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terms = periods during which the Justices hold court. tides ecclesiastical times or seasons, as Whitsuntide (= White + Sunday + Time).
gauge [gage]= to measure the content of a barrel. words of learned length and thundering sound. Goldsmith must have been thinking of the conversation of his friend Dr. Johnson, of whom he once said that it was no use arguing with Johnson; if his pistol missed fire, he knocked you down with the butt end of it.
216-236. the twelve good rules; such as (4) Reveal No Secrets, (9) Encourage No Vice. They are all given in Hales' Longer English Poems, p. 353. In our day they have been transferred from the wall to the copy-book. game of goose; Fox and Geese, or something like it. royal has never been satisfactorily explained; perhaps the poet, being in a reminiscential mood, uses royal' subjectively, as when we say, 'I had a royal good time yesterday.' Chimney = fire-place.
237-264. An hour's importance. Compare Burns'
Kings may be blest, but Tam was glorious,
Tam O'Shanter, 57-8.
the barber's tale. Since men first shaved, barbers have been noted for their talkativeness. See the character of Nello in George Eliot's Romola. woodman, in its original meaning of 'hunter.' the smith. Compare Longfellow's beautiful poem, The Village Blacksmith. mantling bliss the foaming ale. Shall kiss the cup. Compare Ben Jonson's song To Celia beginning :
Drink to me only with thine eyes
And I will pledge with mine;
And I'll not look for wine.
265-302. This is very pretty poetry, but very poor Economics. Consult some elementary treatise on that subject, such as Laughlin's Elements of Political Economy.
303-308. The fencing-in of land once common is undoubtedly a grievous wrong to the English peasant. For the counterbalancing advantages which he has derived from the progress of civilization, see the concluding pages of the Third Chapter of Macaulay's History of England.
309-320. It is amusing to notice how the poets abuse the city, yet how, with rare exception, they cannot bear to live anywhere else. Artist = artisan. dome = building, house; thus Coleridge:
In Xanada did Kubla Khan
Kubla Khan, I-2. 321-336. Sweet as the primrose peeps beneath the thorn. 'Goldsmith wrote in a pre-Wordsworthian age, when even in the realms of poetry a primrose was not much more than a primrose; but it is doubtful whether, either before, during or since Wordsworth's time, the sentiment that the imagination can infuse into the common and familiar things around us ever received more happy expression than in [this] well-known line.' Black's Life of Goldsmith, Cap. xiv.
337-362. Goldsmith's geography and natural history are not his strong points. The Altama [Altamahá] river in Georgia enters the Atlantic near the thirty-first parallel; the flora and fauna he describes are tropical. Tigers in Georgia !
363-384. For somewhat similar scene, compare Longfellow's Evangeline, i. 5.
See note on Alexander's Feast, 26. 385-394. The thought here is certainly just, though the expression (especially in line 394) is feeble. In lines 343–368 of The Vanity of Human Wishes, Johnson has worked out this thought to a logical conclusion that agrees pretty well with that arrived at by Agur the son of Jakeh, some three thousand years ago : ‘Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me.'
395-426. anchoring commonly means 'coming to anchor,' but in Lear iv. 18–20, we have it used as here, meaning ‘lying at anchor.'
yon tall anchoring bark Diminished to her cock; her cock, a buoy
Almost too small for sight. strand beach. The Strand in London, now the busiest street in the world, was once, no doubt, a mere path by the river-side. degenerate times. The time (1770) was certainly degenerate so far as Poetry was concerned. Thirteen years had elapsed since Gray published his Odes, and during this long night Goldsmith's Traveller (1764) twinkled a lonely star. My shame in crowds. Though he occasionally struck off a good thing, Goldsmith did not shine in conversation. In the blaze of Johnson's talk, who could? No one save Burke, and he modestly said, “It is enough for me to have rung the bell for him.' Keep'st me so. It was not Poetry that kept Goldsmith poor, but his own thriftlessness. Torno (Tornea or Torneo), a river that marks the boundary-line between Sweden and Russia. It flows into the Gulf of Bothnia. Pambamarca. A mountain in Ecuador.
427-430. These four lines were added by Johnson and can hardly be said to improve the conclusion of the poem.
