William Cowper (pronounced "Cooper"; b. Berkampstead, Hertfordshire, England, 1731; d. East Dereham, Norfolk, England, 1800) is regarded as one of the best early Romantic poets. To biographers he is also known as "mad Cowper." His literary talents produced some of the finest English hymn texts, but his chronic depression accounts for the somber tone of many of those texts. Educated to become an attorney, Cowper was called to the bar in 1754 but never practiced law. In 1763 he had the opportunity to become a clerk for the House of Lords, but the dread of the required public examination triggered his tendency to depression, and he attempted suicide. His subsequent hospitalization and friendship with Morley and Mary Unwin provided emotional st… Go to person page >
Bestow, dear Lord, upon our youth. W. Cowper. [For the Young.] This hymn is the second of three "Hymns before Annual Sermons to Young People, on New Year's Evenings" (the 1st and 3rd being by J. Newton), which were published in the Olney Hymns, 1779, Book ii., No. 8, in 6 stanzas of 4 lines and signed "C." In Cotterill's Selection, 1810, No. 93, it was given as—-"Bestow, O Lord, upon our youth." Both this form and the original are in common use The original, with the omission of stanza iv., is in the Methodist Free Church Sunday School Hymn Book, No. 155; in full, in the American Presbyterian Psalms & Hymns for the Worship of God, Richmond, 1867, and others. Cotterill’s text, with the omission of stanza iv., is in Stowell's Selection, 1831 and 1877.