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[7 he authorities for those poems which were not published by the author himself, are given between brachets in small capitals.]
i'_ Page i (havlev, i. 89), I ij. "Exhale," to draw out: meaning now obsolete. So Shakspeare :—
"See, dead Henry's wounds
The allusion at the end of this poem is probably to Lord Chesterfield, who resigned the Seals of Secretary of State, Feb. 6th, 1748. See Mahon's Hist. ch. xxx.,or Student's Hume, , p. 608.
Page 2. All the pieces from this to p. 8 are from Eaklv Poems.
Page 3. Cowper is curiously defective in his rhymes. The following rhymes will be found in this one page:—Death, beneath; fled, speed Prey, sea; wretch, beach; guard, prepared; spirit, bear it; had, said; perter, smarter_ do, so; sltapes, relapse ; foolish, polish; alone, gunPage 4. Cutfield, or rather Catfield, was the parish of Cowper's uncle. Rev. Roger Donne. Cowper visited it often in youth.
Page 6. "SirC. Grandison" was published in the autumn of 1753.
PageS, last stanza. "Prune, todress.toprink. A ludicrous word." (Johnson's Dictionary.)"Every scribbling man Grows a fop aa f;u,t as e'er he can. Prunes up, and asks hi* oracle, the glass. If pink or purple best become his face."—Drgden.
Page 9. (havlev, i. 82.) Written the year he was called to the bar, 1754. Contains the iirst allusion to his fits of melancholy.
"Pitch-kettled, a favourite phrase at the time this Epistle was written, expressive of being puzzled, or what in the Spectator's time would have been called batnboozled." (Hayley.)
The illustration of Dame Gurton and her son is taken from the celebrated comedy of Gammer Gurton's needle, said to have been written by Bishop Still, about the year 1565.
Pages 10—14. (All from Earlv Poems.)
Page 10, 1st and 2nd stanzas. Hebrus was the principal river in Thrace. On its banks
Orpheus was torn in pieces by the Thraciun women, because of his grief for his lost Eurydice
Page 12. R. S. S. I have not a notion of the meaning of these letters.
Page 15. (havlev,i. 79.) Sir William Russell was drowned whilst bathing in the Thames, 1757.
Page 16. (This and the following Satire were printed in Duncombe's Horace, 1757. The buncombes, father and son, were of Hertford .shire, and the elder was an intimate friend of Cowper's father. At the time this translation was made, its author was leading a dilettante life at the Temple, amusing himself with such matters, and always ready to furnish them to any friend who asked his help.)
Maecenas was sent to Brundusium A.u.c. 715, to arrange differences between Augustus and M.Antony, and, in order to beguile the tediousness of the expedition, summoned Horace and other literary friends. Horace wrote this account of his own journey to amuse Maecenas.
Of Heliodorus nothing is known.
Aricia was 16 miles from Rome, and Appii Forum 20 miles further on. Here they take barges on the canal for 20 miles to Terracina.
Page 17, col. 1. Feronia, an ancient Sabine goddess, introduced by the Sabines among the Romans. Her chief temple was at Terracina where a well of pure water, sacred to her, flowed down Mount Poracte. It is "the pure and glassy stream" here referred to.
Cocceius was a common friend of Caesar and Antony. His presence with Maecenas was therefore a sign of peace. They had already effected the treaty of Brundusium.
"My eyes, by watery," &c. This was owing to having slept in the open air, in the marshes.
Capita Fonteius was Antony's legate in Asia.
Fundi, 9 miles from Terracina.
Aufidius, praetor of Fundi. The original here is very humorous and sarcastic. A scribe was a clerk.
Murtena was Maecenas' brother-in-law. Plotius and Varius, the two most intimate friends of "the bard of Mantua," Virgil.
Formia is the modern Gaeta, 80 miles from Rome
Sinuessa, 18 miles from Formia, on the coast.
Page 17, col. 1. Caudium was the scene of the celebrated humiliation of the Roman army, known as the " Caudine Forks." Tiie "tavern' probably lay beside the road; and the villa of Cocceius on the hill above.
Oscian, that is, Campanian. "True Oscian breed" is a satirical way of saying that he was a low and mean fellow—just as we might talk of "genuine Seven Dials poetry."
"For carbuncles," &c. The people of Campania were subject to the growth of 1 Teat warts or wens on their foreheads, which, when cut out, left great scars behind.
Page 18, col. 1. *' Nor does your phiz," &c., ;'. e. because your face is so ugly.
