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IX. - COWPER'S TAME HARES
[WILLIAM COWPER was born at Berkhampstead, in Bedfordshire, England, November 15, 1731, and died April 5, 1800. He was of an extremely delicate and sensitive organization; and he had the misfortune, when only six years old, to lose an affectionato mother, whom he has commemorated in one of the most popular and beautiful of his poems. He was educated at Westminster school, where his gentle nature suffered much at thu hands of older and rougher lads. He spent some time in the study of the law, and was called to the bar; but his morbid temperament was found unequal to the discharge of professional and official duties. He declined the struggles and the prizes of an active career, and retired into the country, to a life of seclusion; living for many years in the family of Mr. Unwin, an English clergyman. His first volume of poems, containing Table Talk, Hope, The Progress of Error, Charity, &c., was pub lished in 1782, when he was fifty-one years old. It rarely happens that a poet's first appearance is so late in life. This volume did not attract much attention. But in 1784 he published The Task, which was received with much more favor. Its vigor. ous and manly style, its energetic moral tone, and its charming pictures of natural scenery and domestic life, were soon appreciated, although the general taste, at that time, preferred a more artificial style of poetry. After the publication of The Task, he spent some years in preparing a translation of Homer into blank verse, which was published in 1791. This is, on the whole, the best translation of Homer into English; that is, it gives a reader not acquainted with the original the best idea of its form and spirit.
Many of Cowper's smaller pieces still enjoy great and deserved popularity. Like maoy men of habitual melancholy, he had a vein of humor running through his nature. His John Gilpin is a well-known instance of this; and the same quality throws a frequent charm over his correspondence. Cowper's life is full of deep and sad interest. His mind was more than once eclipsed by insanity, and often darkened by melancholy. He had tender and loving friends, who watched over him with affectionate and untiring interest. His most intimate friendships were with women; and thero is a striking contrast between the masculine vigor of his style and his feminine habits and manner of life.
His letters are perhaps the best in the language. They are not superior, as intallectual efforts, to those of Gray, Walpole, Byron, or Scott; but they have in the highest degree that conversational ease and playful grace which we most desire in this class of writings. They are not epistolary essays, but genuine letters - the unstudied effusions of the heart, meant for no eye but that of the person to whom they are addressed. C-wper's life has been written, and his poems and prose writings edited, by Southey; and they form a work of great interest, and permanent value in literature.)
In the year 1774, being much indisposed in mind and body, incapable of diverting myself either with company or books, and yet in a condition that made some diversion necessary, I was glad of any thing that would engage my attention without fatiguing it. The children of a neighbor of mine had leveret given them for a plaything ; it was at that time
about three months old. Understanding better how to tease the poor creature than to feed it, and soon becoming weary of their charge, they readuy consented that their father, who saw it pining and growing leaner every day, should offer it to my acceptance. I was willing enough to take the stranger under my protection, perceiving that in the management of such an animal, and in the attempt to tame it, I should find just that sort of employment that my case required. It was known among the neighbors that I was pleased with the present; and the consequence was, that in a short time I had as many leverets offered to me as would have stocked a paddock. I undertook the care of three, which it is necessary
I should distinguish here by the names
I Tiney, and Bess. Notwithstanding the two feminine appellations, I must inform you that they were all males. Immediately commencing carpenter, I built them houses to sleep in. Each had a separate apartment; and in the daytime they had the
range of a hall. At night each retired to his own bed, never intruding into that of another.
Puss grew presently familiar, would leap into my lap, raise himself upon his hinder feet, and bite the hair from my temples. He would suffer me to take him up, and carry him about in my arms, and has more than once fallen fast asleep on my knee.
He was ill three days, during which time I nursed him, kept him apart from his fellows that they might not molest him, and by constant care, and trying him with a variety of herbs, restored him to perfect health. No creature could be more grateful than my patient after his recovery sentiment which he most significantly expressed by licking my hand, first the back of it, then the palm, then every finger separately, then between all the fingers, as if anxious to leave no part of it unsaluted.
Finding him exceedingly tractable, I made it my custom to carry him always, after breakfast, into the garden, where he hid himself generally under the leaves of the cucumber vine, sleeping or chewing the cud till evening: in the
leaves of that vine also he found a favorite repast. I had not long habituated him to this taste of liberty before he began to be impatient for the return of the time when he might enjoy it. He would invite me to the garden by drumming on my knee, and by a look of such expression as it was impossible to misinterpret. If this rhetoric did not immediately succeed, he would take the skirt of my coat between his teeth, and pull it with all his force. Thus Puss might be said to be perfectly tamed ; the shyness of his temper was done away, and on the whole it was visible by many symptoms, which I have not room to enumerate, that he was happier in human society than when shut up with his natural companions.
