William Cowper

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How does Cowper contrast town and country light in "God Made the Country"?

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Cowper contrasts the light of town in "God Made the Country" with that of the country by saying that the country's light is softer, even at noon, and preferable to the "lamps" of the city.

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Cowper contrasts the soft light of the country with the harsher light of town. He says that in the country, even at noon, when the sun is at its brightest, it is softened by the groves of trees that cast shade. At night, the moon's muted glow, "sliding softly in between" the leaves of the trees, is all the light that is desired in the country.

This gentle country light is different from "splendour" of the town's lamps. Such glaring light as the town has "eclipse[s]" the softer light of the country.

In preferring the more shadowy natural light of the country, Cowper's speaker turns upside down the notion that the more sophisticated town is preferable to rural areas. Instead, it it kinship with nature that the country still possesses that makes it more desirable. To the speaker, the town represents the "empire" Britain has built, a "mutilated" structure he says will soon fall.

Cowper's nature poetry, which celebrates the simplicity of the rural, was a precursor to the Romantic exaltation of nature and the common person that poets like Wordsworth and Coleridge would usher in. This poem anticipates Wordsworth in its loving evocation of the natural world and scathing criticism of the big, glaringly lit towns of urban culture as a creation of humankind, thus further away from the divine source than the country.

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