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Best Famous William Cowper Poems

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Written by William Cowper | Create an image from this poem

The Castaway

 Obscurest night involv'd the sky,
Th' Atlantic billows roar'd,
When such a destin'd wretch as I,
Wash'd headlong from on board,
Of friends, of hope, of all bereft,
His floating home for ever left.
No braver chief could Albion boast Than he with whom he went, Nor ever ship left Albion's coast, With warmer wishes sent.
He lov'd them both, but both in vain, Nor him beheld, nor her again.
Not long beneath the whelming brine, Expert to swim, he lay; Nor soon he felt his strength decline, Or courage die away; But wag'd with death a lasting strife, Supported by despair of life.
He shouted: nor his friends had fail'd To check the vessel's course, But so the furious blast prevail'd, That, pitiless perforce, They left their outcast mate behind, And scudded still before the wind.
Some succour yet they could afford; And, such as storms allow, The cask, the coop, the floated cord, Delay'd not to bestow.
But he (they knew) nor ship, nor shore, Whate'er they gave, should visit more.
Nor, cruel as it seem'd, could he Their haste himself condemn, Aware that flight, in such a sea, Alone could rescue them; Yet bitter felt it still to die Deserted, and his friends so nigh.
He long survives, who lives an hour In ocean, self-upheld; And so long he, with unspent pow'r, His destiny repell'd; And ever, as the minutes flew, Entreated help, or cried--Adieu! At length, his transient respite past, His comrades, who before Had heard his voice in ev'ry blast, Could catch the sound no more.
For then, by toil subdued, he drank The stifling wave, and then he sank.
No poet wept him: but the page Of narrative sincere; That tells his name, his worth, his age, Is wet with Anson's tear.
And tears by bards or heroes shed Alike immortalize the dead.
I therefore purpose not, or dream, Descanting on his fate, To give the melancholy theme A more enduring date: But misery still delights to trace Its semblance in another's case.
No voice divine the storm allay'd, No light propitious shone; When, snatch'd from all effectual aid, We perish'd, each alone: But I beneath a rougher sea, And whelm'd in deeper gulfs than he.

Written by William Cowper | Create an image from this poem

The Retired Cat

 A poet's cat, sedate and grave
As poet well could wish to have,
Was much addicted to inquire
For nooks to which she might retire,
And where, secure as mouse in chink,
She might repose, or sit and think.
I know not where she caught the trick-- Nature perhaps herself had cast her In such a mould [lang f]philosophique[lang e], Or else she learn'd it of her master.
Sometimes ascending, debonair, An apple-tree or lofty pear, Lodg'd with convenience in the fork, She watch'd the gardener at his work; Sometimes her ease and solace sought In an old empty wat'ring-pot; There, wanting nothing save a fan To seem some nymph in her sedan, Apparell'd in exactest sort, And ready to be borne to court.
But love of change, it seems, has place Not only in our wiser race; Cats also feel, as well as we, That passion's force, and so did she.
Her climbing, she began to find, Expos'd her too much to the wind, And the old utensil of tin Was cold and comfortless within: She therefore wish'd instead of those Some place of more serene repose, Where neither cold might come, nor air Too rudely wanton with her hair, And sought it in the likeliest mode Within her master's snug abode.
A drawer, it chanc'd, at bottom lin'd With linen of the softest kind, With such as merchants introduce From India, for the ladies' use-- A drawer impending o'er the rest, Half-open in the topmost chest, Of depth enough, and none to spare, Invited her to slumber there; Puss with delight beyond expression Survey'd the scene, and took possession.
Recumbent at her ease ere long, And lull'd by her own humdrum song, She left the cares of life behind, And slept as she would sleep her last, When in came, housewifely inclin'd The chambermaid, and shut it fast; By no malignity impell'd, But all unconscious whom it held.
Awaken'd by the shock, cried Puss, "Was ever cat attended thus! The open drawer was left, I see, Merely to prove a nest for me.
For soon as I was well compos'd, Then came the maid, and it was clos'd.
How smooth these kerchiefs, and how sweet! Oh, what a delicate retreat! I will resign myself to rest Till Sol, declining in the west, Shall call to supper, when, no doubt, Susan will come and let me out.
" The evening came, the sun descended, And puss remain'd still unattended.
The night roll'd tardily away (With her indeed 'twas never day), The sprightly morn her course renew'd, The evening gray again ensued, And puss came into mind no more Than if entomb'd the day before.
With hunger pinch'd, and pinch'd for room, She now presag'd approaching doom, Nor slept a single wink, or purr'd, Conscious of jeopardy incurr'd.
That night, by chance, the poet watching Heard an inexplicable scratching; His noble heart went pit-a-pat And to himself he said, "What's that?" He drew the curtain at his side, And forth he peep'd, but nothing spied; Yet, by his ear directed, guess'd Something imprison'd in the chest, And, doubtful what, with prudent care Resolv'd it should continue there.
At length a voice which well he knew, A long and melancholy mew, Saluting his poetic ears, Consol'd him, and dispell'd his fears: He left his bed, he trod the floor, He 'gan in haste the drawers explore, The lowest first, and without stop The rest in order to the top; For 'tis a truth well known to most, That whatsoever thing is lost, We seek it, ere it come to light, In ev'ry cranny but the right.
Forth skipp'd the cat, not now replete As erst with airy self-conceit, Nor in her own fond apprehension A theme for all the world's attention, But modest, sober, cured of all Her notions hyperbolical, And wishing for a place of rest Anything rather than a chest.
Then stepp'd the poet into bed, With this reflection in his head:MORAL Beware of too sublime a sense Of your own worth and consequence.
The man who dreams himself so great, And his importance of such weight, That all around in all that's done Must move and act for him alone, Will learn in school of tribulation The folly of his expectation.
Written by William Cowper | Create an image from this poem

