William Cowper

William CowperIn existographies, William Cowper (1731-1800) (IQ:160|#418) (Cattell 1000:463) was an English poet noted, in human chemistry, for his 1783 Empedocles-style chemical aphorism like poem “On Friendship”, in which he compares the politics that arise from the mixing of courtiers and patriots to the effervescence that arises when salt and lemon juice are mixed, comments that the true friendship might be something akin to the chemist’s attempt to make gold, compares certain friendships to simmering copper, and intermixes this with discussion on the role of religion.

On Friendship
The following is Cowper’s 1783 “On Friendship” poem:

“Amicitia niri inter bonoe cite non potent” [Friendship can not be defined between good cite]
Cicero

What virtue can we name, or grace,
But men unqualified and base
Will boast it their possession!
Profusion apes the noble part
Of liberality of heart,
And dullness of discretion.

But as the gem of richest cost
Is ever counterfeited most,
So, always, imitation
Employs the utmost skill she can
To counterfeit the faithful man,
The friend of long duration.

Some will pronounce me too severe,
But long experience speaks me clear;
Therefore that censure scorning,
I will proceed to mark the shelves
On which so many dash themselves,
And give the simple warning.

Youth, unadmonish'd by a guide,
Will trust to any fair outside,—
An error soon corrected;
For who but learns with riper years,
That man, when smoothest he appears,
Is most to be suspected?

But here again a danger lies,
Lest, thus deluded by our eyes,
And taking trash for treasure,
We should, when undeceived, conclude
Friendship imaginary good,
A mere Utopian pleasure.

An acquisition rather rare
Is yet no subject of despair;
Nor should it seem distressful,
If cither on forbidden ground,
Or where it was not to be found,
Wc sought it unsuccessful.

No friendship will abide the test,
That stands on sordid interest
And mean self-love erected;
Nor such as may awhile subsist
'Twixt sensualist and sensualist,
For vicious ends connected.

Who hopes a friend, should have a heart
Himself well furnish'd for the part,
And ready on occasion
To show the virtue that he seeks;
For 'tis an union that bespeaks
A just reciprocation.

A fretful temper will divide
The closest knot that may be tied,
By ceaseless sharp corrosion:
A temper passionate and fierce
May suddenly your joys disperse
At one immense explosion.

In vain the talkative unite,
With hope of permanent delight;
The secret just committed
They drop through mere desire to prate,
Forgetting its important weight,
And by themselves outwitted.

How bright soe'er the prospect seems,
All thoughts of friendship are but dreams,
If envy chance to creep in;
An envious man, if you succeed,
May prove a dangerous foe indeed,
But not a friend worth keeping.

As envy pines at good possess'd,
So jealousy looks forth distress'd,
On good that seems approaching,
And if success his steps attend,
Discerns a rival in a friend,
And hates him for encroaching.

Hence authors of illustrious name,
(Unless belied by common fame)
Are sadly prone to quarrel;
To deem the wit a friend displays
So much of loss to their own praise,
And pluck each other's laurel.

A man renown'd for repartee
Will seldom scruple to make free
With friendship's finest feeling;
Will thrust a dagger at your breast,
And tell you 'twas a special jest,
By way of balm for healing.

Beware of tattlers; keep your ear
Close stopt against the tales they hear,—
Fruits of their own invention;
The separation of chief friends
Is what their kindness most intends;
Their sport is your dissension.

Friendship that wantonly admits
A joco-serious play of wits
In brilliant altercation,
Is union such as indicates,
Like hand-in-hand insurance plates,
Danger of conflagration.

Some fickle creatures boast a soul
True as the needle to the pole;
Yet shifting, like the weather,
The needle's constancy forego
For any novelty, and show
Its variations rather.

Insensibility makes some
Unseasonably deaf and dumb,
When most you need their pity;
'Tis waiting till the tears shall fall
From Gog and Magog in Guildhall,—
Those playthings of the City.

