James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

April 25

Cowper’s Grave

By Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806–1861)

  • (Died April 25, 1800)
  • I will invite thee, from thy envious hearse
  • To rise and ’bout the world thy beams to spread,
  • That we may see there’s brightness in the dead.
  • —Harrington.

  • IT is a place where poets crowned

    May feel the heart’s decaying—

    It is a place where happy saints

    May weep amid their praying;

    Yet let the grief and humbleness,

    As low as silence, languish—

    Earth surely now may give her calm

    To whom she gave her anguish.

    O poets! from a maniac’s tongue

    Was poured the deathless singing!

    O Christians! at your cross of hope

    A hopeless hand was clinging!

    O men! this man, in brotherhood,

    Your weary paths beguiling,

    Groaned inly while he taught you peace,

    And died while ye were smiling!

    And now, what time ye all may read

    Through dimming tears his story—

    How discord on the music fell,

    And darkness on the glory—

    And how, when one by one, sweet sounds

    And wandering lights departed,

    He wore no less a loving face,

    Because so broken-hearted—

    He shall be strong to sanctify

    The poet’s high vocation,

    And bow the meekest Christian down

    In meeker adoration;

    Nor ever shall he be in praise

    By wise or good forsaken—

    Named softly, as the household name

    Of one whom God hath taken!

    With sadness that is calm, not gloom,

    I learn to think upon him;

    With meekness that is gratefulness,

    On God whose heaven hath won him—

    Who suffered once the madness-cloud

    Toward his love to blind him;

    But gently led the blind along

    Where breath and bird could find him;

    And wrought within his shattered brain

    Such quick poetic senses

    As hills have language for, and stars

    Harmonious influences!

    The pulse of dew upon the grass,

    His own did calmly number;

    And silent shadow from the trees

    Fell o’er him like a slumber.

    The very world, by God’s constraint,

    From falsehood’s chill removing,

    Its women and its men became,

    Beside him, true and loving!—

    And timid hares were drawn from woods

    To share his home-caresses,

    Uplooking to his human eyes

    With sylvan tendernesses.

    But while in blindness he remained

    Unconscious of the guiding,

    And things provided came without

    The sweet sense of providing,

    He testified this solemn truth,

    Though frenzy desolated—

    Nor man nor nature satisfy,

    When only God created!

    Like a sick child that knoweth not

    His mother while she blesses,

    And droppeth on his burning brow

    The coolness of her kisses;

    That turns his fevered eyes around—

    “My mother! where’s my mother?”—

    As if such tender words and looks

    Could come from any other—

    The fever gone, with leaps of heart

    He sees her bending o’er him;

    Her face all pale from watchful love,

    Th’ unweary love she bore him!

    Thus woke the poet from the dream

    His life’s long fever gave him,

    Beneath these deep pathetic eyes

    Which closed in death to save him!

    Thus! O, not thus! no type of earth

    Could image that awaking,

    Wherein he scarcely heard the chant

    Of seraphs, round him breaking—

    Or felt the new immortal throb

    Of soul from body parted;

    But felt those eyes alone, and knew

    “My Saviour! not deserted!”

    Deserted! who hath dreamt that when

    The cross in darkness rested,

    Upon the victim’s hidden face

    No love was manifested?

    What frantic hands outstretched have e’er

    Th’ atoning drops averted—

    What tears have washed them from the soul—

    That one should be deserted?

    Deserted! God could separate

    From His own essence rather;

    And Adam’s sins have swept between

    The righteous Son and Father—

    Yea! once, Immanuel’s orphaned cry

    His universe hath shaken—

    It went up single, echoless,

    “My God, I am forsaken!”

    It went up from the Holy lips

    Amid His lost creation,

    That of the lost no son should use

    Those words of desolation;

    That earth’s worst frenzies, marring hope,

    Should mar not hope’s fruition;

    And I, on Cowper’s grave, should see

    His rapture, in a vision!