1731-1800
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November 15, 1731, Great Berkhampstead, Hertfordshire, England.

April 25, 1800, East Dereham, Norfolk, England.

East Dereham, Norfolk, England. Cowper’s friend and hymn writing partner John Newton conducted the funeral service.

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illustration
Olney Cottage Prayer Meeting

Cowper (pronounced Cooper), whose father was chaplain to King George II, went through the motions of becoming an attorney, but never practiced law. He lived near Olney, Buckinghamshire, the namesake town of the Olney Hymns, which he co-wrote with John Newton, author of Amazing Grace. Cowper also wrote poetry, including The Negro’s Complaint, an anti-slavery work, and the 5,000-line The Task.

A Visit to Cowper’s Grave

I went alone. ’Twas summer time;
And, standing there before the shrine
Of that illustrious bard,
I read his own familiar name,
And thought of his extensive fame,
And felt devotion’s sacred flame,
Which we do well to guard.

Far from the world, O Lord, I flee.
How sweet the words appeared to me,
Like voices in a dream!
The calm retreat, the silent shade
Describe the spot where he was laid,
And where surviving friendships paid
Their tribute of esteem.

There is a fountain. As I stood
I thought I saw the crimson flood,
And some beneath the wave;
I thought the stream still rolled along,
And that I saw the ransomed throng,
And that I heard the nobler song
Of Jesus’ power to save.

When darkness long has veiled my mind,
And from these words I felt inclined
In sympathy to weep;
But smiling day has dawned at last,
And all his sorrows now are past;
No tempter now, no midnight blast,
To spoil the poet’s sleep.

O for a closer—even so,
For we who journey here below
Have lived too far from God.
Oh, for that holy life I said,
Which Enoch, Noah, Cowper led!
Oh, for that purer light to shed
Its brightness on the road!

God moves in a mysterious way;
But now the poet seemed to say,
No mysteries remain.
On earth I was a sufferer,
In heaven I am a conqueror;
God is his own interpreter,
And he has made it plain.

Anonymous

 

Cowper’s Grave

It is a place where poets crowned may feel the heart’s decaying;
It is a place where happy saints may weep amid their praying;
Yet let the grief and humbleness as low as silence can languish:
Earth surely now may give her calm to whom she gave her anguish.

O poets from a maniac’s tongue was poured the deathless singing!
O Christians, at your cross of hope a hopeless hand was clinging!
O men, this man in brotherhood your weary paths beguiling,
Groaned inly while he taught you peace, and died while ye were smiling!

And now, what time ye all may read through dimming tears his story,
How discord on the music fell and darkness on the glory,
And how when, one by one, sweet sounds and wandering lights departed,
He wore no less a loving face because so broken-hearted.

With quiet sadness and no gloom, I learn to think upon him,
With meekness that is gratefulness to God whose Heaven hath won him,
Who suffered once the madness-cloud to His own love to blind him,
But gently led the blind along where breath and bird could find him;

And wrought within his shattered brain such quick poetic senses
As hills have language for, and stars, harmonious influences:
The pulse of dew upon the grass kept his within its number,
And silent shadows from the trees refreshed him like a slumber.

Wild timid hares were drawn from woods to share his home-caresses,
Uplooking to his human eyes with sylvan tendernesses,
The very world, by God’s constraining, from falsehood’s ways removing,
Its women and its men became, beside him, true and loving.

And though, in blindness, he remained unconscious of that guiding,
And things provided came without the sweet sense of providing,
He testified this solemn truth, while phrensy desolated,—
Nor man nor nature satisfied whom only God created.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

  1. Almighty King! Whose Wondrous Hand
  2. As Birds Their Infant Brood Protect
  3. By Whom Was David Taught
  4. Bestow, Dear Lord, upon Our Youth
  5. Billows Swell, the Winds Are High, The
  6. Breathe from the Gentle South, O Lord
  7. Dear Lord, Accept a Sinful Heart
  8. Ere God Had Built the Mountains
  9. Far from the World, O Lord, I Flee
  10. Fierce Passions Discompose the Mind
  11. Glory Gilds the Sacred Page, A
  12. God Gives His Mercies to Be Spent
  13. God Moves in a Mysterious Way
  14. God of My Life, to Thee I Call
  15. Grace, Triumphant in the Throne
  16. Gracious Lord, Our Children See
  17. Hark, My Soul, It Is the Lord!
  18. Heal Us, Emmanuel
  19. Hear What God the Lord Hath Spoken
  20. His Master Taken from His Head
  21. Holy Lord God! I Love Thy Truth
  22. Honor and Happiness Unite
  23. How Blest Thy Creature Is, O God
  24. I Was a Groveling Creature Once
  25. I Will Praise Thee Every Day
  26. Israel in Ancient Days
  27. Jesus, Where’er Thy People Meet
  28. Jesus, Whose Blood So Freely Streamed
  29. Lord, My Soul with Pleasure Springs
  30. Lord Proclaims His Grace Abroad, The
  31. Lord Receives His Highest Praise, The
  32. Lord, Who Hast Suffered All for Me
  33. Lord Will Happiness Divine, The
  34. My God! How Perfect Are Thy Ways!
  35. My God! Till I Received Thy Stroke
  36. My Song Shall Bless the Lord of All
  37. My Soul Is Sad and Much Dismayed
  38. Newborn Child of Gospel Grace, The
  39. No Strength of Nature Can Suffice
  40. O for a Closer Walk with God
  41. O God, Whose Favorable Eye
  42. O How I Love Thy Holy Word
  43. O Lord, My Best Desire Fulfill
  44. Of All the Gifts Thine Hand Bestows
  45. Saints Should Never Be Dismayed, The
  46. Savior Hides His Face!, The
  47. Savior! What a Noble Flame, The
  48. Sin Enslaved Me Many Years
  49. Sin Has Undone Our Wretched Race
  50. Sometimes a Light Surprises
  51. There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood
  52. This Is the Feast of Heav’nly Wine
  53. Thy Mansion Is the Christian’s Heart
  54. ’Tis My Happiness Below
  55. To Jesus, the Crown of My Hope
  56. To Keep the Lamp Alive
  57. To Tell the Savior All My Wants
  58. To Those Who Know the Lord I Speak
  59. Too Many, Lord, Abuse Thy Grace
  60. What Thousands Never Knew the Road!
  61. What Various Hindrances We Meet
  62. When Darkness Long Has Veiled My Mind
  63. When Hagar Found the Bottle Spent
  64. Winter Has a Joy for Me
  65. Write to Sardis, Saith the Lord
  66. Ye Sons of Earth Prepare the Plough
  1. My Lord, How Full of Sweet Content