William Cowper


[Written in the autumn of 1793. Published by Hayley, 1803.
      There is a MS. copy in the Cowper Museum at Olney, from
      which the tenth verse was first printed by T. Wright in 1900.]

THE twentieth year is well-nigh past
Since first our sky was overcast;
Ah, would that this might be the last!
                                My Mary!

Thy spirits have a fainter flow,
I see thee daily weaker grow—
'Twas my distress that brought thee low,
                                My Mary!

Thy needles, once a shining store,
For my sake restless heretofore,
Now rust disus'd, and shine no more,
                                My Mary!

For though thou gladly wouldst fulfil
The same kind office for me still,
Thy sight now seconds not thy will,
                                My Mary!

But well thou play'd'st the housewife's part,
And all thy threads with magic art
Have wound themselves about this heart,
                                My Mary!

Thy indistinct expressions seem
Like language utter'd in a dream;
Yet me they charm, whate'er the theme,
                                My Mary!

Thy silver locks, once auburn bright,
Are still more lovely in my sight
Than golden beams of orient light,
                                My Mary!

For could I view nor them nor thee,
What sight worth seeing could I see?
The sun would rise in vain for me,
                                My Mary!

Partakers of thy sad decline,
Thy hands their little force resign;
Yet, gently prest, press gently mine,
                                My Mary!

And then I feel that still I hold
A richer store ten thousandfold
Than misers fancy in their gold,
                                My Mary!

Such feebleness of limbs thou prov'st,
That now at every step thou mov'st
Upheld by two; yet still thou lov'st,
                                My Mary!

And still to love, though prest with ill,
In wintry age to feel no chill,
With me is to be lovely still,
                                My Mary!

But ah! by constant heed I know,
How oft the sadness that I show
Transforms thy smiles to looks of woe,
                                My Mary!

And should my future lot be cast
With much resemblance of the past,
Thy worn-out heart will break at last—
                                My Mary!








The Complete Poetical Works of William Cowper.
H. S. Milford, ed.
London: Henry Frowde, 1905. 427-8.


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