BORN at Berkhampstead, 1731. His father was a Church of England clergyman and court chaplain. At the age of six, Cowper lost his mother; his touching little poem On the Receipt of my Mother's Picture out of Norfolk, written many years later, commemorates his emotion on this occasion. He acquired some knowledge of the Latin poets at Westminster School, but did not proceed to the University. Admitted to the bar, success there was interfered with by an attack of insanity under the influence of which he attempted suicide. Eighteen months' medical treatment restored his intellect, but left him with a deep-seated religious melancholia that in a few years brought on another attack of insanity. After his second recovery, while leading a life of intolerable dulness at Olney, he took to writing moral satires for diversion. Only by exceeding charity can this diversion be said to be shared by his readers. To the inspiration of his vivacious friend Lady Austen we owe John Gilpin, perhaps the most humorous ballad in English — written by the most melancholy poet. To her suggestion also we owe The Task (1785), a poem which, though it has neither beginning, middle nor end, has a discernible purpose- :- to sing 'the praise of retirement and of country life as most friendly to piety and virtue.' 1 Its still-life descriptions, within their narrow limits, are almost perfect; its asceticism, its sentimentalism and its provincialism are easily discoverable and easily skipped. Cowper's translation of Homer (1791) proved — as might have been expected that the man who found a congenial subject in The Sofa and The Time Piece was not the man to sing of the heroes who drank delight of battle on the plains of windy Troy. His Letters preserve for us charming glimpses of English country life in the last century, and perhaps by these he will be remembered longer than by his more formal works. The declining years of his life were clouded by a third attack of insanity; from this he was mercifully delivered by death in 1800.
BIBLIOGRAPHY. LIFE AND TIMES. — Cowper's Complete Works, comprising his Poems, Correspondence and Translations. Edited with Memoir of the Author, by Robert Southey. 8 vols. (Bohn's Library). This is the standard edition, if we cut out Southey's tedious Memoir. Goldwin Smith's Cowper (E. M. L.) gives all the essential facts in compact form, and succeeds in making really interesting the record of Cowper's uneventful life.
1 Goldwin Smith's Cowper, Cap. V.
CRITICISM. – Bagehot; Literary Studies, Vol. I.; William Cowper. Contains some good remarks on Society as a proper object for the exercise of the poetic imagination, with a comparison between Pope, the poet of Town Life, and Cow. per, the poet of Rural Life.
Sainte-Beuve ; Causeries du Lundi, Tome Onzième; William Cowper, ou De La Poésie Domestique. The nature of this study is sufficiently indicated by the sub-title. A translation will be found in English Portraits, by C. A. SainteBeuve (Henry Holt & Co., N.Y.).
Leslie Stephen; Hours in a Library (Third Series); Cowper and Rousseau. Dwells almost exclusively on the moral sentiments common to Cowper and Rousseau.
THE WINTER MORNING WALK.
This poem forms the fifth book of The Task. The poet evidently writes with his 'eye on the object;' he sees a good deal and he sees it accurately and minutely. Though occasionally commonplace, he is never insincere either in thought or in diction.
1-40. Spiry. See note on beakéd promontory,' Lycidas, 94. bents = stalks of stiff, wiry grass. This word has no etymological connection with “bend,' but is cognate with the German ‘Binse,' a rush. With lines 21–32 compare Thomson's Winter, 232–242. deciduous = liable to fall.
41-57. The Woodman and His Dog; — perhaps the best specimen of Cowper's Naturalism. Homer could hardly have painted this vignette with more fidelity. lurcher; a cross between the greyhound and the collie. churl. See note on the Bear,' Il Penseroso, 87. 58-76. pale. See note on Il Penseroso, 156. Kind = family,
Thomson has the word in this sense in Winter, 261; also Chaucer, in The Wife of Bath's Tale, 245.
77-95. Compare Thomson's Winter, 242-256. pensioners. See note on Il Penseroso, 10.
96-126. Indurated. Cowper accents this word on the second syllable; Goldsmith (Traveller, 232) on the first. Modern usage prefers the latter. that (106), object of throws. 127-168.
Imperial mistress. Anne, Empress of Russia, niece of Peter the Great, erected this ice-palace in St. Petersburg in 1740. It was fifty feet long, with six large windows in front, the frames of which were painted to represent green marble. A balustrade adorned with ice-statues surrounded the building. Orange trees, dolphins and an elephant, all carved from ice, adorned the court thus formed ; ice-cannon and mortars defended the approaches. Elaborately carved ice-furniture filled the rooms, and ice-logs were laid ready
to impart a comfortable chill to the bracing atmosphere. When the Empress visited the palace, the ice-cannon succeeded in firing a small salute without breaking, and the elephant shot forth a stream of burning naphtha. Aristæus; Cyrene. See Cl. Myths, $ 130. lubricity = the state or quality of being slippery; hence, figuratively, ' instability,' evanescence.' This beautiful description of the Ice Palace is a remarkable instance of the idealizing power of the imagination, when we remember that Cowper had never seen any more impressive ice-formations than those of the sluggish Ouse. What would he have said of Niagara in mid-winter!