Friday, August 22, 2008

Winner of Sorrow

I promised some Cowper news—not something anyone has every day, Cowper being long dead. But when I wrote about Dalkey in my swoon over Michalopolou’s I’d Like, the press’s associate director popped me an email to say, among other things that Dalkey’s going to be publishing Brian Lynch’s historical novel, Winner of Sorrow, about Cowper this winter.

I can’t wait.

And the title is utterly beautiful.

Here’s what the press says:
A fictional imagining of the gentle but troubled zealot William Cowper—best known as a precursor to Romantics such as Wordsworth and Burns—Brian Lynch’s The Winner of Sorrow brings to life the mind and times of an eighteenth-century poet. Intense and exhilarating, this is literary fiction at its finest—the reader will be hard-pressed not to rush ahead to see what happens next. Yet you’ll want to savor every word as Lynch traces Cowper’s tragic descent into madness, which is presented matter-of-factly so that the novel is not sentimental but austere, not precious but serious, and yet, remarkably, lively, sensuous, and blackly comic.
I first learned of Cowper from Woolf, as he wrote “The Castaway,” the deliciously self-dramatizing poem that Mr. Ramsay recites in To the Lighthouse. The poem, about a man who falls overboard in a storm and gets left behind. Cowper at first seems to be celebrating this scary, humble, brave death, but the gem of the poem is its final lines, in which the poet’s own depression—and all our solitude—trumps this sailor’s watery grave:
No voice divine the storm allayed,
No light propitious shone,
When, snatched from all effectual aid,
We perished, each alone:
But I beneath a rougher sea,
And whelmed in deeper gulfs than he.
I love this poem and love Cowper.
While you wait for Lynch’s novel, you might read some Cowper or Woolf’s wonderful essay on him, the first of “Four Figures” in The Second Common Reader.

2 comments:

Dorothy W. said...

A novel about Cowper! Wonderful!

Anne said...

I know...it's awesome, isn't it?