chapter  4
2 Pages

Madness and reprobation

Cowper's elation over his brother's deathbed conversion did not last. Despite, or perhaps because of, his hymn-writing, he began more and more to question his spiritual condition. His letters record his swings of mood. For instance he wrote to his Evangelical aunt Judith Madan on 9 June 1772 telling her of days when the wilderness of 'mountains hard to ascend, deep and dark valleys, wild forests, caves, and dens in abundance' which is our earthly life was transformed into 'a romantic scene' and he delightedly heard God calling to him in the words of the Song of Solomon (4:8), 'Come to me, my spouse, come from the Lebanon, from the top of Amana, from the lions' dens, from the mountains and the leopards'; but the word 'romantic', with its overtones of illusion, is unsettling in this context, particularly as Cowper tells in the very same letter of other days sunk in idle despondency, which he saw as an affliction sent by God to punish his lack of religious zeal: 'A seaman terrified at a storm who creeps down into the hold, when he should be busy amongst the tackling aloft, is just my picture' (Letters I, 253-4).