Tag Archives: Frances Maria Cowper

Frances Maria Cowper, “Love of Solitude”

[​FRANCES MARIA COWPER​]

“Love of Solitude”
Vanity of Worldly Pleasure

 

While others, lost in pleasure’s guilty round,
Blast the glad season of their fleeting youth,
Let me in solitary joys abound,
Fond of the paths of piety and truth:
Give me in Wisdom’s volume to descry                                              5
The mysteries of love and grace divine,
By Scripture taught, with penetrating eye
To scan the world aright, and to resign.

Deluded world! infatuated throng!
To spurn the treasure that no force destroys,                          10
Nor see the baneful weed that lurks among
The fairest bloom of your embitter’d joys.
Amid the clamours of the loudest mirth,
Thoughts in unwelcome guise will oft have part,
Will promp the wish, th’ involuntary sigh,                                          15
“And rouse reflection in the gayest heart.”

Bear me, ye guardians of the mind sincere,
To scenes sequester’d from the haunts of men;
The pensive soul with ev’ry grace prepare,
Sacred to Virtue and her blissful train:                                        20
With these conversing, and by these renew’d,
Ne’er shall I feel ambition’s lawless sway,
But in the paths my earliest steps pursu’d,
In search of Wisdom’s pleasures safely stray.

Come, holy Wisdom, fav’rite gift of God!                                             25
With thine attendant grace, Humility;
Descend, bright visitant! and make abode
Where museful Melancholy waits for thee.
Ah, what avails fair India’s shining store,
The purple treasures of the gorgeous East?                                30
What joy, to quit the charms of regal power,
To dwell with thee, thou soul-enlight’ning guest!

Not the attractive voice of worldly fame,
Nor syren sound of dullest flattery,
Could tempt my heart thy labours to disclaim,                                   35
Or slight the blessings that belong to thee.
How has my soul in secret wish preffer’d
The lonely walk and solitary shade,
The painted vanities of life abhorr’d,
And all the pageantry that pomp display’d!                                 40

Joyless the gilded equipage I view’d,
The dull variety of senseless show;
The world’s gay path without delight pursu’d,
Nor felt the transports that from grandeur flow.
Slave to the wretched world’s imposing forms,                                  45
See Sacharissa deck’d in gold brocade;
She owns that grandeur has no real charms,
And sighs for virtue in the sylvan shade.

NOTES:

28 museful ​”Absorbed in thought; thoughtful, pensive” (OED).

30purple “Characterized by richness or abundance; splendid, glorious” (OED).

34syren A​ Greek mythology creature that lured sailors to their deaths with its enchanting song.

46Sacharissa P​ossibly a reference to Lady Dorothy Sidney (1617-1684), the beloved “Sacharissa” of many love lyrics by Edmund Waller (1606-1687). In one portrait by Anthony Van Dyck (1599-1641), she appears as a finely dressed shepherdess.

Source: Original Poems, on Various Occasions. By a Lady (London 1792), pp.11-13.  [Google Books]

Edited by Grazzia Menendez

Francis Maria Cowper, “The Retrospect”

 FRANCES MARIA COWPER

“The Retrospect”

 

Come, Holy Spirit, love divine,
Thy cleansing power impart;
Each erring thought and wish refine,
That wanders near my heart.
There let thy quickening breezes blow,                                           5
Thine influences be,
Such as revive thy hidden-ones,
And lift their souls to Thee.

Thro’ dark’ning rains and theat’ning storms
My little bark doth ride:                                                              10
O save me from the fatal wreck
Of Sin’s devouring tide.
By past corrections humbled still,
Let no vain passion start,
Within the consecrated veil                                                                15
Of a believer’s heart.

Oft hast thou cast me to the ground,
O’erwhelm’d with grief and pain;
Yet hath thy pitying hand restor’d,
And led me forth again;                                                               20
Forth from the shade of sullen woe,
From darkness and dismay;
And o’er my anguish pour’d the sweet
Consolatory ray.