Lines Written During A Period Of Insanity

 Hatred and vengence—my eternal portion
Scarce can endure delay of execution— 
Wait with impatient readiness to seize my
Soul in a moment.
Damned below Judas; more abhorred than he was, Who for a few pence sold his holy Master! Twice betrayed, Jesus me, the last delinquent, Deems the profanest.
Man disavows, and Deity disowns me: Hell might afford my miseries a shelter; Therefore Hell keeps her ever-hungry mouths all Bolted against me.
Hard lot! encompassed with a thousand dangers; Weary, faint, trembling with a thousand terrors, I'm called, if vanquished, to receive a sentence Worse than Abiram's.
Him the vindictive rod of angry Justice Sent quick and howling to the centre headlong; I, fed with judgment, in a fleshy tomb am Buried above ground.
Written by William Cowper | Create an image from this poem

Grace and Providence

 Almighty King! whose wondrous hand
Supports the weight of sea and land;
Whose grace is such a boundless store,
No heart shall break that sighs for more.
Thy providence supplies my food, And 'tis Thy blessing makes it good; My soul is nourish'd by Thy Word, Let soul and body praise the Lord! My streams of outward comfort came From Him who built this earthly frame; Whate'er I want His bounty gives, By whom my soul forever lives.
Either His hand preserves from pain, Or, if I feel it, heals again; From Satan's malice shields my breast, Or overrules it for the best.
Forgive the song that falls so low Beneath the gratitude I owe! It means Thy praise: however poor, An angel's song can do no more.
Written by William Cowper | Create an image from this poem


 Far from the world, O Lord, I flee,
From strife and tumult far;
From scenes where Satan wages still
His most successful war.
The calm retreat, the silent shade, With prayer and praise agree; And seem, by Thy sweet bounty made, For those who follow Thee.
There if Thy Spirit touch the soul, And grace her mean abode, Oh, with what peace, and joy, and love, She communes with her God! There like the nightingale she pours Her solitary lays; Nor asks a witness of her song, Nor thirsts for human praise.
Author and Guardian of my life, Sweet source of light Divine, And, -- all harmonious names in one, -- My Saviour! Thou art mine.
What thanks I owe Thee, and what love, A boundless, endless store, Shall echo through the realms above, When time shall be no more.

