Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > England
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
England: Vols. I–IV.  1876–79.
 
London
London
William Cowper (1731–1800)
 
(From The Task)

                        RANK abundance breeds,
In gross and pampered cities, sloth and lust
And wantonness and gluttonous excess.
In cities vice is hidden with most ease,
Or seen with least reproach; and virtue, taught        5
By frequent lapse, can hope no triumph there
Beyond the achievements of successful flight.
I do confess them nurseries of the arts,
In which they flourish most; where, in the beams
Of warm encouragement, and in the eye        10
Of public note, they reach their perfect size.
 
  Such London is, by taste and wealth proclaimed
The fairest capital of all the world,
By riot and incontinence the worst.
There, touched by Reynolds, a dull blank becomes        15
A lucid mirror, in which Nature sees
All her reflected features. Bacon there
Gives more than female beauty to a stone,
And Chatham’s eloquence to marble lips.
Nor does the chisel occupy alone        20
The powers of sculpture, but the style as much,
Each province of her art her equal care.
 
  With nice incision of her guided steel
She ploughs a brazen field, and clothes a soil
So sterile with what charms soe’er she will        25
The richest scenery and the loveliest forms.
Where finds Philosophy her eagle eye,
With which she gazes at yon burning disk
Undazzled, and detects and counts his spots?
In London. Where her implements exact,        30
With which she calculates, computes, and scans,
All distance, motion, magnitude, and now
Measures an atom and now girds a world?
In London. Where has commerce such a mart,
So rich, so thronged, so drained, and so supplied,        35
As London,—opulent, enlarged, and still
Increasing London? Babylon of old
Not more the glory of the earth than she,
A more accomplished world’s chief glory now.
 
 
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