William Cowper

26 November 1731 – 25 April 1800 / Hertfordshire

Elegy Iv. Anno Aet. 18. To My Tutor, Thomas Young, Chaplain Of The English Merchants Resident At Hamburg (Translated From Milton)

Hence, my epistle--skim the Deep--fly o'er
Yon smooth expanse to the Teutonic shore!
Haste--lest a friend should grieve for thy delay--
And the Gods grant that nothing thwart thy way!
I will myself invoke the King who binds
In his Sicanian ecchoing vault the winds,
With Doris and her Nymphs, and all the throng
Of azure Gods, to speed thee safe along.
But rather, to insure thy happier haste,
Ascend Medea's chariot, if thou may'st,
Or that whence young Triptolemus of yore
Descended welcome on the Scythian shore.
The sands that line the German coast descried,
To opulent Hamburg turn aside,
So call'd, if legendary fame be true,
From Hama, whom a club-arm'd Cimbrian slew.
There lives, deep-learn'd and primitively just,
A faithful steward of his Christian trust,
My friend, and favorite inmate of my heart--
That now is forced to want its better part!
What mountains now, and seas, alas! how wide!
From me this other, dearer self divide,
Dear, as the sage renown'd for moral truth
To the prime spirit of the Attic youth!
Dear, as the Stagyrite to Ammon's son,
His pupil, who disdain'd the world he won!
Nor so did Chiron, or so Phoenix shine
In young Achilles' eyes, as He in mine.
First led by him thro' sweet Aonian shade
Each sacred haunt of Pindus I survey'd;
And favor'd by the muse, whom I implor'd,
Thrice on my lip the hallow'd stream I pour'd.
But thrice the Sun's resplendent chariot roll'd
To Aries, has new ting'd his fleece with gold,
And Chloris twice has dress'd the meadows gay,
And twice has Summer parch'd their bloom away,
Since last delighted on his looks I hung,
Or my ear drank the music of his tongue.
Fly, therefore, and surpass the tempest's speed!
Aware thyself that there is urgent need.
Him, ent'ring, thou shalt haply seated see
Beside his spouse, his infants on his knee,
Or turning page by page with studious look
Some bulky Father, or God's Holy Book,
Or minist'ring (which is his weightiest care)
To Christ's assembled flock their heav'nly fare.
Give him, whatever his employment be,
Such gratulation as he claims from me,
And with a down-cast eye and carriage meek
Addressing him, forget not thus to speak.
If, compass'd round with arms, thou canst attend
To verse, verse greets thee from a distant friend,
Long due and late I left the English shore,
But make me welcome for that cause the more.
Such from Ulysses, his chaste wife to cheer,
The slow epistle came, tho' late, sincere.
But wherefore This? why palliate I a deed,
For which the culprit's self could hardly plead?
Self-charged and self-condemn'd, his proper part
He feels neglected, with an aching heart;
But Thou forgive--Delinquents who confess,
And pray forgiveness, merit anger less;
From timid foes the lion turns away,
Nor yawns upon or rends a crouching prey,
Even pike-wielding Thracians learn to spare,
Won by soft influence of a suppliant's prayer;
And heav'n's dread thunderbolt arrested stands
By a cheap victim and uplifted hands.
Long had he wish'd to write, but was witheld,
And writes at last, by love alone compell'd,
For Fame, too often true when she alarms,
Reports thy neighbouring-fields a scene of arms;
Thy city against fierce besiegers barr'd,
And all the Saxon Chiefs for fight prepar'd.
Enyo wastes thy country wide around,
And saturates with blood the tainted ground;
Mars rests contented in his Thrace no more,
But goads his steeds to fields of German gore,
The ever-verdant olive fades and dies,
And peace, the trumpet-hating goddess, flies,
Flies from that earth which justice long had left,
And leaves the world of its last guard bereft.
Thus horror girds thee round. Meantime alone
Thou dwell'st, and helpless in a soil unknown,
Poor, and receiving from a foreign hand
The aid denied thee in thy native land.
Oh, ruthless country, and unfeeling more
Than thy own billow-beaten chalky shore!
Leav'st Thou to foreign Care the Worthies giv'n
By providence, to guide thy steps to Heav'n?
His ministers, commission'd to proclaim
Eternal blessings in a Saviour's name?
Ah then most worthy! with a soul unfed
In Stygian night to lie for ever dead.
So once the venerable Tishbite stray'd
An exil'd fugitive from shade to shade,
When, flying Ahab and his Fury wife,
In lone Arabian wilds he shelter'd life;
So, from Philippi wander'd forth forlorn
Cilician Paul, with sounding scourges torn;
And Christ himself so left and trod no more
The thankless Gergesenes' forbidden shore.
But thou take courage, strive against despair,
Quake not with dread, nor nourish anxious care.
Grim war indeed on ev'ry side appears,
And thou art menac'd by a thousand spears,
Yet none shall drink thy blood, or shall offend
Ev'n the defenceless bosom of my friend;
For thee the Aegis of thy God shall hide,
Jehova's self shall combat on thy side,
The same, who vanquish'd under Sion's tow'rs
At silent midnight all Assyria's pow'rs,
The same who overthrew in ages past,
Damascus' sons that lay'd Samaria waste;
Their King he fill'd and them with fatal fears
By mimic sounds of clarions in their ears,
Of hoofs and wheels and neighings from afar
Of clanging armour and the din of war.
Thou therefore, (as the most affiicted may)
Still hope, and triumph o'er thy evil day,
Look forth, expecting happier times to come,
And to enjoy once more thy native home!
125 Total read