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As to Yardley Oak, it stands in Yardley Chace, where the Earls of Northampton have a fine seat. It was a favourite walk of our dear Cowper, and he once carried me to see that Oak. I believe it is five miles at least from Weston-Lodge. It is indeed a noble tree, perfectly sound, and stands in an open part of the Chace, with only one or two others near it, so as to be seen to advantage.
With respect to the Oak at Yardley Lodge, that is quite in decay—a pollard, and almost hollow. I took an excrescence from it in the year 1791, and if I mistake not, Cowper told me it is said to have been an Oak in the time of the Conqueror. * This latter Oak is in the road to the former, but not above half so far from Weston Lodge, being only just beyond Killick and Dinglederry. This is all I can tell you about the Oaks. They were old acquaintance, and great favourites of the bard. How rejoiced I am to hear that he has immorta
· Cowper has mentioned this circumstance in writing to Mr. Rose, (Letter Sept. 11, 1788.) He says the tree has been known by the name of Judith for many ages. Perhaps it received that name on being planted by the Countess Judith, niece to the Conqueror, whom he gave in marriage to the English Earl Waltheof, with the counties of Northampton and Huntingdon as her dower,
lized one of them in blank-verse! Where could those 161 lines lie hid? Till this very day I never heard of their existence, nor suspected it.”
It is indeed surprising, that Cowper never mentioned to any one of his most intimate friends the commencement of a poem on a subject that delighted him so much. It must have been written in the year 1791; and, as other poetical pursuits, particularly his translations from Milton, engrossed his attention in the course of that year, I apprehend he threw this admirable fragment aside, and absolutely forgot it.
It had been however, and very deservedly, a favourite of his fancy: for I never saw any of his compositions more carefully, or more judiciously corrected. The copy, that I had the delight of discovering, is written on a loose half-quire of large quarto paper, with so many blotted lines, and so many blank leaves, that his kinsman, in the hurry of looking over many old discarded paper-books, and loose sheets, might easily pass it as waste paper. I had examined a cargo of such books and papers, and was lamenting, that they contained only his rejected variations of translated Vol. 4.
poetry, when this bright original first excited my wonder and delight. I could hardly have been more surprised, if a noble oak, in its natural majesty, had started up from the turf of my garden with full foliage before me. Surprize may have a great tendency to enhance the pleasure we derive from whatever is beautiful or sublime: but I am much deceived indeed by my partiality to the poet, if the following fragment fails to gain new applause from the lovers of poetry, on every fresh perusal.—It is to my feelings one of the richest and most highly-finished pieces of versification, that ever did honour to the fertile genius of my departed friend.
With these sentiments of its poetical merit, I enjoy an inexpressible gratification in being enabled to present it to the public, as the close of this extensive coinpilation, in which I have endeavoured, with affectionate zeal, to fix on the heart of our country such a complete impression of Cowper's various excellencies, as they made on my own.
SURVIVOR sole, and hardly such, of all,
It seems idolatry with some excuse,
Thou wast a bauble once, a cup and ball, Which babes might play with ; and the thievish jay, Seeking her food, with ease might have purloin'd The auburn nut, that held thee, swallow’ing down Thy yet close-folded latitude of boughs And all thine embryo vastness at a gulp. But Fate thy growth decreed; autumnal rains Beneath thy parent tree mellow'd the soil Design'd thy cradle; and a skipping deer, With pointed hoof dibbling the glebe, prepar'd The soft receptacle, in which, secure, Thy rudiments should sleep the winter through.
So Fancy dreams. Disprove it, if ye can,
Thou fell’st mature, and, in the loamy clod Swelling with vegetative force instinct, Didst burst thine egg, as theirs the fabled Twins, Now stars. Two lobes, protruding, pair'd exact; A leaf succeeded, and another leaf, And, all the elements thy puny growth Fost'ring propitious, thou becam’st a twig.