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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

The Winter Walk at Noon

By William Cowper (1731–1800)

From ‘The Task’

THE NIGHT was winter in his roughest mood;

The morning sharp and clear. But now at noon

Upon the southern side of the slant hills,

And where the woods fence off the northern blast,

The season smiles, resigning all its rage,

And has the warmth of May. The vault is blue

Without a cloud, and white without a speck

The dazzling splendor of the scene below.

Again the harmony comes o’er the vale;

And through the trees I view the embattled tower

Whence all the music. I again perceive

The soothing influence of the wafted strains,

And settle in soft musings as I tread

The walk, still verdant, under oaks and elms,

Whose outspread branches overarch the glade.

The roof, though movable through all its length,

As the wind sways it, has yet well sufficed;

And intercepting in their silent fall

The frequent flakes, has kept a path for me.

No noise is here, or none that hinders thought.

The redbreast warbles still, but is content

With slender notes, and more than half suppressed:

Pleased with his solitude, and flitting light

From spray to spray, where’er he rests he shakes

From many a twig the pendent drops of ice

That tinkle in the withered leaves below.

Stillness, accompanied with sounds so soft,

Charms more than silence. Meditation here

May think down hours to moments. Here the heart

May give a useful lesson to the head,

And Learning wiser grow without his books.

Knowledge and Wisdom, far from being one,

Have ofttimes no connection. Knowledge dwells

In heads replete with thoughts of other men;

Wisdom in minds attentive to their own.

Knowledge, a rude unprofitable mass,

The mere materials with which Wisdom builds,

Till smoothed and squared, and fitted to its place,

Does but encumber whom it seems to enrich.

Knowledge is proud that he has learned so much;

Wisdom is humble that he knows no more.

Books are not seldom talismans and spells,

By which the magic art of shrewder wits

Holds an unthinking multitude enthralled.

Some to the fascination of a name

Surrender judgment, hoodwinked. Some the style

Infatuates, and through labyrinths and wilds

Of error leads them, by a tune entranced;

While sloth seduces them, too weak to bear

The insupportable fatigue of thought,

And swallowing therefore without pause or choice

The total grist unsifted, husks and all.

But trees and rivulets, whose rapid course

Defies the check of winter, haunts of deer,

And sheep-walks populous with bleating lambs,

And lanes, in which the primrose ere her time

Peeps through the moss that clothes the hawthorn root,

Deceive no student. Wisdom there, and truth,—

Not shy, as in the world, and to be won

By slow solicitation,—seize at once

The roving thought, and fix it on themselves.