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WILLIAM COWPER.

BORN 1731-DIED 1800,

EXTRACT FROM VERSES TO THE

YARDLEY OAK.

SURVIVOR sole, and hardly such, of all
That once lived here, thy brethren, at my birth,
(Since which I number threescore winters past,)
A shatter'd veteran, hollow-trunk'd perhaps,
As now, and with excoriate forks deform,
Relics of ages ! could a mind, imbued
With truth from heaven, created thing adore,
I might with reverence kneel, and worship thee.

It seems idolatry with some excuse,
When our forefather Druids in their oaks
Imagined sanctity. The conscience, yet
Unpurified by an authentic act
Of amnesty, the meed of blood divine,
Loved not the light, but, gloomy, into gloom
Of thickest shades, like Adam after taste
Of fruit proscribed, as to a refuge, fled.

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, swallowing 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 prepared
The soft receptacle, in which, secure;
Thy rudiments should sleep the winter through.

So Fancy dreams. Disprove it, if ye can,
Ye reasoners broad awake, whose busy search
Of argument, employ'd too oft amiss,
Sifts half the pleasures of short life away!

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
Fostering propitious, thou becam’st a twig.
Who lived when thou wast such ? Oh! couldst

thou speak,
As in Dodona once thy kindred trees
Oracular, I would not curious ask
The future, best unknown, but, at thy mouth
Inquisitive, the less ambiguous past.

By thee I might correct, erroneous oft,
The clock of history, facts and events
Timing more punctual, unrecorded facts
Recovering, and mistated setting right-
Desperate attempt, till trees shall speak again!

Time made thee what thou wast, king of the

woods ;

And Time hath made thee what thou art-a cave For owls to roost in. Once thy spreading boughs O'erhung the champaign ; and the numerous

flocks That grazed it stood beneath that ample cope Uncrowded, yet safe shelter'd from the storm.

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No flock frequents thee now.

Thou hast out. lived Thy popularity, and art become (Unless verse rescue thee awhile) a thing Forgotten, as the foliage of thy youth. While thus through all the stages thou hast

push'd Of treeship-first a seedling, hid in grass ; Then twig: then sapling; and, as century roll’d Slow after century, a giant-bulk Of girth enormous, with moss-cushion'd root Upheaved above the soil, and sides emboss'd With prominent wens globosetill at the last The rottenness, which time is charged to inflict On other mighty ones, found also thee.

What exhibitions various hath the world Witness'd of mutability in all That we account most durable below! Change is the diet on which all subsist, Created changeable, and change at last Destroys them. Skies uncertain now the heat Transmitting cloudless, and the solar beam Now quenching in a boundless sea of clouds— Calm and alternate storm, moisture and drought, Invigorate by turns the springs of life In all that live, plant, animal, and man, And in conclusion mar them. Nature's threads, Fine passing thought, e'en in her coarsest works, Delight in agitation, yet sustain The force that agitates not unimpair'd ; But, worn by frequent impulse, to the cause Of their best tone their dissolution owe.

Thought cannot spend itself, comparing still The great and little of thy lot, thy growth

From almost nullity into a state
Of matchless grandeur, and declension thence,
Slow, into such magnificent decay.
Time was, when, settling on thy leaf, a fly
Could shake thee to the root-and time has been
When tempests could not. At thy firmest age
Thou hadst within thy bole solid contents
That might have ribb'd the sides and plank'd

the deck
Of some flagg'd admiral; and tortuous arms,
The shipwright's darling treasure, didst present
To the four-quarter'd winds, robust and bold,
Warp'd into tough knee-timber, many a load !
But the axe spared thee. In those thriftier days
Oaks fell not, hewn by thousands, to supply
The bottomless demands of contest waged
For senatorial honours. Thus to Time
The task was left to whittle thee away
With his sly scythe, whose ever-nibbling edge,
Noiseless, an atom, and an atom more,
Disjoining from the rest, has, unobserved,
Achieved a labour which had, far and wide,
By man perform'd, made all the forest ring.

*

*

WINTER EVENING IN THE COUNTRY.

The Post comes in—The Newspaper is read— The World

contemplated at a distance-Address to Winter.

HARK ! 'tis the twanging horn o'er yonder bridge, That with its wearisome but needful length Bestrides the wintry food, in which the moon Sees her unwrinkled face reflected bright ;

He comes, the herald of a noisy world,
With spatter'd boots, strapp'd waist, and frozen

locks ;
News from all nations lumbering at his back.
True to his charge, the close-pack'd load behind,
Yet careless what he brings, his one concern
Is to conduct it to the destin'd inn;
And, having dropp'd the expected bag, pass on.
He whistles as he goes, light-hearted wretch,
Cold and yet cheerful: messenger of grief
Perhaps to thousands, and of joy to some ;
To him indifferent whether grief or joy.
Houses in ashes, and the fall of stocks,
Births, deaths, and marriages, epistles wet
With tears, that trickled down the writer's cheeks
Fast as the periods from his fluent quill,
Or charged with amorous sighs of absent swains,
Or nymphs responsive, equally affect
His horse and him, unconscious of them all.
But O the important budget ! usher'd in
With such heart-shaking music, who can say
What are its tidings ? have our troops awaked ?
Or do they still, as if with opium drugg'd,
Snore to the murmurs of the Atlantic wave ?
Is India free ? and does she wear her plumed
And jewell’d turban with a smile of peace,
Or do we grind her still ? The grand debate,
The popular harangue, the tart reply,
The logic, and the wisdom, and the wit,
And the loud laugh-1 long to know them all ;
I burn to set the imprison'd wranglers free,
And give them voice and utterance once again.

Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast, Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,

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