Saturday, 28 March 2015

"Hark, my soul! it is the Lord" - William Cowper, 1731-1800

WILLIAM COWPER is regarded as the greatest English poet who has contributed any considerable number of hymns to the wealth of our English hymnody. His life was one of great suffering and was tragic to a high degree. His early school life was extremely unhappy. Later, while studying law, he fell in love with Theodora Cowper, who was his own cousin. His devotion to her he expressed in several love poems. But to Cowper's great sorrow their marriage was forbidden by her father. The disease of melancholia fastened itself upon his mind, and his sufferings became most acute. 

Though he recovered, his life was beclouded throughout by his mental depression, and he occasionally lapsed into the most desperate forms of melancholy. 

Despite his great affliction, he wrote many of our most beloved hymns. His association with John Newton stimulated his interest in hymn-writing, even though it may not have added much wholesome cheer to his darkened soul. The hymn "Hark, my soul! it is the Lord" is perhaps the tenderest that fell from his pen. The last verse expresses simply, but exquisitely, the anxieties and yearnings of his spiritual life: 

Lord, it is my chief complaint 
That my love is weak and faint; 
Yet I love Thee and adore : 
Oh for grace to love Thee more! 


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