Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

William Cowper

English Poet and Hymnodist

"A moral, sensible and well-bred man will not affront me, and no other can."

"Accomplishments have taken virtue’s place, and wisdom falls before exterior grace."

"Few boys are born with talents that excel, but all are capable of living well."

"Good sense, good health, good conscience, and good fame - all these belong to virtue, and all prove that virtue has a title to your love."

"I venerate the man whose heart is warm, whose hands are pure, whose doctrine and whose life, coincident, exhibit lucid proof that he is honest in the sacred cause."

"Knowledge is proud that he has learned so much; wisdom is humble that he knows no more."

"Nature is but a name for an effect, whose cause is God."

"No man was ever scolded out of his sins."

"No wild enthusiast ever yet could rest, till half mankind were like himself possess’d."

"Pleasure admitted in undue degree enslaves the will, nor leaves the judgment free."

"Remorse begets reform."

"The art of poetry is to touch the passions, and its duty to lead them on the side of virtue."

"There is in souls a sympathy with sounds, and as the mind is pitch’d, the ear is pleas’d with melting airs or martial, brisk, or grave; some chord in unison with what we hear is touch’d within us, and the heart replies."

"Vice stings us even n our pleasures, but virtue consoles us even in our pains."

"Wisdom and Goodness are twin born, one heart must hold both sister, never seen apart."

"Absence of occupation is not rest, a mind quite vacant is a mind distressed."

"All truth is precious, if not all divine; and what dilates the powers must needs refine."

"Diff'ring judgments serve but to declare that Truth lies somewhere, if we knew but where."

"Grief is itself a med'cine."

"Habits are soon assumed; but when we endeavor to strip them off, it is being flayed alive."

"Happy the man who sees a God employed in all the good and ill that checker life."

"He is the freeman whom the truth makes free, and all are slaves beside."

"I must think forever: would an eternal train of my usual thoughts be either worthy of me or useful to me? I must feel forever: would an eternal reign of my present spirit and desires please or satisfy me? I must act forever: would an eternal course of my habitual conduct bring happiness, or even bear reflection?... Habits are soon assumed; but when we endeavor to strip them off, it is being flayed alive."

"It is a terrible thought, that nothing is ever forgotten; that not an oath is ever uttered that does not continue to vibrate through all times, in the wide spreading current of sound; that not a prayer is lisped, that its record is not to be found stamped on the laws of nature by the indelible seal of the Almighty's will."

"Knowledge dwells in heads replete with thoughts of other men; wisdom in minds attentive to their own."

"Talking is not always to converse."

"The only true happiness comes from squandering ourselves for a purpose."

"The proud are ever most provoked by pride."

"Variety is the very spice of life, that gives it all its flavor."

"Visitors are insatiable devourers of time, and fit only for those who, if they did not visit, would do nothing."

"Words learned by rote a parrot may rehearse; but talking is not always to converse, not more distinct from harmony divine, the constant creaking of a country sign."

"Existence is a strange bargain. Life owes us little; we owe it everything. The only true happiness comes from squandering ourselves for a purpose."

"Knowledge and wisdom, far from being one, have oft-times no connection. Knowledge dwells in heads replete with thoughts of other men, wisdom in minds attentive to their own. Knowledge is proud that he has learned so much, wisdom is humble that he knows no more. "

"In heads replete with thoughts of other men: Wisdom in minds attentive to their own. Knowledge is proud that he has learned so much; Wisdom is humble that he know no more."

"Glory, built on selfish principles, is shame and guilt."

"A firm persuasion of the superintendence of Providence over all our concerns is absolutely necessary to our happiness. Without it, we cannot be said to believe in the Scripture, or practice anything like resignation to his will. If I am convinced that no affliction can befall me without the permission of God, I am convinced likewise that he sees and knows that I am afflicted: believing this, I must in the same degree believe that if I pray to him for deliverance, he hears me: I must needs know, likewise, with equal assurance, that if he hears, he will also deliver me, if that will upon the whole be most conducive to my happiness: and if he does not deliver me, I may be well assured that he has none but the most benevolent intention in declining it."

