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George Duncombe Cox: contemporary of John Keats

His poems reveal a long-abiding interest in matters of faith in God and humanity’s ultimate destiny beyond this world

George Duncombe Cox
George Duncombe Cox

George Duncombe Cox

The sound of evening music

Vibrates along the mind,

And strikes a chord of feeling

Too sweet to be defined.

When, with the moonlight rising,

The nightingale’s sweet voice,

We doubt, and know not wether

To sorrow or rejoice.

Her song has too much sweetness

To be the voice of pain,

But yet she seems to murmur

O’er hopes indulged in vain.

‘Tis said that as she’s sitting

Upon the midnight spray,

She weeps her ravished young ones

That death has torn away.

Oh, many is like the warbler

That pours the flood of song —

His chaunt of joy is fleeting

His dirge of grief is long.

He mourns o’er hope in ruins,

O’er bliss that is no more;

The youth-bloom that must perish

The noon of life before.

Like her he moans in darkness

But, after night, a morn

Shall rise and shine for ever

To cheer the sorrow-worn.

There, by the living waters,

And the life-bearing tree,

Shall man drink deep of beauty,

Through fresh eternity.

There, lofty angels soaring

Through thought’s celestial sky,

Shall contemplate God’s wisdom

With an enraptured eye….

And man thus mourns in Heaven;

For happy tears shall flow

In pity for the love

That gave a God to woe.

There is the cross triumphant,

The thorny crown there blooms,

And Christ’s dear blood is flowing

Beyond the land of tombs…

Bright soul! Break through thy bondage,

And all thy chains be riven;

Then shalt thou sing and sorrow—

The nightingale of Heaven.

-from “Hearing Heaven in the Nightingale’s Song”

George Duncombe Cox was a 19th-Century English poet and medical doctor. While his poems have long been out of print, they reveal a long-abiding interest in matters of faith in God and humanity’s ultimate destiny beyond this world. In 1840, he started the Catholic journal The Phoenix. Four years later, he died of illness – leading some to compare his life and poetic interests (including a common love for the nightingale) to that of his better-known semi-contemporary, the poet John Keats (1795-1821), depicted here by Keats’s friend, English artist Joseph Severn, listening to his rather more famous nightingale.

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George Duncombe Cox
George Duncombe Cox

George Duncombe Cox

The sound of evening music

Vibrates along the mind,

And strikes a chord of feeling

Too sweet to be defined.

When, with the moonlight rising,

The nightingale’s sweet voice,

We doubt, and know not wether

To sorrow or rejoice.

Her song has too much sweetness

To be the voice of pain,

But yet she seems to murmur

O’er hopes indulged in vain.

‘Tis said that as she’s sitting

Upon the midnight spray,

She weeps her ravished young ones

That death has torn away.

Oh, many is like the warbler

That pours the flood of song —

His chaunt of joy is fleeting

His dirge of grief is long.

He mourns o’er hope in ruins,

O’er bliss that is no more;

The youth-bloom that must perish

The noon of life before.

Like her he moans in darkness

But, after night, a morn

Shall rise and shine for ever

To cheer the sorrow-worn.

There, by the living waters,

And the life-bearing tree,

Shall man drink deep of beauty,

Through fresh eternity.

There, lofty angels soaring

Through thought’s celestial sky,

Shall contemplate God’s wisdom

With an enraptured eye….

And man thus mourns in Heaven;

For happy tears shall flow

In pity for the love

That gave a God to woe.

There is the cross triumphant,

The thorny crown there blooms,

And Christ’s dear blood is flowing

Beyond the land of tombs…

Bright soul! Break through thy bondage,

And all thy chains be riven;

Then shalt thou sing and sorrow—

The nightingale of Heaven.

-from “Hearing Heaven in the Nightingale’s Song”

George Duncombe Cox was a 19th-Century English poet and medical doctor. While his poems have long been out of print, they reveal a long-abiding interest in matters of faith in God and humanity’s ultimate destiny beyond this world. In 1840, he started the Catholic journal The Phoenix. Four years later, he died of illness – leading some to compare his life and poetic interests (including a common love for the nightingale) to that of his better-known semi-contemporary, the poet John Keats (1795-1821), depicted here by Keats’s friend, English artist Joseph Severn, listening to his rather more famous nightingale.

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