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ed to his manuscript poems :- To these he willingly listened, but made not a single remark on any.
In October 1798, the pressure of his melancholy seemed to be mitigated in some little degree, for he exerted himself so far as to write, without solicitation, to Lady Hesketh; and I insert passages of this Letter, because, gloomy as it is, it describes in a most interesting manner, the sudden attack of his malady, and tends to confirm an opinion, that his mental disorder arose from a scorbutic habit, which, when his perspiration was obstructed, occasioned an unsearchable obstruction in the finer parts of his frame. Such a cause would produce, I apprehend, an effect exactly like what my suffering friend describes in this affecting Letter.
You describe, delightful scenes, but you describe them to one, who, if he even saw them, could receive no delight from them : who has a faint recollection, and so faint, as to be like an almost forgotten dream, that once he was susceptible of pleasure from such causes. The country that you
have had in prospect, has been always famed for its beauties; but the wretch who can derive no gratification from a view of nature, even under the disadvantage of her most ordinary dress, will have no eyes to admire her in any.
In one day, in one minute, I should rather have said, she became an universal blank to me, and though from a different cause, yet with an effect as difficult to remove, as blindness itself.
On his return from Mundsley to Dereham, in an evening towards the end of October, Cowper, with Miss Perowne, and Mr. Johson, was overturned in a post chaise : He discovered no terror on the occasion, and escaped without injury from the accident.
In December he received a visit from his highly esteemed friend, Sir John Throckmorton, but his malady was at that time so oppressive, that it rendered him almost insensible to the kind solicitude of friendship
He still continued to exercise the powers of his astonishing mind ; upon his finishing the revisal of his Homer, in March 1799, Mr. Johnson endeavoured in the gentlest manner to lead him into new literary occupation.
For this purpose on the eleventh of March he laid before him the paper containing the commencment of his poem on The Four Ages. Cowper altéred a few lines; he also added a few, but soon observed to his kind attendant- " That it was too “ great a work for him to attempt in his present - situation.”
At supper Mr. Johnson suggested to him several literary projects, that he might execute more easily. He replied " That he had just thought of “ six Latin verses, and if he could compose any thing “ it must be in pursuing that composition.”
The next worning he wrote the six verses he had mentioned, and added a few more, entitling the poem, Montes Glaciales.
It proved a versification of a circumstance recorded in a news-paper, which had been read to him
a few weeks before, without his appearing to notice it. This poem he translated into English verse, on the nineteenth of March, to oblige Miss Perowne. Both the original and the translation appear in the Appendix.
On the twentieth of March he wrote the stanzas entitled The Cast-away, founded on an anecdote in Anson's voyage, which his memory suggested to him, although he had not looked into the book for many years.
As this poem is the last original production from the pen of Cowper, I shall introduce it here, persuaded that it will be read with an interest proportioned to the extraordinary pathos of the subject, and the still more extraordinary powers of the poet, whose lyre could sound so forcibly, unsilenced by the gloom of the darkest distemper, that was conducting him, by slow gradations, to the shadow of
CAS T- À W A Y.
Obscurest night involv'd the sky;
Th’ Atlantic billows roard,
Wash'd headlong from on board,
No braver chief could Albion boast
Than he, with whom he went,
With warmer wishes sent.
Not long beneath the 'whelming brine,
Expert to swim, he lay;
Or courage die away; But wag'd with death a lasting strife, · Supported by despair of life.