1] This, the last of Cowper's original poems, is based on a passage in Anson's Voyage Round the World, 1740-44 (1748), chapter VIII: "But in less than twenty-four hours we were attacked by another storm still more furious than the former; for it proved a perfect hurricane, and reduced us to the necessity of lying-to under bare poles .... And as we dared not venture any sail abroad, we were obliged to make use of an expedient, which answered our purpose: this was putting the helm a-weather, and manning the foreshrouds. But though this method proved successful for the end intended, yet in the execution of it, one of our ablest seamen was canted overboard; and notwithstanding the prodigious agitation of the waves, we perceived that he swam very strong, and it was with the utmost concern that we found ourselves incapable of assisting him, and we the more grieved at his unhappy fate, since we lost sight of him struggling with the waves, and conceived from the manner in which he swam, that he might continue sensible, for a considerable time longer, of the horror attending his irretrievable situation."
7-8] Lord George Anson (1697-1762), commander of an expedition against the Spanish ports in the Pacific, sailed around the world 1740-44.
60] Cowper is quoted as saying (in 1773): "My sin and judgment are alike peculiar. I am a castaway, deserted and condemned." He was haunted by a conviction that he was predestined to damnation.
61] There is an allusion to the stilling of the storm narrated in Matthew 8: 23-6.
Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department
of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.
Original text: William Hayley, Life and Posthumous Writings of William Cowper (Chichester: J. Seagrave; for J. Johnson, London, 1803-04) E-10 3766 Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto).
First publication date: 1803
RPO poem editor: G. G. Falle
RP edition: 3RP 2.262.
Recent editing: 4:2002/2/10
Other poems by William Cowper