Written by William Cowper | Create an image from this poem

On Receipt Of My Mothers Picture

 Oh that those lips had language! Life has pass'd
With me but roughly since I heard thee last.
Those lips are thine--thy own sweet smiles I see, The same that oft in childhood solaced me; Voice only fails, else, how distinct they say, "Grieve not, my child, chase all thy fears away!" The meek intelligence of those dear eyes (Blest be the art that can immortalize, The art that baffles time's tyrannic claim To quench it) here shines on me still the same.
Faithful remembrancer of one so dear, Oh welcome guest, though unexpected, here! Who bidd'st me honour with an artless song, Affectionate, a mother lost so long, I will obey, not willingly alone, But gladly, as the precept were her own; And, while that face renews my filial grief, Fancy shall weave a charm for my relief-- Shall steep me in Elysian reverie, A momentary dream, that thou art she.
My mother! when I learn'd that thou wast dead, Say, wast thou conscious of the tears I shed? Hover'd thy spirit o'er thy sorrowing son, Wretch even then, life's journey just begun? Perhaps thou gav'st me, though unseen, a kiss; Perhaps a tear, if souls can weep in bliss-- Ah that maternal smile! it answers--Yes.
I heard the bell toll'd on thy burial day, I saw the hearse that bore thee slow away, And, turning from my nurs'ry window, drew A long, long sigh, and wept a last adieu! But was it such?--It was.
--Where thou art gone Adieus and farewells are a sound unknown.
May I but meet thee on that peaceful shore, The parting sound shall pass my lips no more! Thy maidens griev'd themselves at my concern, Oft gave me promise of a quick return.
What ardently I wish'd, I long believ'd, And, disappointed still, was still deceiv'd; By disappointment every day beguil'd, Dupe of to-morrow even from a child.
Thus many a sad to-morrow came and went, Till, all my stock of infant sorrow spent, I learn'd at last submission to my lot; But, though I less deplor'd thee, ne'er forgot.
Where once we dwelt our name is heard no more, Children not thine have trod my nurs'ry floor; And where the gard'ner Robin, day by day, Drew me to school along the public way, Delighted with my bauble coach, and wrapt In scarlet mantle warm, and velvet capt, 'Tis now become a history little known, That once we call'd the past'ral house our own.
Short-liv'd possession! but the record fair That mem'ry keeps of all thy kindness there, Still outlives many a storm that has effac'd A thousand other themes less deeply trac'd.
Thy nightly visits to my chamber made, That thou might'st know me safe and warmly laid; Thy morning bounties ere I left my home, The biscuit, or confectionary plum; The fragrant waters on my cheeks bestow'd By thy own hand, till fresh they shone and glow'd; All this, and more endearing still than all, Thy constant flow of love, that knew no fall, Ne'er roughen'd by those cataracts and brakes That humour interpos'd too often makes; All this still legible in mem'ry's page, And still to be so, to my latest age, Adds joy to duty, makes me glad to pay Such honours to thee as my numbers may; Perhaps a frail memorial, but sincere, Not scorn'd in heav'n, though little notic'd here.
Could time, his flight revers'd, restore the hours, When, playing with thy vesture's tissued flow'rs, The violet, the pink, and jessamine, I prick'd them into paper with a pin, (And thou wast happier than myself the while, Would'st softly speak, and stroke my head and smile) Could those few pleasant hours again appear, Might one wish bring them, would I wish them here? I would not trust my heart--the dear delight Seems so to be desir'd, perhaps I might.
-- But no--what here we call our life is such, So little to be lov'd, and thou so much, That I should ill requite thee to constrain Thy unbound spirit into bonds again.
Thou, as a gallant bark from Albion's coast (The storms all weather'd and the ocean cross'd) Shoots into port at some well-haven'd isle, Where spices breathe and brighter seasons smile, There sits quiescent on the floods that show Her beauteous form reflected clear below, While airs impregnated with incense play Around her, fanning light her streamers gay; So thou, with sails how swift! hast reach'd the shore "Where tempests never beat nor billows roar," And thy lov'd consort on the dang'rous tide Of life, long since, has anchor'd at thy side.
But me, scarce hoping to attain that rest, Always from port withheld, always distress'd-- Me howling winds drive devious, tempest toss'd, Sails ript, seams op'ning wide, and compass lost, And day by day some current's thwarting force Sets me more distant from a prosp'rous course.
But oh the thought, that thou art safe, and he! That thought is joy, arrive what may to me.
My boast is not that I deduce my birth From loins enthron'd, and rulers of the earth; But higher far my proud pretensions rise-- The son of parents pass'd into the skies.
And now, farewell--time, unrevok'd, has run His wonted course, yet what I wish'd is done.
By contemplation's help, not sought in vain, I seem t' have liv'd my childhood o'er again; To have renew'd the joys that once were mine, Without the sin of violating thine: And, while the wings of fancy still are free, And I can view this mimic shew of thee, Time has but half succeeded in his theft-- Thyself remov'd, thy power to sooth me left.
Written by William Cowper | Create an image from this poem