"A Child Of God Longing To See Him Beloved - There's not an echo round me, But I am glad should learn, How pure a fire has found me, The love with which I burn. For none attends with pleasure To what I would reveal; They slight me out of measure, And laugh at all I feel. The rocks receive less proudly The story of my flame; When I approach, they loudly Reverberate his name. I speak to them of sadness, And comforts at a stand; They bid me look for gladness, And better days at hand. Far from all habitation, I heard a happy sound; Big with the consolation, That I have often found. I said, 'My lot is sorrow, My grief has no alloy; The rocks replied--'Tomorrow, Tomorrow brings thee joy.' These sweet and sacred tidings, What bliss it is to hear! For, spite of all my chidings, My weakness and my fear, No sooner I receive them, Than I forget my pain, And, happy to believe them, I love as much again. I fly to scenes romantic, Where never men resort; For in an age so frantic Impiety is sport. For riot and confusion They barter things above; Condemning, as delusion, The joy of perfect love. In this sequestered corner, None hears what I express; Delivered from the scorner, What peace do I possess! Beneath the boughs reclining, Or roving o'er the wild, I live as undesigning And harmless as a child. No troubles here surprise me, I innocently play, While Providence supplies me, And guards me all the day: My dear and kind defender Preserves me safely here, From men of pomp and splendour, Who fill a child with fear. "

"Sweet stream that winds through yonder glade, Apt emblem of a virtuous maid Silent and chaste she steals along, Far from the world's gay busy throng: With gentle yet prevailing force, Intent upon her destined course; Graceful and useful all she does, Blessing and blest where'er she goes; Pure-bosom'd as that watery glass, And Heaven reflected in her face. "

"A Figurative Description Of The Procedure Of Divine Love - 'Twas my purpose, on a day, To embark, and sail away. As I climbed the vessel's side, Love was sporting in the tide; 'Come,' he said, 'ascend—make haste, Launch into the boundless waste.' Many mariners were there, Having each his separate care; They that rowed us held their eyes Fixed upon the starry skies; Others steered, or turned the sails, To receive the shifting gales. Love, with power divine supplied, Suddenly my courage tried; In a moment it was night, Ship and skies were out of sight; On the briny wave I lay, Floating rushes all my stay. Did I with resentment burn At this unexpected turn? Did I wish myself on shore, Never to forsake it more? No--'My soul,' I cried, 'be still; If I must be lost, I will.' Next he hastened to convey Both my frail supports away; Seized my rushes; bade the waves Yawn into a thousand graves: Down I went, and sunk as lead, Ocean closing o'er my head. Still, however, life was safe; And I saw him turn and laugh: 'Friend,' he cried, 'adieu! lie low, While the wintry storms shall blow; When the spring has calmed the main, You shall rise and float again.' Soon I saw him, with dismay, Spread his plumes, and soar away; Now I mark his rapid flight; Now he leaves my aching sight; He is gone whom I adore, 'Tis in vain to seek him more. How I trembled then and feared, When my love had disappeared! 'Wilt thou leave me thus,' I cried, 'Whelmed beneath the rolling tide?' Vain attempt to reach his ear! Love was gone, and would not hear. Ah! return, and love me still; See me subject to thy will; Frown with wrath, or smile with grace, Only let me see thy face! Evil I have none to fear, All is good, if thou art near. Yet he leaves me--cruel fate! Leaves me in my lost estate-- Have I sinned? Oh, say wherein; Tell me, and forgive my sin! King, and Lord, whom I adore, Shall I see thy face no more? Be not angry; I resign, Henceforth, all my will to thine: I consent that thou depart, Though thine absence breaks my heart; Go then, and for ever too: All is right that thou wilt do. This was just what Love intended; He was now no more offended; Soon as I became a child, Love returned to me and smiled: Never strife shall more betide 'Twixt the bridegroom and his bride. "

