The mind may slumber sweetly in vice's snares, her "polish'd neck" bent beneath tyranny's "usurp'd command"

— Cowper, William (1731-1800)

Work Title
Place of Publication
Joseph Johnson
The mind may slumber sweetly in vice's snares, her "polish'd neck" bent beneath tyranny's "usurp'd command"
Metaphor in Context
Not only vice disposes and prepares
The mind that slumbers sweetly in her snares
To stoop to tyranny's usurp'd command,
And bend her polish'd neck beneath his hand,

(A dire effect, by one of nature's laws
Unchangeably connected with its cause,)
But Providence himself will intervene
To throw his dark displeasure o'er the scene.
All are his instruments; each form of war,
What burns at home, or threatens from afar,
Nature in arms, her elements at strife,
The storms that overset the joys of life,
Are but his rods to scourge a guilty land,
And waste it at the bidding of his hand.
He gives the word, and mutiny soon roars
In all her gates, and shakes her distant shores;
The standards of all nations are unfurl'd,
She has one foe, and that one foe, the world.
And if he doom that people with a frown,
And mark them with the seal of wrath, press'd down,
Obduracy takes place; callous and tough,
The reprobated race grows judgement-proof;
Earth shakes beneath them, and heaven roars above,
But nothing scares them from the course they love;
To the lascivious pipe and wanton song,
That charm down fear, they frolic it along,
With mad rapidity and unconcern,
Down to the gulf from which is no return.
They trust in navies, and their navies fail,
God's curse can cast away ten thousand sail;
They trust in armies, and their courage dies;
In wisdom, wealth, in fortune, and in lies;
But all they trust in withers, as it must,
When He commands, in whom they place no trust.
Vengeance at last pours down upon their coast,
A long despised, but now victorious host;
Tyranny sends the chain that must abridge
The noble sweep of all their privilege,
Gives liberty the last, the mortal shock,
Slips the slave's collar on, and snaps the lock.
(ll. 438-77, p. 253-4)
At least 24 entries in ECCO and ESTC (1782, 1786, 1787, 1788, 1790, 1792, 1792, 1793, 1794, 1798, 1799, 1800).

See Poems by William Cowper (London: Printed for J. Johnson, 1782). <Link to Google Books><Link to ECCO-TCP>

Text from The Works of William Cowper (London: Baldwin and Cradock, 1835-1837).

Reading The Poems of William Cowper, 3 vols. ed. John D. Baird and Charles Ryskamp (Oxford: Oxford UP: 1980), I, pp. 241-261.
Date of Entry

The Mind is a Metaphor is authored by Brad Pasanek, Assistant Professor of English, University of Virginia.