Jehovah-Rophi. I Am the Lord That Healeth Thee

 (Exodus, xv.
26) Heal us, Emmanuel! here we are, Waiting to feel Thy touch: Deep-wounded souls to Thee repair And, Saviour, we are such.
Our faith is feeble, we confess, We faintly trust Thy word; But wilt Thou pity us the less? Be that far from Thee, Lord! Remember him who once applied, With trembling, for relief; "Lord, I believe," with tears he cried, "Oh, help my unbelief!" She too, who touch'd Thee in the press, And healing virtue stole, Was answer'd, "Daughter, go in peace, Thy faith hath made thee whole.
" Conceal'd amid the gathering throng, She would have shunn'd Thy view; And if her faith was firm and strong, Had strong misgivings too.
Like her, with hopes and fears we come, To touch Thee, if we may; Oh! send us not despairing home, Send none unheal'd away!
Written by William Cowper | Create an image from this poem

Hatred and vengeance my eternal portion

 Hatred and vengeance, my eternal portion,
Scarce can endure delay of execution,
Wait, with impatient readiness, to seize my
Soul in a moment.
Damned below Judas:more abhorred than he was, Who for a few pence sold his holy Master.
Twice betrayed Jesus me, this last delinquent, Deems the profanest.
Man disavows, and Deity disowns me: Hell might afford my miseries a shelter; Therefore hell keeps her ever hungry mouths all Bolted against me.
Hard lot! encompassed with a thousand dangers; Weary, faint, trembling with a thousand terrors; I'm called, if vanquished, to receive a sentence Worse than Abiram's.
Him the vindictive rod of angry justice Sent quick and howling to the center headlong; I, fed with judgment, in a fleshly tomb, am Buried above ground.
Written by William Cowper | Create an image from this poem


 (Phillipians, iv.
11) Fierce passions discompose the mind, As tempests vex the sea, But calm, content and peace we find, When, Lord, we turn to Thee.
In vain by reason and by rule We try to bend the will; For none but in the Saviour's school Can learn the heavenly skill.
Since at His feet my soul has sate, His gracious words to hear, Contented with my present state, I cast on Him my care.
"Art thou a sinner, soul?" He said, "Then how canst thou complain? How light thy troubles here, if weigh'd With everlasting pain! "If thou of murmuring wouldst be cured, Compare thy griefs with mine! Think what my love for thee endured, And thou wilt not repine.
"'Tis I appoint thy daily lot, And I do all things well; Thou soon shalt leave this wretched spot, And rise with me to dwell.
"In life my grace shall strength supply, Proportion'd to thy day; At death thou still shalt find me nigh, To wipe thy tears away.
" Thus I, who once my wretched days In vain repinings spent, Taught in my Saviour's school of grace, Have learnt to be content.
Written by William Cowper | Create an image from this poem


 Fresh fields and woods! the Earth's fair face, 
God's foot-stool, and man's dwelling-place.
I ask not why the first Believer Did love to be a country liver? Who to secure pious content Did pitch by groves and wells his tent; Where he might view the boundless sky, And all those glorious lights on high; With flying meteors, mists and show'rs, Subjected hills, trees, meads and flow'rs; And ev'ry minute bless the King And wise Creator of each thing.
I ask not why he did remove To happy Mamre's holy grove, Leaving the cities of the plain To Lot and his successless train? All various lusts in cities still Are found; they are the thrones of ill; The dismal sinks, where blood is spill'd, Cages with much uncleanness fill'd.
But rural shades are the sweet fense Of piety and innocence.
They are the Meek's calm region, where Angels descend and rule the sphere, Where heaven lies leiger, and the dove Duly as dew, comes from above.
If Eden be on Earth at all, 'Tis that, which we the country call.