William Cowper was an English poet and hymnodist. One of the most popular poets of his time, Cowper changed the direction of 18th century nature poetry by writing of everyday life and scenes of the English countryside.
He was born in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, England. After education at Westminster School, he was articled to Mr. Chapman, solicitor, of Ely Place, Holborn, in order to be trained for a career in law.
Later he settled at Huntingdon with a retired clergyman named Morley Unwin and his wife Mary. Cowper grew to be on such good terms with the Unwin family that he went to live in their house, and moved with them to Olney, where John Newton, a former slave trader who had repented and devoted his life to the gospel, was curate. At Olney, Newton invited Cowper to contribute to a hymnbook that Newton was compiling. The resulting volume known as Olney Hymns was not published until 1779 but includes hymns such as "Praise for the Fountain Opened" (beginning "There is a fountain fill'd with blood") and "Light Shining out of Darkness" (beginning "God moves in a mysterious way") which remain some of Cowper's most familiar verses. Several of Cowper's hymns, as well as others originally published in the "Olney Hymns," are today preserved in the Sacred Harp.
Cowper was seized with dropsy in the spring of 1800 and died in East Dereham, Norfolk.
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Qua nihil majus meliusve terris
Fata donavÍre, bonique divi;
Nec dabunt, quamvis redeant in aurum
-Hor. Lib. iv. Ode 2.
Fairest and foremost of the train that wait
On man's most dignified and happiest state,
Tantane, tam patiens, nullo certamine tolli
Why, weeps the muse for England? What appears
In England's case to move the muse to tears?
From side to side of her delightful isle
....Doceas iter, et sacra ostia pandas.-Virg. Aen. 6.
Ask what is human life-the sage replies,
With disappointment lowering in his eyes,
A painful passage o'er a restless flood,
A vain pursuit of fugitive false good,
A scene of fancied bliss and hea ...read
The Life of William Cowper William Cowper was born on the 26th of November 1731, at Berkhampstead, Hertfordshire, of which village his father, the Rev. John Cowper, was rector. He was of noble ancestry, and many of his immediate relatives moved in the upper ranks of life. His mother, Ann Donne, a daughter of Roger Donne, Esq., of Ludham Hall in Norfolk, died when he was on ...read
The Progress of Error THE PROGRESS OF ERROR.
Sing, muse (if such a theme, so dark, so long
May find a muse to grace it with a song),
By what unseen and unsuspected arts
The serpent Error twines round human hearts;
Tell where she lurks, beneath what flowery shades,
That not a glimpse of genuine light pervades,
The poisonous, black, insinuating worm
Pensantur trutin'-Hor. Lib. ii. Ep. 1.
Man, on the dubious waves of error toss'd,
His ship half founder'd, and his compass lost,
Sees, far as human optics may command,
A sleeping fog, and fancies it dry land;
Spreads all his canvas, every sinew p ...read