The Talented William Cowper

The Life of William Cowper paperback is now in stock once more in the Shop.

Something once written tends to fade in the memory. It mattered to us enormously at the time and while affection for the subject remains, the details often disappear.

But Cowper’s poems do not. He was adept at looking at the details of life and drawing a beautiful observation from the every day, so when we see the every day we find ourselves reflecting as he did.

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The busy trifler dreams himself alone

Is adverse Providence, when ponder’d well,
So dimly writ or difficult to spell,
Thou canst not read with readiness and ease
Providence adverse in events like these?
Know then, that heavenly wisdom on this ball
Creates, gives birth to, guides consummates all;
That, while laborious and quick-thoughted man
Snuffs up the praise of what he seems to plan,
He first conceives, then perfects his design,
As a mere instrument in hands divine:
Blind to the working of that secret power
That balances the wings of every hour,
The busy trifler dreams himself alone,
Frames many a purpose, and God works his own.
States thrive or wither as moons wax and wane,
Even as His will and His decrees ordain;
While honour, virtue, piety, bear sway,
They flourish; and, as these decline, decay.
In just resentment of His injured laws,
He pours contempt on them and on their cause;
Strikes the rough thread of error right athwart
The web of every scheme they have at heart;
Bids rottenness invade and bring to dust
The pillars of supprt in which they trust,
And do His errand of disgrace and shame
On the chief strength and glory of the frame.
None ever yet impeded what He wrought,
None bars Him out from his most secret-thought;
Darkness itself before His eye is light,
And Hell’s close mischief naked in His sight.

~ William Cowper in "Expostulation"


To serve man, or even to serve myself

We certainly do not honour God when we bury or when we neglect to improve as far as we may, whatsoever talent he may have bestowed on us, whether it be little or much. In natural things as well as in spiritual it is a never-failing truth, that to him who hath, that is to him who occupies what he hath diligently and so as to increase it - more shall be given. Set me down therefore my Dear, for an industrious Rhymer so long as I shall have the ability, for in this only way it is possible for me, so far as I can see, either to honour God, or to serve man, or even to serve myself.

~ Letter from William Cowper to Lady Hesketh, 15th May 1786