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William Cowper

William Cowper ( KOO-pər; 26 November 1731 – 25 April 1800) was an English poet and hymnodist. One of the most popular poets of his time, Cowper changed the direction of 18th century nature poetry by writing of everyday life and scenes of the English countryside. In many ways, he was one of the forerunners of Romantic poetry. Samuel Taylor Coleridge called him "the best modern poet", whilst William Wordsworth particularly admired his poem Yardley-Oak.

After being institutionalised for insanity, Cowper found refuge in a fervent evangelical Christianity. He continued to suffer doubt and, after a dream in 1773, believed that he was doomed to eternal damnation. He recovered and wrote more religious hymns.

His religious sentiment and association with John Newton (who wrote the hymn "Amazing Grace") led to much of the poetry for which he is best remembered, and to the series of Olney Hymns. His poem "Light Shining out of Darkness" gave English the phrase: "God moves in a mysterious way/His wonders to perform."

He also wrote a number of anti-slavery poems and his friendship with Newton, who was an avid anti-slavery campaigner, resulted in Cowper being asked to write in support of the Abolitionist campaign. Cowper wrote a poem called "The Negro's Complaint" (1788) which rapidly became very famous, and was often quoted by Martin Luther King Jr. during the 20th century civil rights movement. He also wrote several other less well known poems on slavery in the 1780s, many of which attacked the idea that slavery was economically viable.

Birth and Death Data: Born November 26th, 1731 (Berkhamsted), Died April 25th, 1800 (Dereham)

Date Range of DAHR Recordings: 1906 - 1940

Roles Represented in DAHR: author, songwriter


Company Matrix No. Size First Recording Date Title Primary Performer Description Role Audio
Victor B-3357 10-in. 5/2/1906 There is a fountain fill'd with blood Trinity Choir Chorus, with orchestra author  
Victor CVE-34773 12-in. 4/13/1926 O for a closer walk with God Mixed Quartet Mixed vocal quartet, with pipe organ author  
Victor BS-056539 10-in. 10/12/1940 Jubilee Roswell Sacred Harp Mixed vocal quartet, unaccompanied songwriter  
Columbia W143925 10-in. 4/6/1927 There is a fountain filled with blood Copperhill Male Quartet Male vocal quartet, with piano author  
Brunswick E22964-E22965 10-in. 5/5/1927 There is a fountain Old Southern Sacred Singers Male vocal quartet, with organ author  


Discography of American Historical Recordings, s.v. "Cowper, William," accessed August 8, 2020,

Cowper, William. (2020). In Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved August 8, 2020, from

"Cowper, William." Discography of American Historical Recordings. UC Santa Barbara Library, 2020. Web. 8 August 2020.

DAHR Persistent Identifier



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