LibriVox volunteers bring you 14 recordings of The Flatting-Mill by William Cowper (1731-1800). This was the Fortnightly Poetry project for May 1st – May 15th, 2001.
William Cowper (pronounced “Cooper”) was an English poet and hymnodist. One of the most popular poets of his time, Cowper changed the direction of 18th century nature poetry by writing of everyday life and scenes of the English countryside. In many ways, he was one of the forerunners of Romantic poetry. Samuel Taylor Coleridge called him “the best modern poet”, whilst William Wordsworth particularly admired his poem Yardley-Oak. He was a nephew of the poet Judith Madan. (summary from Wikipedia)
http://www.archive.org/download/flatting_mill_1105_librivox/flattingmill_cowper_rn_64kb.mp3″Running time=1m 58s (mp3@64kb)
WHEN a bar of pure silver or ingot of gold
Is sent to be flatted or wrought into length,
It is pass’d between cylinders often, and roll’d
In an engine of utmost mechanical strength.
Thus tortured and squeezed, at last it appears
Like a loose heap of ribbon, a glittering show,
Like music it tinkles and rings in your ears,
And warm’d by the pressure is all in a glow.
This process achiev’d, it is doom’d to sustain
The thump-after-thump of a gold-beater’s mallet,
And at last is of service in sickness or pain
To cover a pill from a delicate palate.
Alas for the Poet, who dares undertake
To urge reformation of national ill!
His head and his heart are both likely to ache
With the double employment of mallet and mill.
If he wish to instruct, he must learn to delight,
Smooth, ductile, and even, his fancy must flow,
Must tinkle and glitter like gold to the sight,
And catch in its progress a sensible glow.
After all he must beat it as thin and as fine
As the leaf that enfolds what an invalid swallows,
For truth is unwelcome, however divine,
And unless you adorn it, a nausea follows.
This fortnight’s poem can be found here.