O Lord! how mingled was thy love                                                    25
In all my deep distress!
Thou gav’st the knowledge of thy word,
That gift of sovereign grace!
And shall my peevish heart regret
The momentary pain,                                                                   30
That follows on departed joys
In life’s contracted span?

Time’s little inch, that steals away
With every fleeting breath,
And points to an eternity                                                                     35
Beyond the reach of Death.
Enough, my soul, enough of Time,
And Time’s uncertain things:
Farewell that busy hive, the world,
And all its thousand stings.                                                          40

As feathers on the passing stream,
Our earthly pleasures move;
And transient as the evening beam,
That gilds the verdant grove.
To other climes, to other skies,                                                          45
My lifted soul aspires:
Thither my wandering thoughts ascend,
And all my best desires.

Awhile I strive, awhile I mourn,
‘Midst thorns and briers here;                                                      50
But God vouchsafes with love divine
My drooping heart to cheer.
Though meaner than the meanest saint,
My heavenly Guide I see;
I hear a voice behind me say,                                                                55
“That Jesus died for me.”

NOTES:

15 consecrated veil “To the human body as a sacred vessel for the soul; Christ’s body considered as concealing or clothing his divinity” (OED).

21 sullen woe “Gloomy and heavy occurrence(s) of distress, misfortune or grief” (OED).

27 gav’st “Of a higher power, esp. of the Deity; to bestow” (OED).

29 peevish “Petulant; irritable; hard to please” (Johnson).

44 verdant grove A green group of trees.

45 climes “Region, realm” (OED).

50 briers “A prickly thorny bush or shrub in general, formerly including the bramble, but now usually confined to wild rose bushes” (OED).

51 vouchsafes “Sense relating to conferring or bestowing, especially graciously (by God)” (OED).

Source: Original Poems, on Various Occasions (London, 1792), pp. 25-27.  [Google Books]

Edited by Juliana Guerrero

Frances Maria Cowper, “My Retired Hours”

FRANCES MARIA COWPER

 “My Retired Hours”

 

Ye gentle days that once were mine,
In every charm of life array’d,
No more awaken my regret,
No more my settled peace invade.

Fresh hope of permanent delight                                                  5
My meditating thoughts pursue;
Nor can the charms of time or sense
Obscure the bright, the heavenly view.

My convert heart delights to muse
On fallen man’s deliv’rance found,                                          10
The sacrifice, the cleansing blood,
That for his bleeding guilt aton’d:

Of man’s estate in Paradise,
Of endless mercy’s wide display,
Of cov’nant love, and Gospel grace,                                                 15
That point to Heaven th’ unerring way:

Such themes as these, in early years,
My secret hours have oft inspir’d,
My infant hands with wonder rais’d,
My infant heart with rapture fir’d.                                              20

Witness ye saints invisible,
Ye guests unseen, whose guardian care
Preserves the soul from threat’ning ill,
And wafts to Heaven the pious tear:

Witness—for ye have oft beheld—                                                      25
How (for superior joys design’d)
My humble steps retirement sought,
Leaving the busy world behind:

How, in the sweet sequester’d shade,
Where ——’s fair meand’ring flood                                             30
Pours its rich streams around the plains,
And gurgles near the favourite wood,

At morn, at noon, at dewy eve,
Oft by the moon’s soft-glancing ray,
In search of Wisdom’s rare delights                                                     35
My feet unwearied lov’d to stray.

And are those transitory hours,
So sweet to my remembrance, gone?
Sunk in the deep abyss of time,
Beyond the reach of fancy flown?                                                 40

Ye swift-wing’d messengers, farewell,
And all the pleasures that ye gave;
Sweet earnest of unfading joys
That wait my soul beyond the grave.

Loos’d from the vexing world below,                                                    45
O! when shall I to these attain?
When to that blissful region go,
That yields no sorrow, tear, or pain?

There shall my disencumber’d soul
Distinctly view the grand design                                                     50
Of each mysterious providence,
The gracious plan of love divine.

