From the Olney Hymns*

XVI. The Sower

(Matthew, xiii.3)

Ye sons of earth prepare the plough,
Break up your fallow ground;
The sower is gone forth to sow,
And scatter blessings round.
The seed that finds a stony soil
Shoots forth a hasty blade;
But ill repays the sower’s toil,
Soon wither’d, scorch’d, and dead.
The thorny ground is sure to balk
All hopes of harvest there;
We find a tall and sickly stalk,
But not the fruitful ear.
The beaten path and highway side,
Receive the trust in vain;
The watchful birds the spoil divide,
And pick up all the grain.
But where the Lord of grace and power
Has bless’d the happy field,
How plenteous is the golden store
The deep-wrought furrows yield!
Father of mercies, we have need
Of thy preparing grace;
Let the same Hand that give me seed
Provide a fruitful place!

*These hymns were written between 1765 and 1773 at the village of Olney (OHN’ee) where William Cowper was under the influence of the Anglican Evangelical preacher John Newton. This was a period of great religious fervor within the Evangelical movement and for Cowper, and this enthusiasm is clear in the poems. Less clear, but still visible, are the lingering affects of the madness which debilitated Cowper in 1762 and to which he again succumbed in 1773.

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