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high in fancy, and strong in retention." I will now read to you a poem of Warton's of which every line is a country picture, and then we can come back to the poet with whose name we opened fire this evening,-even he whom Collins designates as "meek nature's child," item a "woodland pilgrim," item "a Druid." Here is Warton's Ode, written, haply, beneath the shade of some venerable oaks in the forest it describes :
WRITTEN IN WHICHWOOD FOREST.
"The hinds how blest, who ne'er beguil'd
To dip the scythe in fragrant dew,
In their lone haunts and woodland rounds,
Their weary spirits to relieve,
The meadows incense breathe at eve.
That o'er a glimmering hearth they share;
Or climb the tall pine's gloomy crest,
STANLEY. There are sundry poems of which it may be said that they are cleverly put together, and tastefully adorned, but which have no in the stalks of wax flowers. this ode must be included.
more sap in them than runs
In this category I fear that
nothing of the real life of our rural poor, when he wrote
such pretty stuff. Indeed there are few lines in the poem which will stand criticism. The Ode commences in the old and authorised style of classical inversion. As for the "splendid care," and the "guilty gain," I suspect that many of our hinds would willingly bear the burden they involve if the chance were offered them; and to say that
no riot mars their simple fare," means in vulgar language that they cannot afford beery potations. To talk about the "measured roar " of the curfew, although Warton has the authority of Milton, appears to me ridiculous. Imagine a bell roaring! The absurdity reminds one of Bottom's promise to roar like any nightingale, or sucking dove. Then to assert that these rustics "wish no beds of cygnet-down" or "trophied canopies" is idle verbiage, since they are luxuries which they never saw, and of which they never heard. Even Christopher Sly, when put to bed in a lord's house, and offered all manner of lordly comforts, cries out for " a pot o' the smallest ale."
HARTLEY. A very Johnsonese piece of criticism (to quote STANLEY's own phrase) true in part, and partly false, but wanting in breadth and imagination. This kind of argument can easily be brought to play on any work of genius, however lofty its character; and, even were I to allow that you are right with respect to this ode, not the less do I object to the method of your animadversions.
STANLEY. I am very sure, HARTLEY, that you do not think one jot more highly than I do of Warton's poetry. I am very sure, too, that, had Warton lived in our day, though he might have won a high place in literature, no one would think of ranking him with the poets.
HARTLEY. Probably a man of Warton's taste would have preferred excluding himself from the circle, if "Balder," "The Mystic," "Sordello," or even "Maud" are to be regarded as types of our modern poetry. So much, at least, I will say in favour of Warton. I must acknowledge, however, that his poems do not merit the praises bestowed on them by some critics.* Thomson is the next poet who claims a hearing, but he is far too important a gentleman to be crushed into the fag end of our evening talk. To-morrow we must meet well primed in "The Seasons," and be ready for a friendly consultation on the merits of the Ednam bard.
* Poet Pye, for one example, who calls Warton's "First of April" "one of the most beautiful and original descriptive poems in our language," Richard Mant, for another, who declares that "Warton is entitled to claim no mean rank amongst the poets of his country," and that the imagery in his lyric poetry is magnificent."
No plot so narrow be but nature there,
THE next evening we found HARTLEY sitting in his study with a fine quarto edition of Thomson's "Seasons" before him. And after this wise our conversation began.
HARTLEY. I have had the trouble, pleasure I should say, of reading through the greater part of the "Seasons" to-day; and, at the risk of contradicting my own assertions, I must confess that it is a noble poem, full of vivid description, of lofty though turbulent imagination, and of a sincere love of nature. The style is too florid for my taste, but the might of Thomson's genius as a descriptive poet is unquestionable. His colouring is often too gaudy, the general tone of his pictures is not sufficiently subdued, and he sometimes oversteps the modesty of nature; but he is nevertheless in all respects, save one, a true and great poet.
And what may that respect be?
HARTLEY. He was one of the most intolerable flatterers that ever lived. His dedications are sickening enough; but the strain in which he wrote to Aaron Hill is absolutely grovelling, and utterly disgraceful to a poet. Imagine a Milton, a Burns, or a Wordsworth so misdemeaning themselves!