"A Poetical Epistle To Lady Austen - Dear Anna, -- Between friend and friend, Prose answers every common end; Serves, in a plain and homely way, To express the occurrence of the day; Our health, the weather, and the news, What walks we take, what books we choose, And all the floating thoughts we find Upon the surface of the mind. But when a poet takes the pen, Far more alive than other men, He feels a gentle tingling come Down to his finger and his thumb, Derived from nature's noblest part, The centre of a glowing heart: And this is what the world, who knows No flights above the pitch of prose, His more sublime vagaries slighting, Denominates an itch for writing. No wonder I, who scribble rhyme To catch the triflers of the time, And tell them truths divine and clear, Which, couched in prose, they will not hear; Who laboured hard to allure and draw The loiterers I never saw, Should feel that itching and that tingling With all my purpose intermingling, To your intrinsic merit true, When called to address myself to you. Mysterious are His ways, whose power Brings forth that unexpected hour, When minds, that never met before, Shall meet, unite, and part no more; It is the allotment of the skies, The hand of the Supremely Wise, That guides and governs our affections, And plans and orders our connections: Directs us in our distant road, And marks the bounds of our abode. Thus we were settled when you found us, Peasants and children all around us, Not dreaming of so dear a friend, Deep in the abyss of Silver-End. Thus Martha, even against her will, Perched on the top of yonder hill; And you, though you must needs prefer The fairer scenes of sweet Sancerre, Are come from distant Loire, to choose A cottage on the banks of Ouse. This page of Providence quite new, And now just opening to our view, Employs our present thoughts and pains To guess, and spell, what it contains: But day by day, and year by year, Will make the dark enigma clear; And furnish us, perhaps, at last, Like other scenes already past, With proof, that we, and our affairs, Are part of a Jehovah's cares: For God unfolds, by slow degrees, The purport of his deep decrees, Sheds every hour a clearer light In aid of our defective sight; And spreads, at length, before the soul A beautiful and perfect whole, Which busy man's inventive brain Toils to anticipate, in vain. Say, Anna, had you never grown The beauties of a rose full blown, Could you, though luminous your eye, By looking on the bud descry, Or guess, with a prophetic power, The future splendour of the flower? Just so, the Omnipotent, who turns The system of a world's concerns, From mere minutiae can educe Events of most important use, And bid a dawning sky display The blaze of a meridian day. The works of man tend, one and all, As needs they must, from great to small; And vanity absorbs at length The monuments of human strength. But who can tell how vast the plan Which this day's incident began? Too small, perhaps, the slight occasion For our dim-sighted observation; It passed unnoticed, as the bird That cleaves the yielding air unheard, And yet may prove, when understood, A harbinger of endless good. Not that I deem, or mean to call Friendship a blessing cheap or small; But merely to remark, that ours, Like some of nature's sweetest flowers, Rose from a seed of tiny size, That seemed to promise no such prize; A transient visit intervening, And made almost without a meaning, (Hardly the effect of inclination), Produced a friendship, then begun, That has cemented us in one; And placed it in our power to prove, By long fidelity and love, That Solomon has wisely spoken,-- 'A threefold cord is not soon broken.' "

"A Song : On The Green Margin - On the green margin of the brook, Despairing Phyllida reclined, Whilst every sigh, and every look, Declared the anguish of her mind. Am I less lovely then? (she cries, And in the waves her form surveyed); Oh yes, I see my languid eyes, My faded cheek, my colour fled: These eyes no more like lightning pierced, These cheeks grew pale, when Damon first His Phyllida betrayed. The rose he in his bosom wore, How oft upon my breast was seen! And when I kissed the drooping flower, Behold, he cried, it blooms again! The wreaths that bound my braided hair, Himself next day was proud to wear At church, or on the green. While thus sad Phyllida lamented, Chance brought unlucky Thyrsis on; Unwillingly the nymph consented, But Damon first the cheat begun. She wiped the fallen tears away, Then sighed and blushed, as who would say Ah! Thyrsis, I am won. "

"A Tale, Founded On A Fact, Which Happened In January, 1779 - Where Humber pours his rich commercial stream, There dwelt a wretch, who breathed but to blaspheme. In subterraneous caves his life he led, Black as the mine, in which he wrought for bread. When on a day, emerging from the deep, A Sabbath-day, (such Sabbaths thousands keep!) The wages of his weekly toil he bore To buy a cock -- whose blood might win him more; As if the noblest of the feathered kind Were but for battle and for death designed; As if the consecrated hours were meant For sport, to minds on cruelty intent. It changed, (such chances Providence obey,) He met a fellow-labourer on the way, Whose heart the same desires had once inflamed, But now the savage temper was reclaimed. Persuasion on his lips had taken place; For all plead well who plead the cause of grace. His iron-heart with Scripture he assailed, Wooed him to hear a sermon, and prevailed. His faithful bow the mighty preacher drew, Swift as the lightning-glimpse the arrow flew. He wept; he trembled; cast his eyes around, To find a worse than he; but none he found. He felt his sins, and wondered he should feel. Grace made the wound, and grace alone could heal. Now farewell oaths, and blasphemies, and lies! He quits the sinner's for the martyr's prize. That holy day was washed with many a tear, Gilded with hope, yet shaded too by fear. The next his swarthy brethren of the mine Learned by his altered speech, the change divine, Laughed when they should have wept, and swore the day Was nigh when he would swear as fast as they. 'No,' said the penitent: 'such words shall share This breath no more; devoted now to prayer. Oh! if thou seest, (thine eye the future sees,) That I shall yet again blaspheme, like these, Now strike me to the ground, on which I kneel, Ere yet this heart relapses into steel; Now take me to that heaven I once defied, Thy presence, thy embrace!' -- He spoke, and died! "

