Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
England: Vols. I–IV. 1876–79.



By 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

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

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

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

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

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,

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,

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.