"Of you, sir," &c. It was the custom, when any one had received any deliverance or other piece of good fortune, to leave some offering representing it in the temple of the gods. Boys and girls, on growing up, are said to have left their toys and dolls as offerings to the Lares, or household gods. Cicirrus jocosely asks Sarmentus when he hung up his chains, implying that he is a runaway slave, and that his former mistress has still a title to him.
Trivicus, a little village still called Trivico.
col. 2. "Whose name my verse," &c. Thj nanv. was Eguotnticum, which could not anyhow be got into an hexameter verse.
Fishy Barium. On the Adriatic. The inhabitants still live by fishing.
"That i 1cense," &c. Pliny, in his Natural History(ii. .' 1), mentions this suppose.l miracle, and believes in it. It was not likely to find favour with Epicurean Horace.
Page 19, col. 1. Beard, manager of Covent Garden Theatre. He had just achieved-great success with his "Opera of Artaxerxes."
"Well, I'm convinced my time is come," &c. The poet has hitherto tried to be civil, but, finding this of no use, tries insulting his tormentor, by inventing this prophecy for the nonce.
col. 2. "Rufus Hall." In the original, "Temple of Vesta," which was lythe T'orum, as Westminster Hall was by the law courts.
Newcastle, the then Prime Minister, is in the original Maecenas."
Page 20. (johnson's Cowper, iii. 27.) The Prayer for Indifference appeared in the Annual Register for 1762, p. 202. The wrileraddresses it to Oberon, and declares that she prays not for love-charms, nor ease, nor peace, but for the nymph Indifference. The following extract will convey a fair idea of it, and show the point of Cowper's reply:—
"At her approach, see hope, see fear,
"The tears which pity taught to flow
"The wounds which now each raomeut bleed,
Page 21. An Ode, &c. This Mock Ode appeared in the St. James' Magazine for Nov. 1703, where it was signed " L." Lloyd was the editor of that magazine, and his old Westminster friends contributed. At the beginning ('owper wrote nothing for it, being it Brighton: Lut soon he furnished a paper, sig. eu " W. C.," on English Pindaric odes, and promised to furnish one according to rule. On this ground Southey identified the present ode as his, which appeared a few months after; but there is 110 furthjr proof of the authorship.
Page 23. (cowper's Autobiographv.) The circumstances under which he wrote these ap^alling sapphics are told in the Introductorv ye:_oir, p. xxx. Southey says of the third lines in the two last stanzas respectively, that t' ev are both "evidently corrupt," and suggests that in the former, instead of "if vanquished," the arnVrmay have written "in anguish." But the tt xl is probably right. He had an idea that there was a bare chance for him in the strife with the Avenging Deity. The expression, "fed with judgment," is taken from Ezek. xxxiv. 16.
Page 24. On the Olnev Hvmns generally. 1ntroductory Memoir, p. xxxviii.
H. 1. r*.h stanza. Several modern editions have altered "thy throne," in the third line, to "its throne." But this is quite wrong. The poet is regarding his own heart as the rightful throne of the Holy Ghost, and the idol as usurping it.
H. ii. 3rd stanza; 1 Sam. xxiii. 27.
Page 27. H. xi. was certainly written at Huntingdon, being exactly like a letter which he wrote to Mrs. Cowper from thence.
Page so. H. xx. 2nd stanza. "Thepaschal
sacrifice," &c. Exod. xii. 13.
3rd stanza. "The Lamb," &c. Lev. xii. 6 4th stanza. "The scape-goat," &c. Ler1
5th stanza. "Dipt in his fellow's blood,' &c. Lev. xiv. 51.
Page 31. H. xxvi. was written for the opening service at "the Great House." Se' Memoir, p. xxiv.
Page 32. H. xxviii. 2nd stan. Luke xii- 50. Page 34. H. xxxiv. last stan. Cant. v. 8. H. xxxv. was written on the very eve of his second attack of insanity, Jan. 1773. Page 36. H. xliv. 3rd stan. Josh. xii. 11
Page 37. H.xlvi. was written at Dr. Cotton's, whilst he was recovering from his first attack. H. xlvii. was written when hewas on the point of leaving Dr. Cotton's, and forming the resolution not to return to London.
Page 49. On Table Talk, see Memoir, p. xlvi. It was begun at the end of 1780. Though not first written, it was placed first, because it had less of religion than the rest of the larger poems, and he wished not to discourage readers by beginning too seriously. "I am merry," he writes, "that I may decoy people into my company; and grave, that they may be the better for it."
