"Peace be to those (such peace as earth can give,) / Who live in pleasure, dead even while they live; / Born capable indeed of heavenly truth, / But down to latest age from earliest youth, / Their mind a wilderness through want of care, / The plough of wisdom never entering there."
— Cowper, William (1731-1800)
Who live in pleasure, dead even while they live;
Born capable indeed of heavenly truth,
But down to latest age from earliest youth,
Their mind a wilderness through want of care,
The plough of wisdom never entering there.
Peace (if insensibility may claim
A right to the meek honours of her name,)
To men of pedigree; their noble race,
Emulous always of the nearest place
To any throne, except the throne of grace.
Let cottagers and unenlighten'd swains
Revere the laws they dream that Heaven ordains,
Resort on Sundays to the house of prayer,
And ask, and fancy they find blessings there;
Themselves, perhaps, when weary they retreat
To enjoy cool nature in a country seat,
To exchange the centre of a thousand trades,
For clumps, and lawns, and temples, and cascades,
May now and then their velvet cushions take,
And seem to pray, for good example sake;
Judging, in charity no doubt, the town
Pious enough, and having need of none.
Kind souls! to teach their tenantry to prize
What they themselves, without remorse, despise:
Nor hope have they nor fear of aught to come,
As well for them had prophecy been dumb;
They could have held the conduct they pursue,
Had Paul of Tarsus lived and died a Jew;
And truth, proposed to reasoners wise as they,
Is a pearl cast--completely cast away.
(ll. 229-59, p. 323)
Text from The Works of William Cowper (London: Baldwin and Cradock, 1835-1837).
Reading The Poems of William Cowper, 3 vols. ed. John D. Baird and Charles Ryskamp (Oxford: Oxford UP: 1980), I, pp. 317-336.