The great and small but rarely meet
On terms of amity complete:
The attempt would scarce be madder,
Should any, from the bottom, hope
At one huge stride to reach the top
Of an erected ladder.

Courtier and patriot cannot mix
Their heterogeneous polities
Without an effervescence,
Such as of salts with lemon-juice;
But which is rarely known to induce,
Like that, a coalescence.

Religion should extinguish strife,
And make a calm of human life:
But even those who differ
Only on topies left at large.
How fiercely will they meet and charge!
No combatants are stiffer.

To prove, alas! my main intent,
Needs no great cost of argument,
No cutting and contriving;
Seeking a real friend, we seem
To adopt the chymist's golden dream
With still less hope of thriving.

Then judge, or ere you chuse your man,
As circumspectly as you can,
And, having made election,
See that no disrespect of yours,
Such as a friend but ill endures,
Enfeeble his affection.

It is not timber, lead and stone,
An architect requires alone,
To finish a great building;
The palace were but half complete,
Could he by any chance forget
The carving and the gilding.

As similarity of mind,
Or something not to be defined,
First rivets our attention;
So, manners, decent and polite,
The same we practised at first sight,
Must save it from declension.

The man who hails you Tom or Jack,
And proves by thumping on your back,
His sense of your great merit,
Is such a friend, that one had need
Be very much his friend indeed,
To pardon or to bear it.

Some friends make this their prudent plan—
"Say little, and hear all you can;"
Safe policy, but hateful:
So barren sands imbibe the shower,
But render neither fruit nor flower,
Unpleasant and ungrateful.

They whisper trivial things, and small;
But, to communicate at all
Things serious, deem improper;
Their feculence and froth they show,
But keep the best contents below,
Just like a simmering copper.

These samples (for alas! at last
These are but samples, and a taste
Of evils yet unmention'd;)
May prove the task, a task indeed,
In which 'tis much, if we succeed,
However well-intention'd.

Pursue the theme, and you shall find
A disciplined and furnish'd mind
To be at least expedient,
And, after summing all the rest,
Religion ruling in the breast
A principal ingredient.

True friendship has, in short, a grace
More than terrestrial in its face,
That proves it heaven-descended;
Man's love of woman not so pure,
Nor, when sincerest, so secure
To last till life is ended.

(add discussion)

Other
In 1894, American poet John Spollon, in his article-poem “Among the Bards”, cites the following section on Cowper’s chemical poetry:
Cowper (section 20)
which has the alternative translation variations of:
Cowper (section 20) variations

and goes on to elaborate on this platform that the mixing of republicans and democrats as being akin to action of an antacid in water. [2]

Quotes | On

The following are quotes on Cowper:

“Much of Lincoln’s unhappiness, the melancholy that ‘dripped from him as he walked’, was due to his want of religious faith. When the black fit was on him, he suffered as much mental misery as Bunyan or Cowper in the deepest anguish of their conflicts with the evil one.”
— Ward Lamon (1872), Life of Lincoln [3]

See also
Johann Goethe
Mala Radhakrishnan

References
1. Cowper, William. (1782). “On Friendship”, in: The Life and Posthumous Writings of William Cowper (editor: William Hayley) (pg. 219). J. Seagrave, 1803; in: The Poetical Works of William Cowper (editor: H.F. Cary) (pgs. 116-17). William Smith, 1839.
2. Spollon, John. (1894). “Among the Bards”, Truth, and Opinion, Supplement to Fibre and Fabric: A Record of American Textile Industries in the Cotton and Woolen Trade, 20(509):1113, Dec 1.
3. (a) Lamon, Ward. (1872). Life of Lincoln (pg. 486). Publisher.
(b) Jacoby, Susan. (2004). Freethinkers: a History of American Secularism (pg. 115). Henry Holt and Co.

External links
William Cowper – Wikipedia.

TDics icon ns

More pages