"The stamp of artless piety impress'd / By kind tuition on his yielding breast"

— Cowper, William (1731-1800)

Place of Publication
Printed for J. Johnson
"The stamp of artless piety impress'd / By kind tuition on his yielding breast"
Metaphor in Context
In early days the conscience has in most
A quickness, which in later life is lost,
Preserved from guilt by salutary fears,
Or, guilty, soon relenting into tears.
Too careless often as our years proceed,
What friends we sort with, or what books we read,
Our parents yet exert a prudent care
To feed our infant minds with proper fare,
And wisely store the nursery by degrees
With wholesome learning, yet acquired with ease.
Neatly secured from being soiled or torn
Beneath a pane of thin translucent horn,
A book (to please us at a tender age
'Tis call'd a book, though but a single page,)
Presents the prayer the Saviour deign'd to teach,
Which children use, and parsons--when they preach.
Lisping our syllables, we scramble next,
Through moral narrative, or sacred text,
And learn with wonder how this world began,
Who made, who marr'd, and who has ransom'd man:
Points, which unless the Scripture made them plain,
The wisest heads might agitate in vain.
Oh thou, whom borne on fancy's eager wing
Back to the season of life's happy spring,
I pleased remember, and while memory yet
Holds fast her office here, can ne'er forget,
Ingenious dreamer, in whose well-told tale
Sweet fiction and sweet truth alike prevail,
Whose humorous vein, strong sense, and simple style,
May teach the gayest, make the gravest smile,
Witty, and well employed, and like thy Lord
Speaking in parables his slighted word,--
I name thee not, lest so despised a name
Should move a sneer at thy deserved fame,
Yet even in transitory life's late day
That mingles all my brown with sober gray,
Revere the man, whose Pilgrim marks the road
And guides the Progress of the soul to God.
'Twere well with most, if books that could engage
Their childhood, pleased them at a riper age;
The man approving what had charm'd the boy,
Would die at last in comfort, peace, and joy,
And not with curses on his art who stole
The gem of truth from his unguarded soul.
The stamp of artless piety impress'd
By kind tuition on his yielding breast,

The youth now bearded, and yet pert and raw,
Regards with scorn, though once received with awe,
And warp'd into the labyrinth of lies
That babblers, called philosophers, devise,
Blasphemes his creed as founded on a plan
Replete with dreams, unworthy of a man.
Touch but his nature in its ailing part,
Assert the native evil of his heart,
His pride resents the charge, although the proof
Rise in his forehead, and seem rank enough;
Point to the cure, describe a Saviour's cross
As God's expedient to retrieve his loss,
The young apostate sickens at the view,
And hates it with the malice of a Jew.
(ll. 109-168, pp. 263-5)
Searching "stamp" and "soul" in HDIS (Poetry)
At least 6 entries in the ESTC (1786, 1787, 1788, 1790, 1791, 1792, 1793, 1794, 1795, 1798, 1799, 1800).

See Poems, by William Cowper, of the Inner Temple, Esq. Volume the Second. Containing the Task. An Epistle to Joseph Hill, Esq. Tirocinium, or a Review of Schools. And the History of John Gilpin. 2nd ed. (London: Printed for J. Johnson, No. 72, St. Paul’s Church-Yard, 1786). <Link to ESTC>

Reading The Poems of William Cowper, eds. John D. Baird and Charles Ryskamp (Oxford: Oxford UP: 1980), vol. 2 of 3.
Date of Entry

The Mind is a Metaphor is authored by Brad Pasanek, Assistant Professor of English, University of Virginia.