William Cowper was a popular poet and writer of hymns. His descriptions of everyday life in the English countryside changed nature writing in the eighteenth century, in many ways preparing the ground for poets such as Wordsworth and Coleridge.

Cowper was a committed evangelical Christian who wrote many hymns. ‘Light Shining out of Darkness’ contains a line that remains well known today: ‘God moves in a mysterious way/His wonders to perform.’ In spite of his faith, Cowper was plagued bydoubts and endured periods of severe depression and insanity in the early 1760s, during which he attempted suicide several times. He found comfort in his friendship with retired clergyman Morley Unwin and his wife, Mary. After Unwin died, he continued to live with Mary, who nursed Cowper through other periods of mental ill-health.

In spite of his battle with depression, Cowper wrote some extremely popular comic poems such asthe mock-heroic ‘John Gilpin’.

Recording commissioned by the Poetry Archive, used here with kind permission of the reader.

Poems by William Cowper

Epitaph on a Hare

Read by Andrew Motion
Epitaph on a Hare - William Cowper - Read by Andrew Motion

Books by William Cowper