Welcome back to the Richmond Read-along! Today we’re reading a poem by William Cowper (pronounced “Cooper.”) Cowper was a devout Christian, and his humanitarian beliefs had great influence, particularly in contrast to the Evangelicalism of his time – Cowper strongly supported the abolition of slavery. He expressed his religious fervour through the composition of many hymns, for which he is still remembered, but it was his poetry that was most influential.

In contrast to the poets before him, Cowper saw the ordinary and everyday as worth writing poetry about. His verses celebrating nature, ruralism and leisure were the forerunners of the Romantics and poets like Burns. His poems also often contained a thread of melancholy and despair that mirrored his struggles to cope with life. He wrote poems about clocks, sofas, gardens, and today’s poem:

The Snail

To grass, or leaf, or fruit, or wall,
The snail sticks close, nor fears to fall,
As if he grew there, house and all

Within that house secure he hides,
When danger imminent betides
Of storm, or other harm besides
Of weather.

Give but his horns the slightest touch,
His self-collecting power is such,
He shrinks into his house, with much

Where’er he dwells, he dwells alone,
Except himself has chattels none,
Well satisfied to be his own
Whole treasure.

Thus, hermit-like, his life he leads,
Nor partner of his banquet needs,
And if he meets one, only feeds
The faster.

Who seeks him must be worse than blind,
(He and his house are so combined,)
If, finding it, he fails to find
Its master.

You can find this poem on Project Gutenberg. Members of Richmond upon Thames Borough Libraries can read more about Cowper in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography online.

Join us tomorrow for the next Richmond Read-along!