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Thread: The Castaway by William Cowper

  1. #1
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    Nightingale Island

    The Castaway by William Cowper

    Cowper doesn't receive much credit, so I thought I'd throw this poem your way so that some interest could be generated. It is my understanding that this tale of a shipwreck is an adjacent analysis of Cowper's own mental issues that nearly brought him to ruin. Enjoy.

    Obscurest night involv'd the sky,
    Th' Atlantic billows roar'd,
    When such a destin'd wretch as I,
    Wash'd headlong from on board,
    Of friends, of hope, of all bereft,
    His floating home for ever left.

    No braver chief could Albion boast
    Than he with whom he went,
    Nor ever ship left Albion's coast,
    With warmer wishes sent.
    He lov'd them both, but both in vain,
    Nor him beheld, nor her again.

    Not long beneath the whelming brine,
    Expert to swim, he lay;
    Nor soon he felt his strength decline,
    Or courage die away;
    But wag'd with death a lasting strife,
    Supported by despair of life.

    He shouted: nor his friends had fail'd
    To check the vessel's course,
    But so the furious blast prevail'd,
    That, pitiless perforce,
    They left their outcast mate behind,
    And scudded still before the wind.

    Some succour yet they could afford;
    And, such as storms allow,
    The cask, the coop, the floated cord,
    Delay'd not to bestow.
    But he (they knew) nor ship, nor shore,
    Whate'er they gave, should visit more.

    Nor, cruel as it seem'd, could he
    Their haste himself condemn,
    Aware that flight, in such a sea,
    Alone could rescue them;
    Yet bitter felt it still to die
    Deserted, and his friends so nigh.

    He long survives, who lives an hour
    In ocean, self-upheld;
    And so long he, with unspent pow'r,
    His destiny repell'd;
    And ever, as the minutes flew,
    Entreated help, or cried--Adieu!

    At length, his transient respite past,
    His comrades, who before
    Had heard his voice in ev'ry blast,
    Could catch the sound no more.
    For then, by toil subdued, he drank
    The stifling wave, and then he sank.

    No poet wept him: but the page
    Of narrative sincere;
    That tells his name, his worth, his age,
    Is wet with Anson's tear.
    And tears by bards or heroes shed
    Alike immortalize the dead.

    I therefore purpose not, or dream,
    Descanting on his fate,
    To give the melancholy theme
    A more enduring date:
    But misery still delights to trace
    Its semblance in another's case.

    No voice divine the storm allay'd,
    No light propitious shone;
    When, snatch'd from all effectual aid,
    We perish'd, each alone:
    But I beneath a rougher sea,
    And whelm'd in deeper gulfs than he.

  2. #2
    Pro Libertate L.M. The Third's Avatar
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    Apr 2008
    I dwell in Possibility
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    Interesting you brought this poet up. I read quite a number of his works last summer. I would agree he deserves more credit, but not all his works are equal. (Actually, what poet's are?) What I'm saying is that some of his works, "There Is A Fountain", "God Moves In A Mysterious Way", and "O for a Closer Walk", are fine poetry, but derive some of their longevity from their (entirely rightful) place as beloved hymns. I don't consider him among the very greatest English poets, but more as one of the greatest of English hymnists.

    However, I do consider the following lines something every lover of poetry, and especially every Christian, should take the time to acquaint themselves with - far too beautifully crafted to miss.

    I Was a Stricken Deer

    I was a stricken deer that left the herd
    Long since; with many an arrow deep infixt
    My panting side was charged when I withdrew
    To seek a tranquil death in distant shades.
    There was I found by one who had himself
    Been hurt by th' archers. In his side he bore
    And in his hands and feet the cruel scars.
    With gentle force soliciting the darts
    He drew them forth, and heal'd and bade me live.
    Since then, with few associates, in remote
    And silent woods I wander, far from those
    My former partners of the peopled scene,
    With few associates, and not wishing more.

    And thanks for bringing up the subject - The last lines of them poem you posted were used in the movie "Sense and Sensibility" and now I know where they're from. And I also just found out there were more lines to the poem I posted above, which I thought I had all memorized.

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