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Of friends, of hope, of all bereit,
“Not long beneath the whelming brire,
Expert to swim, he lay, Nor soon he feit his strength decline,
Or courage die away, But waged with death a lasting strife, Supported by despair of life. “He shouted; nor his friends had failed
To check the vessei's course ;
That, pitiless perforce,
And such as storms allow, -
Delayed not to bestow; But he, they knew, nor ship, nor shore, Whate'er they gave, should visit more. “ Nor cruel, as it seemed, 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;
His destiny repelled,
Entreated help, or cried, ' Adieu!'
His comrades, who before
Could catch the sound no more ;
“I therefore purpose not, or dream,
Descanting on his fate,
A more enduring date;
But misery still delights to trace
“No voice divine the storm allayed,
No light propitious shone,
We perished, each alone,
One noticeable thing in Cowper's verses is his sympathy with the humanity of which he was part, - a feeling for the suffering and oppressed everywhere. There is hardly a poem of his which does not speak this. The Task is full of such lines :
“My soul is sick with every day's report
Of wrong and outrage, with which earth is filled.”
“I would not have a slave to till my ground,
This tenderness in Cowper breaks out even for the most helpless animal,
“I would not enter on my list of friends
This spirit of humanity, of sympathy for the sorrows and ardor for the rights of man, had long needed a voice among the poets, and it was only a year later than Cowper's Task when a little volume of poems apppeared, in which this voice spoke with a power it had never before possessed.
This volume was published in Scotland, and written by ROBERT BURNS, a poet of the people. He was
1759-1796 the son of a farmer, and was himself a farm laborer till manhood. Without training or the culture of the schools, he was a born poet, singing his songs in the dialect of Scotland, — the homely English spoken by the Scottish people, often inelegant and full of roughness, but rich in expression and feeling. As he was fettered with no rules of verse-making, Burns sang with an ease and freedom that brought back the earlier days of song. Yet his poetry had also a ring in it that was the echo of the modern spirit. It was ten years after the American Revolution, which had declared that men were equal in rights; it was on the very threshold of the French Revolution, an outburst of democracy that revenged the wrongs the French people had suffered for centuries, that Burns began to sing. It is not strange that from lips like his, his voice rang like a slogan-cry when he spoke for humanity.
Poetry had not before found vent in words like these :
Is there, for honest poverty,
That hangs his head an' a' that?
We dare be poor for a' that!
Our toils obscure, an'a' that;
The man 's the goud for a' that.
What though on hamely fare we dine,
Wear hoddin grey, and a' that!
A man 's a man for a' that !
Their tinsel show an' a' that:
Is king o' men for a' that.
A prince can mak a belted knight,
A marquis, duke, an'a' that;
Guid faith! he maunna fa' that.
Their dignities an'a' that,
Are higher ranks than a' that.
Then let us pray that, come it may,
As come it will for a' that,
That sense and worth o'er a' the earth
May bear the gree an' a' that!
It's coming yet, for a' that,
Shall brothers be for a' that.
These were noble lines, and Burns wrote many such. He is also full of the true spirit of song,- arch, tender, exquisite. Never, since the early song-writers, had there been anything more natural than his little love-songs :
Of such songs as these Burns wrote scores ; and yet, in the midst of their careless music, the deeper undersong constantly makes itself heard, as this plea for human charity :
"Then gently scan your brother-man,
Still gentler sister-woman;
To step aside is human.
“ Who made the heart, 't is He alone
Decidedly can try us ;
Each spring, its various bias.
We never can adjust it,
But know not what's resisted.”
Just about the same time with Cowper and Burns came
GEORGE CRABBE, whose first poem of any note, The 1754-1832
Village, was published a year or two before Cowper's Task. There is something in Crabbe which reminds one of Cowper, and something, besides the title, which recalls Goldsmith's Deserted Village. He paints scenes of nature, and domestic life among the poor. His Tales in verse, which were taken from humble life, first
gave name among poets. Then he wrote Tales of the Hall, and drew his characters from a higher rank; but these were not nearly so happy in their description as the first. They were very much read and liked in the early part of this century; but I think Crabbe's day as a poet is past, and that he is one whose name will remain in the archives of the poets long after his poetry has ceased to be read. He was too realistic to be a great poet; every line he wrote was true to nature. But Poetry must not be the naked Truth: Truth's fair form must be veiled by Fancy, in order to enter the ideal world of Poetry. Although there never was a measure so well adapted to commonplace subjects as that he used, yet in Crabbe's hands it sometimes is more than commonplace, it is comically matter-of-fact. This, in his best style, is the opening of one of the Tales :
“Genius, thou gift of heaven, thou light divine,