/ 6. There was a very old but erroneous idea that lightning will not strike laurel. The Emperor Tiberius used to wear a wreath of it when a thunderstorm threatened. Byron cleverly throws a symbolical meaning into this notion:—
*' For the true laurel-wreath which glory weaves Ib of the tree no bolt of thunder cleaves."
Childe Harold, iv. 41.
// 13-46. These lines were added by the author after the MS. had been sent to the printer.
/. 29. The author is writing generally, but probably he has Frederick the Great in his mind especially.
Page 50, // 65-82. Intended as a description of George III.
/83. See Macaulay's Essays, i. 279-281.
Page 51, /93. Quevedo de Villagas died at Madrid in 1635, aged 65. His *' Visions of Hell" have been translated into English.
/no, A quit-rent was the nominal rent (it might be a handful of corn, or a peppercorn, or a flower) by the payment of which the tenant of an old manor was able to go quiet and free. The satire of this and the following lines will be abundantly illustrated by the Poetical pages of any old magazine.
Page 52, / 182. Francis, third and last Duke of Bridgewater, is called the father of British internal navigation. He was living quietly at a retired country house at Worsley, near Manchester, when his attention was called to the difficulties of transporting the coal of which the surrounding soil was full. He met with James Brindley, who undertook to make a canal to Manchester, and with great engineering skill, backed by brave support from the Duke, he accomplished the design in 1760. Six years later, Brindley began the '' Grand Trunk Canal" from the Trent to the Mersey, and before his death in 1772 drew the plan for the Oxfordshire Canal, connecting the Trent with the Thames. (Mahon's History, ch. xli.)
Page 53, / 192. "When admirals," &c . Probably referring to Admiral Keppel. . For an
account of the popular furore after the courtmartial on him, see Mahon, vi. 269. The generals are those of the American war.
Page 53, / 237. "Frisk, a frolic—an act of wanton gaiety." (Johnson.) Compare these lines with the events nine years later.
/ 318. The Gordon riots of 1780. Mahon, vi. 23.
/339- Chatham died May 11, 1778.
Page 56, I 361. "Subserviency,"obedience to God's will. The unfavourable meaning which we now almost invariably give this word is not found in Johnson's Dictionary.
/362. This alludes to the "Armed Neutrality" of 1780, an alliance between Russia, Sweden, and Denmark (afterwards joined by Prussia and Holland), to maintain, in opposition to the principles of British maritime law and the decisions of her Admiralty courts, that neutral ships make free goods. England thus stood at bay against all the nations of Europe as well as against her insurgent colonies in America. But the combination wrought her but slight injury. See Lord Stanhope's History of England, chaps. Ixii. and lxiii.
I 384. John Brown, D.D., Vicar of Newcastle-on-Tyne, a voluminous writer, popular in his time, but now forgotten. The work here referred to, "An Estimate of the Manners and Principles of the Time," made avast sensation when it appeared, and went through many editions. He depicts England as sunk into a hopeless condition, and at the point of utter ruin as a nation. The rest of George the Second's reign, from the very year of this publication, is a chronicle of glorious victories both by land and sea, planned and executed by the genius of Chatham. See Macaulay's Essays, i. 307.
Page 58, / 500. "The graceful name," 1.e. Vates.
Page 59, / 509. Southey says that this was the custom still at Westminster School in his time. But I believe it is so no longer. The head-master was sub-almoner to the Queen, and used to present the good boys with Maundy money.
/ 519. "Morris-dance," a corruption of "Moorish dance," a fantastic performance, accompanied with the sound of bells and waving of ribbons.
/ 527. The following description is taken from Northouck's "History of London" (I773):—"The dial of the clock projects over the street at the extremity of a beam; and over it by a kind of whimsical conceit, calculated only for the amusement of countrymen and children, is an Ionic porch, containing the figures of two savages, carved and painted, as big as life, which with knotted clubs alternately strike the hours and quarters on two bells hung between them." The church was rebuilt in 1831, and the figures were not restored. They now ornament a house near the Regent's Park.
Page 59, / 553. "Pounce," to seize with the /•ounces or talons. The expression, "pounce upon," is quite modern.
Page 60, / 559. This is borrowed from Dryden's Epigram on Milton, Globe Edition, p. 652.
/ 566. The ancients believed that, during the seven days before, and the seven after the shortest day, the halcyon, or kingfisher, was breeding on the waters, and that during that time there was always calm at sea.
