poetry, quotes

when I think, I am very apt to do it in rhyme

This quote is from the letters of the poet William Cowper, which I’ve been enjoying reading despite the fact that I’m not very familiar with this poetry. The man writes some good letters, though. So good that I find myself recognizing passages from them, like this one, and realizing that they must have been quoted elsewhere. Here, he is apologizing for his work on account of the season in which he wrote it.

“My labours are principally the production of the last winter; all indeed, except a few of the minor pieces. When I can find no other occupation, I think, and when I think, I am very apt to do it in rhyme. Hence it comes to pass that the season of the year which generally pinches off the flowers of poetry, unfolds mine, such as they are, and crowns me with a winter garland. […] This must be my apology to you for whatever want of fire and animation you may observe in what you will shortly have the perusal of. As to the public, if they like me not, there is no remedy. […] …it would be in vain to tell them, that I wrote my verses in January, for they would immediately reply, ‘Why did not you write them in May?’ A question that might puzzle a wiser head than we poets are generally blessed with.”

– William Cowper, letter XXX, to Joseph Hill, 9 May 1780, from The Centenary Letters, a selection ed. by Simon Malpas, Great Britain, Carcanet: 2000 (40-41)