"Abuse of the Gospel - Too many, Lord, abuse Thy grace In this licentious day, And while they boast they see Thy face, They turn their own away. Thy book displays a gracious light That can the blind restore; But these are dazzled by the sight, And blinded still the more. The pardon such presume upon, They do not beg but steal; And when they plead it at Thy throne, Oh! where's the Spirit's seal? Was it for this, ye lawless tribe, The dear Redeemer bled? Is this the grace the saints imbibe From Christ the living head? Ah, Lord, we know Thy chosen few Are fed with heavenly fare; But these, -- the wretched husks they chew, Proclaim them what they are. The liberty our hearts implore Is not to live in sin; But still to wait at Wisdom's door, Till Mercy calls us in. "

"The lapse of time and rivers is the same, Both speed their journey with a restless stream; The silent pace, with which they steal away, No wealth can bribe, no prayers persuade to stay; Alike irrevocable both when past, And a wide ocean swallows both at last. Though each resemble each in every part, A difference strikes at length the musing heart; Streams never flow in vain; where streams abound, How laughs the land with various plenty crown’d! But time, that should enrich the nobler mind, Neglected, leaves a dreary waste behind. "

"A Fable - A raven, while with glossy breast Her new-laid eggs she fondly press'd, And, on her wicker-work high mounted, Her chickens prematurely counted (A fault philosophers might blame, If quite exempted from the same), Enjoy'd at ease the genial day; 'Twas April, as the bumpkins say, The legislature call'd it May. But suddenly a wind, as high As ever swept a winter sky, Shook the young leaves about her ears, And fill'd her with a thousand fears, Lest the rude blast should snap the bough, And spread her golden hopes below. But just at eve the blowing weather And all her fears were hush'd together: And now, quoth poor unthinking Ralph. 'Tis over, and the brood is safe; (For ravens, though, as birds of omen, They teach both conjurors and old women To tell us what is to befall, Can’t prophesy themselves at all.) The morning came, when neighbour Hodge, Who long had mark'd her airy lodge, And destined all the treasure there A gift to his expecting fair, Climb’d like a squirrel to his dray, And bore the worthless prize away. Moral: 'Tis Providence alone secures In every change both mine and yours: Safety consists not in escape From dangers of a frightful shape; An earthquake may be bid to spare The man that’s strangled by a hair. Fate steals along with silent tread, Found oft’nest in what least we dread, Frowns in the storm with angry brow, But in the sunshine strikes the blow. "

"A Song : The Sparkling Eye - The sparkling eye, the mantling cheek, The polished front, the snowy neck, How seldom we behold in one! Glossy locks, and brow serene, Venus' smiles, Diana's mien, All meet in you, and you alone. Beauty, like other powers, maintains Her empire, and by union reigns; Each single feature faintly warms: But where at once we view displayed Unblemished grace, the perfect maid Our eyes, our ears, our heart alarms. So when on earth the god of day Obliquely sheds his tempered ray, Through convex orbs the beams transmit, The beams that gently warmed before, Collected, gently warm no more, But glow with more prevailing heat. "

"The sparkling eye, the mantling cheek, The polished front, the snowy neck, How seldom we behold in one! Glossy locks, and brow serene, Venus' smiles, Diana's mien, All meet in you, and you alone. Beauty, like other powers, maintains Her empire, and by union reigns; Each single feature faintly warms: But where at once we view displayed Unblemished grace, the perfect maid Our eyes, our ears, our heart alarms. So when on earth the god of day Obliquely sheds his tempered ray, Through convex orbs the beams transmit, The beams that gently warmed before, Collected, gently warm no more, But glow with more prevailing heat. "

