On A Similar Occasion. For The Year 1790.

A poem by William Cowper

Ne commonentem recta sperne.—Buchanan.


Despise not my good counsel.


He who sits from day to day
Where the prison’d lark is hung,
Heedless of his loudest lay,
Hardly knows that he has sung.


Where the watchman in his round
Nightly lifts his voice on high,
None, accustom’d to the sound,
Wakes the sooner for his cry.


So your verse-man I, and clerk,
Yearly in my song proclaim
Death at hand—yourselves his mark—
And the foe’s unerring aim.


Duly at my time I come,
Publishing to all aloud—
Soon the grave must be your home,
And your only suit, a shroud.


But the monitory strain,
Oft repeated in your ears,
Seems to sound too much in vain,
Wins no notice, wakes no fears.


Can a truth, by all confess’d
Of such magnitude and weight,
Grow, by being oft impress’d,
Trivial as a parrot’s prate?


Pleasure’s call attention wins,
Hear it often as we may;
New as ever seem our sins,
Though committed every day.


Death and judgment, heaven and hell—
These alone, so often heard,
No more move us than the bell
When some stranger is interr’d.


O then, ere the turf or tomb
Cover us from every eye,
Spirit of instruction, come,
Make us learn that we must die.

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