William Cowper

26 November 1731 – 25 April 1800 / Hertfordshire

An Ode, On Reading Mr. Richardson's History Of Sir Charles Grandison

Say, ye apostate and profane,
Wretches, who blush not to disdain
Allegiance to your God,--
Did e'er your idly wasted love
Of virtue for her sake remove
And lift you from the crowd?

Would you the race of glory run,
Know, the devout, and they alone,
Are equal to the task:
The labours of the illustrious course
Far other than the unaided force
Of human vigour ask,

To arm against reputed ill
The patient heart too brave to feel
The tortures of despair:
Nor safer yet high-crested pride,
When wealth flows in with every tide
To gain admittance there.

To rescue from the tyrant’s sword
The oppress'd; unseen and unimplored,
To cheer the face of woe;
From lawless insult to defend
An orphan's right—a fallen friend,
And a forgiven foe;

These, these distinguish from the crowd,
And these alone, the great and good,
The guardians of mankind;
Whose bosoms with these virtues heave,
O with what matchless speed they leave
The multitude behind!

Then ask ye, from what cause on earth
Virtues like these derive their birth?
Derived from Heaven alone,
Full on that favour’d breast they shine,
Where faith and resignation join
To call the blessing down.

Such is that heart:--but while the muse
Thy theme, O Richardson, pursues,
Her feeble spirits faint;
She cannot reach, and would not wrong,
The subject for an angel’s song,
The hero, and the saint!
201 Total read