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"John Gilpin was a citizen

Of credit and renown,

A train-band captain eke was he

Of famous London town."

From her also he got the start on his most ambitious poem, The Task, the one composition on which Cowper's fame as a poet almost wholly rests. When he asked a subject for a blank-verse poem, Lady Austen replied: "You can write on anything take the sofa." So The Task begins:

"I sing the Sofa. I who lately sang

Truth, Hope, and Charity, and touched with awe
The solemn chords, and with a trembling hand
Escaped with pain from that adventurous flight,
Now seek repose upon an humble theme;
The theme though humble, yet august and proud
The occasion - for the Fair commands the song."

"The Task." Even if it is admitted that The Task has, as Cowper asserts, one "tendency," it cannot be admitted that it has unity. It is perhaps best known by its descriptive passages, such as:

"A cottage, whither oft we since repair:

'Tis perched upon the green hill-top, but close
Environed with a ring of branching elms
That overhang the hatch, itself unseen,
Peeps at the vale below."

There is, however, much reflection, meditation, speculation; and there are occasional bits of humor.

Cowper in many places suggests the sort of conventional phraseology established by Pope; for example, in speaking of Lady Austen regularly as "the Fair," of balloon ascensions as "æthereal journeys," of sheep as the "fleecy tenants " of the sheepfold. In this respect he may be said to be looking backward. In his descriptive, humorous, and reflective

passages, however, he is clearly looking forward and holds an important place among the Romantic predecessors of Wordsworth.

ROBERT BURNS, 1759-1796

Burns a Romanticist.

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If we judge by the character of

his poetry, Burns surely does not belong among the follow


ers of Pope. The heroic couplet finds small place in Burns's verse, though nearly every familiar metre is there represented, and though there are not a few metres of his own. There is no extended satire in Burns; there is nothing of fashionable city life. If we class poets as Romanticists, as some are inclined to, only when their Romanticism is a deliberate choice, Burns is not among them. Whether, with Pope's knowledge of the foibles and frivolities of society,


and with Pope's tendency to make enemies and then punish them, Burns would still have written about mice and daisies and village inns and "cronies" and gentle streams, is a question. It is certain that he had not the equipment to deal with such subjects as Pope dealt with. In effect and influence he is undoubtedly of the school of Wordsworth, Coleridge, and the rest of that glorious company who gave such distinction to the next age.

As regards the man himself, it must be admitted that there are dark moments in Burns's life, for which he himself was chiefly responsible; but nothing is gained by dwelling upon them, either for extenuation or apology. The only reasonable ground for studying a poet's life is as a means to a better understanding of his poetry.

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A Shrine in Ayrshire. Little did William Burns imagine, when he built a two-room clay cottage near Ayr, in southwestern Scotland, that the building would some day be set apart as a shrine. That such a thing has happened is due solely to the fact that his first child, Robert, was born there. The father's fame is secure in the lines of The Cotter's Saturday Night

"The priest-like father reads the sacred page,"

as is that of the household of which he, "the toil-worn cotter," was head.

A Hard Life for a Poet. - There were six children besides Robert, and the family went through a continuous struggle for existence in several different locations in Ayrshire. Having to do farm-work enough for a man, Robert got little education. When the father died in 1784, Robert and a brother undertook to run a hundred-acre farm at Mossgiel, but failed in two years" the first year," according to the poet, "from unfortunately buying bad seed; the second,



from a late harvest." During these two trying years Burns composed much, admittedly under the influence of two Scotch poets, Allan Ramsay and Robert Ferguson. Among the famous poems belonging to the Mossgiel period are To a Mouse, To a Mountain Daisy, and The Cotter's Saturday Night.

First Publication. The publication of Burns's first volume, at Kilmarnock, 1786, was to procure money for a business venture. The poet, finding farming unremunerative,

cam sclerality Wheased with these verses, but as I hav only a chatch by the tune, I have it with now to buy of they suit the measure of the music.

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I am so herrased with fire and analy about this farming project of mine, that my "degenerated into the vericet in rom-cvench that ever fucked, undere, or followe: a unker.

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I am fairly got into the soutine of minnet. I shall souble you with a conger epistle; heshape with come querie sheeting farming: # present, the world outs euch is load en my mind. on the that it has effaced a lineet ever, brace of image of God in


My very best temaliments in good withes to M. Eleghor.

Jam ever,

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Mauchline 31st March 1788


(New York Public Library.)

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