The mind may hunger and be supplied

— Cowper, William (1731-1800)

Work Title
Place of Publication
Printed for Joseph Johnson
The mind may hunger and be supplied
Metaphor in Context
How various his employments, whom the world
Calls idle, and who justly in return
Esteems that busy world an idler too!
Friends, books, a garden, and perhaps his pen,
Delightful industry enjoyed at home,
And nature in her cultivated trim
Dressed to his taste, inviting him abroad:--
Can he want occupation who has these?
Will he be idle who has much to enjoy?
Me therefore, studious of laborious ease,
Not slothful; happy to deceive the time
Not waste it; and aware that human life
Is but a loan to be repaid with use,
When He shall call his debtors to account,
From whom are all our blessings, business finds
Even here. While sedulous I seek to improve,
At least neglect not, or leave unemploy'd
The mind he gave me; driving it, though slack
Too oft, and much impeded in its work
By causes not to be divulged in vain,
To its just point the service of mankind.
He that attends to his interior self,
That has a heart and keeps it, has a mind
That hungers and supplies it
, and who seeks
A social, not a dissipated life,
Has business; feels himself engaged to achieve
No unimportant, though a silent task.
A life all turbulence and noise may seem
To him that leads it, wise and to be praised;
But wisdom is a pearl with most success
Sought in still water, and beneath clear skies.
He that is ever occupied in storms,
Or dives not for it, or brings up instead,
Vainly industrious, a disgraceful prize.
(Bk. III, ll. 352-85, pp. 171-2)
26 entries in the ESTC (1785, 1786, 1787, 1788, 1790, 1791, 1792, 1793, 1794, 1795, 1796, 1798, 1799, 1800).

See The Task, a Poem, in Six Books. By William Cowper (London: Printed for J. Johnson, 1785). <Link to ECCO>

Reading William Cowper, The Poems of William Cowper. 3 vols. ed. John D. Baird and Charles Ryskamp (Oxford: Oxford UP: 1980). Vol II.
Date of Entry

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