Inspiration Beyond Depression
Esteemed poet, brilliant hymn writer and devoted friend, William Cowper suffered from depression. This mental illness clearly took away some of the joy of living from a devout Christian believer. Today, over 200 years after his death, Cowper’s lyrics continue to inspire.
Consider this tribute to Cowper by the great Romantic poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
By Elizabeth Barrett Browning
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 can languish:
Earth surely now may give her calm to whom she gave her anguish.
from a maniac's tongue
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.
quiet sadness and no gloom
With quiet sadness and no gloom, I learn to think upon him,
With meekness that is gratefulness to God whose Heaven hath won him,
Who suffered once the madness-cloud to His own 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 kept his within its number,
And silent shadows from the trees refreshed him like a slumber.
wild timid hares
Wild timid hares were drawn from woods to share his home-caresses,
Uplooking to his human eyes with sylvan tendernesses,
The very world, by God’s constraining, from falsehood’s ways removing,
Its women and its men became, beside him, true and loving.
And though, in blindness, he remained unconscious of that guiding,
And things provided came without the sweet sense of providing,
He testified this solemn truth, while phrensy desolated—
Nor man nor nature satisfied whom only God