William Cowper

(26 November 1731 – 25 April 1800 / Hertfordshire)

The Cock-Fighter's Garland - Poem by William Cowper

Muse -- hide his name of whom I sing,
Lest his surviving house thou bring
For his sake into scorn,
Nor speak the school from which he drew,
The much or little that he knew,
Nor place where he was born.

That such a man once was, may seem
Worthy of record, (if the theme
Perchance may credit win,)
For proof to man, what man may prove,
If grace depart, and demons move
The source of guilt within.

This man (for since the howling wild
Disclaims him, man he must be styled)
Wanted no good below;
Gentle he was, if gentle birth
Could make him such; and he had worth,
If wealth can worth bestow.

In social talk and ready jest
He shone superior at the feast,
And qualities of mind
Illustrious in the eyes of those
Whose gay society he chose
Possessed of every kind.

Methinks I see him powdered red,
With bushy locks his well-dressed head
Winged broad on either side,
The mossy rose-bud not so sweet;
His steeds superb, his carriage neat
As luxury could provide.

Can such be cruel? Such can be
Cruel as hell, and so was he;
A tyrant entertained
With barbarous sports, whose fell delight
Was to encourage mortal fight
'Twixt birds to battle trained.

One feathered champion he possessed,
His darling far beyond the rest,
Which never knew disgrace,
Nor e'er had fought, but he made flow
The life-blood of his fiercest foe,
The Caesar of his race.

It chanced, at last, when, on a day,
He pushed him to the desperate fray,
His courage drooped, he fled.
The master stormed, the prize was lost,
And, instant, frantic at the cost,
He doomed his favourite dead.

He seized him fast, and from the pit
Flew to the kitchen, snatched the spit,
And, bring me cord, he cried;
The cord was brought, and, at his word,
To that dire implement the bird
Alive and struggling, tied.

The horrid sequel asks a veil,
And all the terrors of the tale
That can be, shall be, sunk.--
Led by the sufferer's screams aright,
His shocked companions view the sight.
And him with fury drunk.

All, suppliant, beg a milder fate
For the old warrior at the grate;
He, deaf to pity's call,
Whirled round him rapid as a wheel
His culinary club of steel,
Death menacing on all.

But vengeance hung not far remote,
For while he stretched his clamorous throat
And heaven and earth defied,
Big with a curse too closely pent,
That struggled vainly for a vent,
He tottered, reeled, and died.

'Tis not for us, with rash surmise,
To point the judgements of the skies;
But judgements plain as this,
That, sent for a man's instruction, bring
A written label on their wing
'Tis hard to read amiss.


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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, April 13, 2010



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