Extract from William Cowper: The Task

[relevant to Sermon No. 4, Endnote 6]

William Cowper 2


The Winter walk at noon


Man praises man.  Desert in arts or arms
Wins public honour; and ten thousand sit
Patiently present at a sacred song,
Commemoration-mad; content to hear
(Oh wonderful effect of music's power!)
Messiah's eulogy, for Handel's sake.
But less, methinks, than sacrilege might serve–
(For was it less?  What heathen would have dared
To strip Jove's statue of his oaken wreath
And hang it up in honour of a man?)
Much less might serve, when all that we design
Is but to gratify an itching ear,
And give the day to a musician's praise.
Remember Handel! who, that was not born
Deaf as the dead to harmony, forgets,
Or can, the more than Homer of his age?
Yes – we remember him; and, while we praise
A talent so divine, remember too
That His most holy Book from whom it came
Was never meant, was never used before
To buckram out the memory of a man.
But hush! the muse perhaps is too severe,
And with a gravity beyond the size
And measure of the offence, rebukes a deed
Less impious than absurd, and owing more
To want of judgment than to wrong design.

Marylynn Rouse, 22/12/2015