To The Nightingale, Which The Author Heard Sing On New Year's Day

written by William Cowper

To The Nightingale, Which The Author Heard Sing On New Year's Day

— William Cowper

Whence it is, that amazed I hear
From yonder withered spray,
This foremost morn of all the year,
The melody of May?

And why, since thousands would be proud
Of such a favour shown,
Am I selected from the crowd
To witness it alone?

Sing'st thou, sweet Philomel, to me,
For that I also long
Have practised in the groves like thee,
Though not like thee in song?

Or sing'st thou rather under force
Of some divine command,
Commissioned to presage a course
Of happier days at hand?

Thrice welcome then! for many a long
And joyless year have I,
As thou to-day, put forth my song
Beneath a wintry sky.

But Thee no wintry skies can harm,
Who only need'st to sing,
To make even January charm,
And every season Spring.

About the poet


William Cowper

an English poet and hymnodist. One of the most popular poets of his time, Cowper changed the direction of 18th century nature poetry by writing of everyday life and scenes of the English countryside. In many ways, he was one of the forerunners of Romantic poetry. Samuel Taylor Coleridge called him "the best modern poet", whilst William Wordsworth particularly admired his poem Yardley-Oak. He was a nephew of the poet Judith Madan. While Cowper found refuge in a fervent evangelical Christianity, the inspiration behind his much-loved hymns, he often experienced doubt and feared that he was doomed to eternal damnation. His religious sentiment and association with John Newton (who wrote the hymn "Amazing Grace") led to much of the poetry...

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