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This table and mirror within,
Secure from collision and dual, At which I oft shave cheek and chin,
And periwig nicely adjust.
This moveable structure of shelves,
For its beauty admired and its use, And charg'd with octavos and twelves,
The gayest I had to producc, Where, Aaming in scarlet and gold,
My poems enchanted I view, And hope, in due time, to behold
My Iliad and Odyssey too.
This china, that decks the alcove,
Which here people call a beaufette, But what the gods call it above,
Has ne'er been reveal'd to us yet: These curtains, that keep the room warm
Or cool, as the season demands, Those stoves, that for pattern and form,
Seem the labour of Mulciber's hands.
All these are not half that I owe
To one from our earliest youth, To me ever ready to shew
Benignity, friendship, and truth ;
Thus compass’d about with the goods,
And chattels of leisure and ease,
In many such fancies as these ;
Poet's goods are not often so fine ;
When I sing of the splendour of mine.
Though Cowper could occasionally trifle in rhyme, for the sake of amusing his friends, with an affectionate and endearing gaiety, he appears most truly himself, when he exerts his poetical talents for the higher purpose of consoling the afflicted. Witness the following epistle, composed at the request of Lady Austen, to console a particular friend of hers. Twenty-five letters, written by Mrs. Billacoys, the lady to whom the poem is addressed, were inserted
in an early volume of the Theological Miscellany, in which the poem also appeared. Mr. Bull has annexed it to Cowper's translations from the spiritual songs of Madame Guion, but I willingly embrace the opportunity of reprinting it in this volume, from a copy corrected by the author, in the pleasing persua sion, that it must prove to all religious readers, acquainted with affliction, a lenient charm of very powerful effect.
TO A LADY IN FRANCE,
A PERSON OF GREAT PIET)
AND MUCH AFFLICTED.
Madam! a stranger's purpose in these lays
The path of sorrow, and that path alone,
No trav’ller ever reached that blest abode
Oh balmy gales of soul-reviving air,
But ills of every shape, of every name,
Ah be not sad ! although thy lot be cast
So once, in Gideon's ficece, the dews were found, And drought on all the drooping flocks around.
It may be observed to the honour of the poet, that his extreme shyness and dislike of addressing an absolute stranger, did not preclude him from a free and happy use of his mental powers, when he had a prospect of comforting the distressed. His diffidence was often wonderfully great, but his humanity was greater.