Not so Tiney: upon him the kindest treatment had not the least effect. He, too, was sick, and in his sickness had an equal share of my attention; but if, after his recovery, I took the liberty to caress him, he would grunt, strike with his fore feet, spring forward and bite. He was, however, very entertaining in his way; even his surliness was matter for mirth, and in his play he preserved such an air of gravity, and performed his feats with such a solemnity of manner, that in him, too, I had an agreeable companion.
Bess, who died soon after he was fully grown, and whose death was occasioned by his being turned into his box, which had been washed, while it was yet damp, was a hare of great humor and drollery. Puss was tamed by gentle usage ; Tiney was not to be tamed at all; and Bess had a courage and confidence that made him tame from the beginning. I always admitted them into the parlor after supper, where, the carpet affording their feet a firm hold, they would frisk and bound, and play a thousand gambols, in which Bess, being remarkably strong and fearless, was always superior to the rest, and proved himself the Vestris of the party. One evening the cat, being in the room, had the hardiness to pat Bess on the cheek an indignity which he resented by drumming upon her back with such violence that the cat was happy to escape from under the paws, and hide herself.
I describe these animals, as having each & character of liis
Such were they in fact, and their countenances were so expressive of that character, that, when I looked only on the face of either, I immediately knew which it was. It is said that a shepherd, however numerous his flock, soon becomes so familiar with their features, that he can, by that indication only, distinguish each from all the rest; and yet, to a common observer, the difference is hardly perceptible. I doubt not that the same discrimination in the cast of countenances would be discoverable in hares, and am persuaded that among a thousand of them no two could be found exactly similar circumstance little suspected by those who have not had opportunity to observe it.
These creatures have a singular sagacity in discovering the minutest alteration that is made in the place to which they are accustomed, and instantly apply their nose to the examination of a new object. A small hole being burned in the carpet, it was mended with a patch, and that patch in a moment underwent the closest scrutiny. They seem, too, to be very much directed by the smell in the choice of their favorites : to some persons, though they saw them daily, they could never be reconciled, and would even scream when they attempted to touch them ; but a miller coming in engaged their affections at once ; his powdered coat had charms that were irresistible. It is no wonder that my intimate acquaintance with these specimens of the kind has told me to hold the sportsman's amusement in abhorrence; he little knows what amiable creatures he persecutes, of what gratitude they are capable, how cheerful they are in spirits, what enjoyment they have of life, and that if they seem impressed with a peculiar dread of man, it is only because man gives them peculiar cause for it.
X. THE PARROT.
(THOMAS CAMPBELL was born in Glasgow, July 27, 1777, and died in Boulogne, in France, June 15, 1844. His first poem, The Pleasures of Hope, was published in 1709, and was universally read and admired. His Gertrude of Wyoming was published in 1809, and was received with equal favor. It contains passages of great descriptive beauty, and the concluding portions are full of pathos; but the story moves languidly, and there is a want of truth in the costume, and of probability in the incidents. His genius is seen to greater advantage in his shorter poems, such as O'Connor's Child, Lochiel's Warning, Hohenlinden, The Battle of the Baltic, and Ye Mariners of England. These are matchless poems; with a ring and power that stir the blood, and at the same time a magic of expression which fastens the words forever to the memory.
No poet of our times has contributed so much, in proportion to the extent of his writings, to that stock of established quotations which pass along from lip to lip, and from pen to pen, without any thought as to their origin. Campbell lived, during the greater part of his life, after early manhood, in London or its neighborhood, and was for some years editor of the New Monthly Magazine. He wrote in prose with grace and animation. The preliminary essay prefixed to his Specimens of the British poets (first published in 1819) is an admirable piece of criticism, and is earnestly commended to all who wish to comprehond the wealth of the poetical literature of England. Campbell's dignity of character was hardly equal to his intellectual gifts; and shadows of infirmity sometimes darkened the bright disk of his genius. He was much tried in his domestic relations. His wife, whom he tenderly loved, died many years before him; and of two sons, his whole family, one died in childhood, and the other, who survived his father, was of infirm mind from his birth.
More detailed accounts of Campbell's life and writings may be found in his Life and Letters, by Dr. William Beattie, and in a good biographical sketch by Mr. Epes Sar gent, pref red to an edition of his poems published by Phillips, Sampson, & Co., of Boston, in 1854.]
THE deep affections of the breast,
By human hearts.
A parrot, from the Spanish Main,
Of Mulla's shore.
To spicy groves where he had won
He bade adieu.