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THE MORALITIES OF PUBLIC SCHOOLS.

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Here are verses from which Wordsworth might have drawn his lines :

“The primal duties shine aloft like stars;

The charities that soothe, and heal, and bless,
Are scatter'd at the feet of man like flowers."

But the distinction between the two passages is that between the two poets-the one comparatively artificial and elaborately philosophic, even though full of nature and feeling; the other the poet of rural simplicity, of piety, of Scripture truth, strong, homely, natural thought, deep feeling, and common sense. Both are great poets; but no passage can be turned into prose from Wordsworth's pages that shall exhibit such a compact argument of plain, intelligible, strong thought, with a mighty and solemn conclusion, befitting and crowning its grandeur, as is to be found in the three opening paragraphs of Cowper's “ Tirocinium, or a Review of Schools.”

Southey speaks of the destructive influence of a public education upon those devotional habits which in a sweet Christian household may have been learned at home; and he says that nothing which is not intentionally profane can be more irreligious than the forms of religion which are observed at such a school as that at Westminster; and that the attendance of schoolboys in a pack at public worship is worse than perfunctory. Yet the master at Westminster in Cowper's time, as named in the Valediction, was Dr Nichols, apparently a conscientious man; and Cowper afterward remarked upon the pains he took to prepare the boys for confirmation, acquitting himself like one who had a deep sense of the importance of his work. Then, for the first time, Cowper says he attempted

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THE MORALITIES OF PUBLIC SCHOOLS.

This

to pray in secret ; but being little accustomed to that
exercise of the heart, and having very childish notions of
religion, he found it a difficult and painful task, and was
even then frightened at his own insensibility.
difficulty," says he, “though it did not subdue my good
purposes till the ceremony of confirmation was passed,
soon after entirely conquered them. I relapsed into a
total forgetfulness of God, with all the disadvantages of
being the more hardened for being softened to no purpose.”
Oh, if there could have been at this time some kind,
affectionate Christian teacher and friend, to lead the
awakened, trembling, thoughtful boy to the Saviour, what
years

of
agony

and darkness might not have been prevented !

At Westminster, Cowper was in high favour with his master, from whom he received rewards for his poetical Latin exercises, and among the boys he excelled at football and cricket. Neither in mind nor body, therefore, was he idle ; and from one of his later letters in the review of this early period, we learn that while at Westminster he was cured of that alarming disorder in the eyes, for which he had been two years in the house of a renowned oculist, but to no good purpose. From thence, he says,

he went to Westminster School, where, at the age of fourteen, the small-pox seized him, and proved the better oculist of the two, for it delivered him from all the inflammations to which he had been subject. He has also informed us that at the age of fourteen he first tried his hand at English verse, in a translation of one of the elegies of Tibullus. From that time, Hayley says, he had reason to believe that Cowper frequently applied himself

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THE MORALITIES OF PUBLIC SCHOOLS.

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to poetical efforts; but the earliest preserved on record is the piece on finding the heel of a shoe, which he wrote at Bath in 1748, about a year before he left Westminster. It was in blank verse, and may be regarded as shadowing forth, through an interval of near forty years, some of the admirable native characteristics of the future poet of “The Task.”

At the age of eighteen, Cowper himself says that he left Westminster, a good grammarian, but as ignorant of religion as the satchel at his back. He then spent nine months at home, and after some anxious deliberation, which such a step must have cost him, the profession of the law was fixed upon as the path of his future life, and he was articled with Mr Chapman, an attorney, for three years.

It was a choice most unsuited to his mental constitution, and his tastes and habits ; and had it not been so, the poetical development of his genius must have been prevented by the absorption of his whole being in legal studies and pursuits. A genuine poet would have been sacrificed for the very common growth of an indifferent lawyer; for by no possibility could Cowper ever have risen to eminence in that profession: at the uttermost he would but amiably have adorned the gift of some friendly professional sinecure.

In the attorney's office, Cowper had for a fellow-clerk the celebrated Thurlow, afterward Lord-Chancellor. At a later period, Cowper wrote to Lady Hesketh, in reference to the tenour of his life in that three years' probation of it, that he and Thurlow were employed “from morning till night in giggling and making giggle,” instead of studying law. In his own memoir of himself he says that he might

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LAW STUDIES IN THE MIDDLE TEMPLE.

have lived and died without seeing or hearing anything that might remind him of one single Christian duty, had it not been that he was at liberty to spend his leisure time (which, he says, was wellnigh all my time) at his aunt's in Southampton Row.

"By this means I had opportunity of seeing the inside of a church, whither I went with the family on Sundays, and which, probably, I should otherwise never have seen."

Cowper was twenty-one years of age when he left the attorney's office, and took rooms in the Middle Temple to continue his studies, in a manner, as he says, complete master of himself. And here commences the profoundly interesting and instructive account by himself of the development of his own character, and the change of his own being from carelessness to despondency, and from despondency to despair, madness, and attempted suicide; from suicide, frustrated by the providential mercy of God, he advanced to the deepest conviction of guilt, with an apprehension of the divine vengeance, carried for months almost to the extreme of despair; from that time he was brought, by the wonderful grace of God, to a simple, humble faith in the Lord Jesus, a clear, joyful, experimental understanding and appreciation of the conditions of salvation through his blood, and a profound peace and happiness in believing

At his residence in the Temple began the first experience of that terrible despondency of soul, which at length grew into an enshrouding mental and physical disease, broken only by the grave. Day and night he describes himself under this dejection of spirits, as being upon the rack, lying down in horror, and rising up in despair. He

GLOOM AND GAIETY.

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lost all relish even for his classical studies ; and, singularly enough, the only book in which he took any delight was a volume of Herbert's poems, which he then first met with, and pored over him all day long. After nearly a year spent in this wretched disquietude, without any relief, he at length betook himself to prayer, that is, he composed what he calls a set of prayers, and made frequent use of them.

About the same time, spending several months with friends at Southampton, the cloud of insupportable gloom was very suddenly and unexpectedly removed from his soul while gazing at the lovely scenery. The deliverance thus experienced, which at first he ascribed to God's merciful answer to his prayers, he soon concluded to have been owing to nothing but a change of season and the amusing varieties of the place; and he consequently argued that nothing but a continued circle of diversions and indulgence of appetite could secure him from a relapse. Acting on this principle, as soon as he returned to London he burned his prayers, and he says, that inasmuch as they had been a mere prepared form, away with them went all his thoughts of devotion, and of dependence upon God his Saviour.

Twelve years were spent in this manner, with companions and associates who, like himself, were in his own description) professed Christians, or else professed infidels, in what Cowper calls an uninterrupted course of sinful indulgence. It is not necessary to exaggerate the meaning of this expression to all the intensity it would bear; on the contrary, this would be false and unjust. To the awakened conscience, and the smitten heart, beneath the sense of God's holiness, the uninterrupted pursuit of worldly en

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