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THE ALLIANCE OF EDUCATION AND GOVERNMENT.
As sickly plants betray a niggard earth,
Spread the young thought, and warm the opening neart :
Of nature idly lavishes her stores,
If equal Justice with unclouded face
Smile not indulgent on the rising race,
This spacious animated scene survey,
By fraud elude, by force repel the foe;
Say, then, through ages by what fate confined
Fix, and improve the polish'd arts of peace.
The blue-eyed myriads from the Baltic coast.
With grim delight the brood of winter view
Why yet does Asia dread a monarch's nod,
Th' encroaching tide, that drowns her lessening 'ands;
And sees far off with an indignant groan
Her native plains, and empires once her own.
By reason's light, on resolution's wings,
Spite of her frail companion, dauntless goes
O'er Lybia's deserts and through Zembla's snows?
Another touch, another temper take,
Not but the human fabric from the birth
To brave the savage rushing from the wood,
They guard with spirit, what by strength they gain'd?
The rough abode of want and liberty,
(As lawless force from confidence will grow)
THE SCHOOL AND THE TEACHER IN LITERATURE.
WILLIAM COWPER. 1731-1796.
WILLIAM COWPER,* the most popular poet of his generation and the best of English letter-writers was the son of Rev. John Cowper, D.D., rector of Great Barkhampstead, Herts, and was born at the parsonage house in 1731. His mother died when he was six years old, and her sweet presence, and his happy childhood, he has embalmed forever in the "Lines" suggested by his mother's picture, a gift from his cousin later in life.
"Oh that those lips had language! Life has pass'd
My mother! when I learn'd that thou wast dead,
I saw the hearse that bore thee slow away,
I learn'd at last submission to my lot,
But, though I less deplored thee, ne'er forgot.
Where once we dwelt our name is heard no more.
That once we call'd the pastoral house our own.
A thousand other themes less deeply traced.
Thy nightly visits to my chamber made,
That thou might'st know me safe and warmly laid;
*This sketch is taken substantially from Timb's "School days of Eminent Men.”
Thy morning bounties ere I left my home,
The fragrant waters on my cheeks bestow'd
All this, and more endearing still than all,
Thy constant flow of love, that knew no fall,
Ne'er roughen'd by those cataracts and breaks,
Perhaps a frail memorial, but sincere,
In the year of his mother's death, he was, as he himself describes it, "taken from the nursery, and from the immediate care of a most indulgent mother," and sent out of his father's house to a considerable school kept by a Dr. Pitman, at Market-street. Here for two years he suffered much from ill-treatment by his rough companions: his sensibility and delicate health were the objects of their cruelty and ridicule; and one boy so relentlessly persecuted him that he was expelled, and Cowper was removed from the school. Cowper retained in late years a painful recollection of the terror with which this boy inspired him. "His savage treatment to me," he says, "impressed such a dread of his figure on my mind, that I well remember being afraid to lift my eyes upon him higher than his knees; and that I knew him better by his shoe-buckle than by any other part of his dress." To the brutality of this boy's character, and the general impression left upon Cowper's mind by the tyranny he had undergone at Dr. Pitman's, may be traced Cowper's prejudice against the whole system of public education, so forcibly expressed in his poem called "Tirocinium; or, a Review of Schools."
About this time Cowper was attacked with an inflammation in the eyes, and was placed in the house of an oculist, where he remained two years, and was but imperfectly cured.
At the end of this time, at the age of ten, he was removed to Westminster School. The sudden change from the isolation of the oculist's house to the activity of a large public school, and the collision with its variety of characters and tempers, helped to feed and foster the moods of dejection to which Cowper was subject. His constitutional despondency was deepened by his sense of solitude in being surrounded by strangers; and thus, thrown in upon himself, he took refuge in brooding over his spiritual condition. This tendency had first manifested itself at Dr. Pitman's school, and next at Westminster. Passing one evening through St. Margaret's churchyard, he saw a light glimmering at a distance from the lantern of a grave-digger, who, as Cowper approached, threw up a skull that struck
him on the leg. "This little incident," he observes, “was an alarm to my conscience; for the event may be remembered among the best religious documents I received at Westminster." He sought hope in religious consolations, and then hopelessly abandoned them; and he was struck with lowness of spirits, and intimations of a consumptive habit, which the watchful sympathies of home might possibly have averted or subdued.
Nevertheless, Cowper appears to have been sufficiently strong and healthy to excel at cricket and football; and he persevered so successfully in his studies, that he stood in high favor with the master for his scholarship. Looking back many years afterward on this part of his life, he only regretted the lack of his religious instruction. Latin and Greek, he complains, were all that he acquired. The duty of the school-boy absorbed every other, with the single exception of the periodical preparations for confirmation, to which we find this interesting testimony in his Letters:
“That I may do justice to the place of my education, I must relate one mark of religious discipline, which, in my time, was observed at Westminster; I mean the pains which Dr. Nichols took to prepare us for confirmation. The old man acquitted himself of this duty like one who had a deep sense of its importance; and I believe most of us were struck by his manner, and affected by his exhortations."
Cowper translated twenty of Vinny Bourne's poems into English, and his allusions to his old favorite usher of the fifth form at Westminster are frequent.*
"I remember (says Cowper) seeing the Duke of Richmond set fire to Vinny's greasy locks, and box his ears to put it out again." And again writing to Mr. Rose, Cowper says: "I shall have great pleasure in taking now and then a peep at my old friend, Vincent Bourne; the neatest of all men in his versification, though, when I was under his ushership at Westminster, the most slovenly in his person. He was so inattentive to his boys, and so indifferent whether they brought good or bad exercises, or none at all, that he seemed determined, as he was the best, so he should be the last, Latin poet of the Westminster line; a plot, which I believe he exercised very successfully; for I have not heard of any one who has at all deserved to be compared with him." Even in the time of his last illness, we find that Cowper's dreary thoughts were, for the moment, charmed away by the poems of his old favorite, Vincent Bourne.
Vincent or Vinny Bourne, the elegant Latin poet and usher of Westminister School, where he was educated, died in 1747. Cowper has left also this feeling tribute to his old tutor :
"I love the memory of Vinny Bourne. I think him a better Latin poet than Tibullus, Propertius, Ausonius, or any of the writers in his way, except Ovid, and not at all inferior to him... It is not common to meet with an author who can make you smile, and yet at nobody's expense; who is always entertaining, and yet always harmless; and who, though always elegant, and classical in a degree not always found even in the classics themselves, charms more by the simplicity and playfulness of his ideas than by the neatness and purity of his verse: yet such was poor Vinny."