/603. The thyrsus was a staff bound round with ivy and vine leaves, supposed to be borne by Bacchus.
Page 62, / 670. See Memoir, p. xxv.
Page 63, /716. This thought was suggested to him by reading Johnson's "Lives of tne Poets." He says in a letter that it was a melancholy reflection, forced upon him by that work, that nearly all poets were wicked men.
/ 760. Sternhold and Hopkins, authors of the "Old Version" of the Psalms, middle of 16th century.
Page 64. The Progress Of Error was the first written of this series of Poems. See Memoir, p. xlv. Its versification is harsh, but it is full of pithy sayings.
Page 66/94." Tumbrel, a dung-cart." (Johnson.)
/ 121. Monmouth Street, in St. Giles', was chiefly occupied by old clothes shops.
/ 124. All the commentators have taken "Occiduus" to be a punning nickname for Wesley. If this is so, it must have been Charles. The proceedings here satirized seem altogether at variance with what we know of John Wesley. But Charles was cheerful and joyous in his habits, and his musical talents were very great. It is, therefore, most likely that it is really he who is the subject of this satire, though I have failed to find any direct evidence of it. Mr. Bruce had seen a copy of the poems, belonging to Mr. Gough, annotated by some neighbours of Cowper, in which it was stated that "Occiduus" was a clergyman nearOlney. A letter of Cowper to Newton, dated Sept. 9, 1781, speaks of this matter further, but without enlightening us as to the name.
Page 67, I 156. Is. lviii. 13, Ivi. 2, 6.
Page 70, / 332. "Quarry, game flown at by a hawk." (Johnson.)
/ 336. Lord Chesterfield, who is referred to here under the name of "Petronius," resigned the office of Secretary of State in 1748. Three years after he proposed and carried the Reform of the Calendar. This was his last public work: he became deaf, and retired into private life. During this time he wrote his '' Letters tohis Son," Philip, born illegitimately
in 1732. The latter, however, died in 1768, leaving his father to languish cheerlessly for five years longer. On the old man's death, Philip Stanhope's widow published the whole correspondence.
"It had appeared, on the death of Chesterfield's son, that he had secretly married without his father's consent, or even knowledge; and the widow, upon Chesterfield's own demise, published for profit the whole correspondence of the Earl with her late husband;—a correspondence written in the closest confidence and unreserve, and without the slightest idea of ever meeting the public eye. It is, however, by these Letters that Chesterfield's character, as an author, must stand or fall. Viewed as composition, they appear almost unrivalled as models for a serious epistolary style, clear, elegant, and terse, never straining at effect, and yet never hurried into carelessness. While constantly urging the same topics, so great is their variety of argument and illustration that, in one sense they appear always different, in another sense, always the same. They have already incurred strong reprehension on two separate grounds: first because some of their maxims are repugnant to good morals; and secondly, as insisting too much on manners and graces, instead of more solid acquirements. On the first charge I have no defence to offer; but the second is certainly erroneous, and arises only from the idea and expectation of finding a general system of education in letters that were intended solely for the improvement of one man. Young Stanhope was sufficiently inclined to study, and imbued with knowledge; the difficulty lay in his awkward address and indifference to pleasing. It is against these faults, therefore, and these faults only, that Chesterfield points his battery of eloquence. Had he found his son, on the contrary, a graceful but superficial trifler, his Letters would no doubt have urged, with equal zeal, how vain are all accomplishments when not supported by sterling information. In one word, he intended to write for Mr. Philip Stanhope, and not for any other person. And yet even after this great deduction from general utility, it was still the opinion of a most eminent man, no friend of Chesterfield, and no proficient in the graces—the opinion of Dr. Johnson—Take out the immorality, and the book should be put into the hands of every young gentleman." (Lord Stanhope, iii. p. 360.) Page 71, I 373. This couplet originally stood,
"With memorandum book to minute down The several posts, and where the chain broke down."
He saw the oversight of making "down " rhyme to itself in correcting the proof. "This," he said, is not only down, but down derry-down."
Page 72, / 441. Wheels were greased with tar in Cowper's time. Coachmen used to carry it with them.
/ 490. Another attack on his cousin, MaxUm, whom he had already vituperated in A ntithelvphihora. See Memoir, p. xliii.
Page 73, / 485. Antony von Leuwenhoek, born at Delft, 1632, and died there, 1723. Remarkable for his skill with the microscope, which made him also a good physiologist; and some of his discoveries were ofgreat importance. His works occupy four 4to. vols.
