chapter  11
4 Pages

The Task: baptized philosophy

Freedom is a key term in The Task. Political freedom ensures that England is still the chief among nations despite all her faults (V, 446-77); rural retirement at a safe distance from the city bestows mental freedom upon the poet (IV, 8-97, 697-700); the beauties of nature are free to all (I, 434, 606; III, 724). These various freedoms are ideals which colour, positively or negatively, the mixture of celebration and denunciation found in this generic mixture of idyllium, didactic poem, and philosophical satire, but, even as ideals, they share the insufficiency of the fallen world in which they operate. Cowper's references to liberty and freedom in Books I-IV and the first five hundred lines of Book V serve only to prepare the way for his introduction of a higher and more certain ideal of freedom.