How dim foe’er the eye of sense,
How faint foe’er each mental power,
There we shall trace Omniscience,                                                         55
And all his sov’reign will explore;

Companioning with angels bright,
Perhaps with kindred spirits join’d,
Adore the self-existent God,
That brought salvation to mankind.                                               60

Delightful Theme of endless bliss!
How little know the world of Thee!
Only the pilgrim hasting on,
And panting for eternity.

He joyful views, with steady eye,                                                             65
Where faithful labourers abide;
Beholds the glittering gates on high,
On golden hinges opening wide.

There all his thoughts and wishes tend,
Anxious he marks the heavenly road,                                            70
Compassionates the senseless world,
And languishes—to be with God;

To see the “very Paschal Lamb,”
In everlasting bliss enthron’d,
And mingle with those blessed saints,                                                   75
That live with endless glory crown’d.

O! how with “ever-tuned harps”
They sing “the Lamb’s mysterious song;”
Myriads of cherubs catch the sound,
Echoing from each celestial tongue.                                               80

Celestial tongues alone can reach
The height of that celestial strain,
Their tongues alone who see his face,
And with the Lamb for ever reign.

Unwearied through eternity,                                                                    85
Their pleasing toil they still pursue,
And spread around th’ ethereal space
The glorious theme, for ever new.

NOTES:

 10 fallen man’s Adam, Eve, and their descendants, humanity after the transition from innocent obedience to God in the garden of Eden to guilt, disobedience, and sin; humanity that is viewed as naturally sinful and in need of salvation; deliv’rance Giving over into the possession or power of another, in particular reference to God, or an act of God whereby he rescues his people from danger or damnation (Walter A. Elwell, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (EDT), pp. 434-436; 330-331).

11 sacrifice Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and forgiveness of humanity’s sinfulness (EDT, pp. 113-114).

12 bleeding guilt Mortal sin, damnation; aton’d “To bargain for exemption” (Johnson), here a reference to Christians’ reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ (EDT, pp. 113-114).

13 estate “Circumstances in general; conditions of life; possibly also in reference to possessions in land, rank, or quality” (Johnson).

15 cov’nant “A contract between two parties” (Johnson), usually an agreement between God and his people, in which God makes promises to his people and, in return, requires certain types of conduct from them (EDT, pp. 299-301).

15 Gospel The records of Jesus Christ’s life and teachings in the first four books of the new testament, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

19 infant “Immature, in a state of initial imperfection” (Johnson); also possibly referencing the spiritual rebirth of baptism (EDT, pp. 129-131).

20 rapture “Ecstasy, mental transportation to a sublime realm, a vigorous passion,” particularly of the faith in God (Johnson).

25 oft Often.

26 design’d “To devote intentionally” (Johnson).

27 retirement “Private way of life, state of being withdrawn” (Johnson).

41 swift-wing’d messengers Angels.

53 foe-er Forever.

53 eye of sense “Perception by intellect” (Johnson).

63 pilgrim “A traveler, wanderer, particularly one who travels on a religious account” (Johnson).

67 glittering gates The entrance to heaven.

71 Compassionates “Pity” (Johnson).

73 Paschal Lamb A lamb with particular ritual significance, which the Israelites were commanded to eat as a part of the Passover celebration; the Paschal Lamb symbolized Christ, “the Lamb of God,” who redeemed the world by the shedding of his blood (EDT, pp. 893-895).

77 ever-tuned harps Possibly an allusion to John Milton’s Paradise Lost and his descriptions of angels, particularly when the angels celebrate God’s decision to allow his son, Jesus Christ, to sacrifice himself for mankind (Book III, line 366).

78 the Lamb’s mysterious song Referencing a song of triumph over Babylon, which represented sin and idolatry; the biblical triumph over Babylon symbolizes a triumph over sin.

79 cherubs Angels who support the rule of God, especially connected with the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden (EDT, pp. 60-61).

 SOURCE: Original Poems, on Various Occasions (London, 1792), pp. 15-19. [Google Books]

 Edited by Momo Wang

 

 

Frances Maria Cowper, religious verse, meditation, virtue, the sublime, ballad stanzas