« EelmineJätka »
And deals his blessings here with lib'ral hand,
We must observe that there are many marks of haste in this poem Such defective lines as these do not unfrequently cccur:
• Vain, atheistical, induc'd, and blindly spread-p. 39.
Like God's own steward to all the needy tribe-p. 61.’ Steadily averse from all national reflections, we read with disgust the passage, p. 49, in which the Scotch are accused of servility and perfidy; and we could not suppress a smile at the very familiar introduction of the name of the late Poet Laureat :
Old honest Warton sung,' &c. p. 8.
We almost doubted whether the author had not confounded Isaac Walton and the best modern scholar that England can boast; who was not less eminent for the depth of his erudition than for the elegance of his taste and the sagacity of his criticism.
Where we see so many proofs of ability as Mr. Sharpe has given in this poem, we venture to advise him; as we find men of sense most capable of correction. We therefore think it our duty to hint to. this writer that the beauties of THE CHURCH appear to us the offspring of genius; and that the faults, though frequent, probably arise merely from haste and inattention. If he means to cultivate the fields of poetry, he must be industrious; or, like all negligent cultiva tors, he will fail of success.
Art. 31. Britannia: a Poem. By Samuel Hull Wilcocke. 8vo pp. 83. 38. sewed. Dilly. 1797.
The author of this poem seems to have formed a design of writing a poctical heroic history of his country; and it must be allowed that this island has produced many men renowned for wisdom and valour; qualities which, when exerted for the benefit of mankind, constitute (according to Sir William Temple) that transcendent excellence which is denominated heroic virtue. Perhaps, however, the fame due to their illustrious atchievements might be established on a firmer
basis by the saber voice of historic truth, than by the enthusiasm of poetic fiction. We agree with Mr. Wilcocke that, in the earliest stages of society, poetry has proved a happy vehicle for recording the exploits of the warrior, or describing any uncommon and grand appearance in nature; and that these sublime and heroic songs were attended with wonderful effects: but he does not seem sufficiently to have considered that poetry addresses itself chiefly to the imagination and the passions, which, in men untamed by civilization, are active, vigorous, and susceptible of the warmest impressions; and that, in an improved state of society, both the one and the other are enfeebled by restraint, while the rational powers gather strength by daily exercise. This progress may be traced by any man who will pay attention to the operations of his own mind. Astonishment is succeeded by admiration; admiration leads to inquiry and investigation; and these cannot be performed without comparing and judging, which form the peculiar province of reason. Hence may be assigned one cause of an age of criticism being unfavourable to the exertion of original poetic genius; for surely the mind that can read a poem with such calmness, as accurately to appreciate its merits and defects, can feel little of that warmth and enthusiasm which the Bard wishes to inspire ;—a consideration that would be very mortifying to every poet of the present times, did they not experience, in common with their readers, the difficulty of forming a conception truly sublime, or soaring to any great heights in the regions of imagination,
The before us contains an historical narrative of the most splendid events which happened in Britain, from the time of Cassibelan, who opposed Cæsar in his invasion, to the reign of Carausius, who was acknowleged joint-emperor by Dioclesian and Maximian. Mr. Wilcocke, both in his preface and notes, appears to possess no inconsiderable portion of learning, and he deserves our esteem for that patriotic love of his country which he manifests throughout the work: but in poetry we cannot think him entitled to the highest applause; though by no means destitute of a taste for that divine art. If we cannot justly rank him with our first-rate Bards, he may, perhaps, assume to sit down with Leonidas Glover; and with him, in friendly concert," rehearse the deeds and glorious death" of Spartans brave, and Britons bold.
"Rehearse, O Muse, the deeds and glorious death," &c. Glover's LEONIDAS.
The following lines may be quoted as a proper specimen of his -style and versification:
Come, Muse of Albion! who in Thomson's verse
The arms and arts that graced this matchless isle;
The noblest state that ever stood on earth.'
Speaking of the late unsuccessful expedition of the French against Ireland, he thus expresses himself
But Ocean smiled to see the unfledged brood,
*The Roca de Ora, a stupendous rock in the midst of the Northern Pacific Ocean, first discovered, and thus named, by the Spaniards.'
So the terrific genius of the main
Half reared his billowy front; deep in the waves
We quote this passage not from any disposition to censure, but to shew how dangerous it is for a poet of moderate talents to attempt to rival Milton:
"Or that sea-beast Leviathan, which God of all his works
Created hugest that swim th' ocean stream:
Him haply slumb'ring on the Norway foam," &c. Par. Lost, book i, ver. 200. These are the lines which, no doubt, Mr. W. had in his eye when he introduced the simile,
Like a huge whale,' &c. in the passage above cited.-N. B. By the whale, &c, we suppose he alludes to the strange stories of the Kraken.
Art. 32. Select Epigrams. 12mo. 2 Vols. 1os. 6d. Low. 1797. Much has been written by critics on the composition of an epigram: but they are not agreed as to its constituent parts. The antients seem to have included, under that appellation, epitaphs and inscriptions of every kind, whether elegiac, laudatory, or satirical: but the moderns are of opinion that wit is an essential ingredient in an epigram; a notion that has given rise to numberless puerile conceits, and forced and unnatural thoughts. Few men have succeeded in this species of poetry; and the greater part of those epigrams that have been most admired are indebted for their reputation to a pun, or to the perverted sense of some ambiguous term. Yet it cannot be denied that epigrams have sometimes been made a pleasing vehicle for moral truth and pathetic sentiment. The selection now before us is made with judgment, and will be read with pleasure by those who are fond of compositions of this sort.
The two following epigrams, among others, do credit to the collec. tion;
" ON TROY.
Imitated from a Greek Epigram,
By J. AIKIN, M. D.
Where, hapless ILIUM! are thy heav'n-built walls,
· TO MISS ****** ̧
O clear that cruel, doubting brow,
By honour'd Beauty's gentle pow'r !
"Ah! what is Beauty, but a flow'r,
By those dear, tempting lips,' I cried ;-
Convinc'd, my Chloe glanc'd aside,
Art. 33. Elegiac Sonnets, and other Poems. By Charlotte Smith. Vol. II. Crown 8vo. 6s. Boards. Cadell jun. and Davies. 1797. The general merits of Mrs. Smith as a writer, and the characteristics of her Sonnets in particular, are well known. The present volume is said to have been composed under the heavy pressure of difficulties, and amid heart-rending sorrows. It pains us to hear so frequently of this lady's misfortunes, and, unable as we are to remove them, to find no others equally willing, and more empowered, to alleviate them.
The following Sonnets are specimens of this volume, and of the elegant writer's gloomy cast of thought:
On passing over a dreary Tract of Country, and near the Ruins of a deserted Chapel, during a Tempest.
Swift fleet the billowy clouds along the sky,
Court the chill horrors of the howling blast.
The Fox eludes the tempest of the night.
Which hides me from a World I wish to shun;
Nor is the deepest shade, the keenest air,
On being cautioned against walking on an Headland overlooking the Sea, because it was frequented by a Lunatic.
Is there a solitary wretch who hies
To the tall cliff, with starting pace or slow,