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THE TASK: BOOK 2. THE TIME-PIECE, by             Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography

"The Task: Book 2. The Time-Piece" is a long poem by William Cowper, published in 1785. The poem is structured in blank verse and contains 654 lines. 


"The Task" was written during the Romantic period in England, a time of social, political, and cultural change. Cowper's poem reflects the Romantic emphasis on individualism, nature, and imagination, as well as the growing interest in social reform and critique of industrialization. Cowper was also influenced by the religious revival known as the Evangelical movement, and the poem reflects his faith and moral convictions.


"The Time-Piece" is a meditation on the nature of time and its role in human life. Cowper begins by reflecting on the cyclical nature of time, and how the passing of the seasons marks the passage of time in a way that is both natural and inevitable. He then goes on to explore the ways in which humans measure and value time, from the ticking of a clock to the rhythms of work and leisure.

Cowper also reflects on the ways in which time affects human relationships, particularly the relationship between parent and child. He mourns the passing of time and the loss of youth and innocence, and laments the fact that time seems to move more quickly as we grow older. He also reflects on the role of death in human life, and how the inevitability of death gives meaning and urgency to our lives.


"The Time-Piece" is a reflective and philosophical poem that invites the reader to contemplate the nature of time and its role in human existence. Cowper's use of blank verse gives the poem a natural, conversational tone that draws the reader into his meditations. The poem's blend of personal reflection, social critique, and religious meditation creates a sense of unity and coherence despite its diverse subject matter.

Overall, "The Time-Piece" is a powerful and thought-provoking poem that challenges the reader to consider the fleeting nature of human existence and the importance of living in the moment. Its blend of philosophical inquiry, personal reflection, and religious meditation make it a seminal work of Romantic literature.

Poetic Elements:

  • Use of metaphor: Cowper uses the metaphor of a "far-famed painter" to describe death as an inevitable and looming presence.
  • Use of imagery: Cowper uses imagery of falling ruins to convey the sense of impending doom that death represents.
  • Use of repetition: Cowper repeats the word "death" throughout the poem to emphasize its importance and inevitability.

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