gloryAnd how, when, one by one, sweet sounds
And wandering lights departed, He wore no less a loving face,
Because so broken-hearted—
He shall be strong to sanctify
The poet's high vocation,
In meeker adoration :
By wise or good forsaken:
Of one whom God hath taken.
With quiet sadness, and no gloom, • I learn to think upon him; With meekness that is gratefulness,
Who suffered once the madness-cloud,
To his own love to blind him; But gently led the blind along Where breath and bird could find him:
Thus woke the poet from the dream
His life's long fever gave 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
No love was manifested ?
The atoning drops averted-
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;
His rapture, in a vision !
LECTURE VIII. *
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,
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 “ 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. ·