Page 74, / 526. Pygmalion, a celebrated statuary of Cyprus, chiselled a statue of such exquisite beauty that he fell in love with it, and Venus, at his earnest request, endowed it with life. He married it, and became the father of Paphus, the founder of the city of that name in Cyprus.
Page 76. Truth. It was the Author's fear that this poem would give offence to "unenlightened readers" which induced him to ask Newton to write his Preface.
Page 78, /83. "Adust," burnt, scorched.
/ 119. Spencer Cowper, son of the Lord Chancellor, Dean of Durham 1745-1774. The poet says " Second stall," because the first was the Bishop's. There is an uninteresting pamphlet by him in the British Museum, and a volume of good Sermons on Church Festivals, the following extract from which will show that he was no Calvinist:—
"That predestination to eternal life is the arbitrary choice of a despotic Power determined by no rule, but that of an uncontrollable will, and independent of any preceding merit or worth in the persons so predestined, is a doctrine unworthy of God, and destructive of all moral goodness."
/ 131. This description is a description, to the minutest detail, of the two prominent figures in Hogarth's " Morning."
Page 80, I 20 r. Geta is a laughter-moving servant in Terence's two plays Adelphi and Phormio.
Page$2,l 311. This was in Feb. 1778. "Nobles disguised themselves as tavern-waiters to obtain sight of him: the loveliest of France would lay their hair beneath his feet. His chariot is the nucleus of a comet whose train filled whole streets: they crown him in the theatre, with immortal vivats; finally stifle him under roses, for old Richelieu recommended opium in such state of the nerves, and the excessive patriarch took too much." (Carlyle's French Revolution.)
Page 83, I 358. Dr. Richard Conyers, Rector of St. Paul's, Deptford, was the brotherin-law of Thornton, and was the means of introducing Newton to Cowper. (Memoir, p. xxxvi.) It is needless to add that he was a zealous evangelical preacher.
// 364 and 379. In these two lines the poet has broken through one of his own canons, and, venturing out of England, has tried to describe what he has never seen. In the first line
he errs as to the fact. And the second, I am told, is not at all a description of the olive. Its small clustering berries grow sessile along the branches. The line is a mistaken gloss on Isaiah xxiv. 13.
Page 83, /378. "And one who," &c. The Earl of Dartmouth, the patron of Olney, and a fast friend of Newton.
Page 87. On Expostulation, see Memoir, p. xliv.
Page 88, / 33, Jer. ix. r.
Page 91, /190. Joshua v. 14.
Page 92, / 246. "Peeled," plundered. So in Milton, "Paradise Regained."
Page 93, I 283. Cowper, though professedly a Whig, always regarded the Americans as rebels, and believed that George III. was right in his persistent endeavours to conquer them.
I 292. Various naval engagements were fought in 1780, with great bravery, but indecisive results. Such were Rodney's in the West Indies, April 17; Parker's, off the Dogger Bank; and Graves', with the French, in the Chesapeake. See Lord Stanhope's Hist., chaps. Ixii. lxiii.
/ 293. On the violence of the political strifes of that time, see the opening of ch. lxi. of Lord Stanhope. "Mean, shabby, pitiful, and unwarrantable," were epithets used by one speaker in the House of Lords.
I309. The National Debt was nearly doubled during the American War. In 1775 it was ,£124,000,000; in 1783, ,£238,000,000. But it is now ,£740,000,000.
Page 95, / 374. "Trucked," trafficked away.
/ 376. The Test Act was passed in 1673, with a view of excluding Papists from power. Under its provisions, all persons holding any position of trust, civil or military, or admitted of the Royal Household, were to receive the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, according to the usage of the Church of England, declaring at the same time that they had no belief in Transubstantiation. One therefore meets in the newspapers of that day with notices like this :—" Yesterday his Royal Highness Prince Frederick received the Communion, having been appointed Ranger of Richmond Park. The Act was repealed in 1828. The bishop here referred tois Warburton (Gloucester 1760—1779); and the works, Essays "On the Alliance between Church and State,"and "The Necessity and Equity of a Test Law."
/ 390. At the first printing of these Poems, the following passage followed / 389. After the edition was printed off, the author came to the conclusion that it was objectionable, and finding Newton agreeing with him, had the leaf cancelled, and substituted lines 390-413 for the omitted passage. I have a copy of the