"A Tale. June 1793 - In Scotland's realm, where trees are few Nor even shrubs abound; But where, however bleak the view Some better things are found; For husband there and wife may boast Their union undefiled, And false ones are as rare almost As hedge-rows in the wild; In Scotland's realm forlorn and bare The history chanced of late,-- This history of a wedded pair, A chaffinch and his mate,. The spring drew near, each felt a breast With genial instinct filled; They paired, and would have built a nest, But found not where to build. The heaths uncovered and the moors Except with snow and sleet, Sea-beaten rocks and naked shores Could yield them no retreat. Long time a breeding-place they sought, Till both grew vexed and tired; At length a ship arriving brought The good so long desired. A ship? -- could such a restless thing Afford them place of rest? Or was the merchant charged to bring The homeless birds a nest? Hush! -- silent hearers profit most,-- This racer of the sea Proved kinder to them than the coast, It served them with a tree. But such a tree! 'twas shaven deal, The tree they call a mast, And had a hollow with a wheel Through which the tackle passed. Within that cavity aloft Their roofless home they fixed, Formed with materials neat and soft, Bents, wool, and feathers mixed. Four ivory eggs soon pave its floor, With russet specks bedight; The vessel weighs, forsakes the shore, And lessens to the sight. The mother-bird is gone to sea, As she had changed her kind; But goes the male? Far wiser he Is doubtless left behind. No;-- soon as from ashore he saw The winged mansion move, He flew to reach it, by a law Of never-failing love. Then perching at his consort's side, Was briskly borne along, The billows and the blast defied, And cheered her with a song. The seaman with sincere delight His feathered shipmates eyes, Scarce less exulting in the sight Than when he tows a prize. For seamen much believe in signs, And from a chance so new Each some approaching good divines, And may his hope be true! Hail, honoured land! a desert where Not even birds can hide, Yet parent of this loving pair Whom nothing could divide. And ye who, rather than resign Your matrimonial plan, Were not afraid to plough the brine In company with man; For whose lean country much disdain We English often show, Yet from a richer nothing gain But wantonness and woe; Be it your fortune, year by year, The same resource to prove, And may ye, sometimes landing here, Instruct us how to love! "

"A Child Of God Longing To See Him Beloved - There's not an echo round me, But I am glad should learn, How pure a fire has found me, The love with which I burn. For none attends with pleasure To what I would reveal; They slight me out of measure, And laugh at all I feel. The rocks receive less proudly The story of my flame; When I approach, they loudly Reverberate his name. I speak to them of sadness, And comforts at a stand; They bid me look for gladness, And better days at hand. Far from all habitation, I heard a happy sound; Big with the consolation, That I have often found. I said, 'My lot is sorrow, My grief has no alloy; The rocks replied--'Tomorrow, Tomorrow brings thee joy.' These sweet and sacred tidings, What bliss it is to hear! For, spite of all my chidings, My weakness and my fear, No sooner I receive them, Than I forget my pain, And, happy to believe them, I love as much again. I fly to scenes romantic, Where never men resort; For in an age so frantic Impiety is sport. For riot and confusion They barter things above; Condemning, as delusion, The joy of perfect love. In this sequestered corner, None hears what I express; Delivered from the scorner, What peace do I possess! Beneath the boughs reclining, Or roving o'er the wild, I live as undesigning And harmless as a child. No troubles here surprise me, I innocently play, While Providence supplies me, And guards me all the day: My dear and kind defender Preserves me safely here, From men of pomp and splendour, Who fill a child with fear"

"God Hides His People - To lay the soul that loves him low, Becomes the Only–wise: To hide beneath a veil of woe, The children of the skies. Man, though a worm, would yet be great; Though feeble, would seem strong; Assumes an independent state, By sacrilege and wrong. Strange the reverse, which, once abased, The haughty creature proves! He feels his soul a barren waste, Nor dares affirm he loves. Scorned by the thoughtless and the vain, To God he presses near; Superior to the world's disdain, And happy in its sneer. Oh welcome, in his heart he says, Humility and shame! Farewell the wish for human praise, The music of a name! But will not scandal mar the good That I might else perform? And can God work it, if he would, By so despised a worm? Ah, vainly anxious!—leave the Lord To rule thee, and dispose; Sweet is the mandate of his word, And gracious all he does. He draws from human littleness His grandeur and renown; And generous hearts with joy confess The triumph all his own. Down, then, with self–exalting thoughts; Thy faith and hope employ, To welcome all that he allots, And suffer shame with joy. No longer, then, thou wilt encroach On his eternal right; And he shall smile at thy approach, And make thee his delight. "