Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. III. Addison to Blake
Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. III. The Eighteenth Century: Addison to Blake
Extracts from Conversation: An Afternoon Call
By William Cowper (1731–1800)
  THE CIRCLE formed, we sit in silent state,
Like figures drawn upon a dial-plate;
‘Yes, Ma’am,’ and ‘No, Ma’am,’ uttered softly, show
Every five minutes how the minutes go;
Each individual, suffering a constraint,        5
Poetry may, but colours cannot paint,
As if in close committee on the sky,
Reports it hot or cold, or wet or dry;
And finds a changing clime a happy source
Of wise reflection, and well-timed discourse.        10
We next inquire, but softly and by stealth,
Like conservators of the public health,
Of epidemic throats, if such there are,
And coughs, and rheums, and phthisic, and catarrh.
That theme exhausted, a wide chasm ensues,        15
Filled up at last with interesting news,
Who danced with whom, and who are like to wed,
And who is hanged, and who is brought to bed;
But fear to call a more important cause,
As if ’twere treason against English laws.        20
The visit paid, with ecstasy we come,
As from a seven years’ transportation, home,
And there resume an unembarrassed brow,
Recovering what we lost we know not how,
The faculties that seemed reduced to nought,        25
Expression and the privilege of thought.

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