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BLOOMFIELD'S excellence is confined to a minute and often interesting description of individual objects in nature, in which he is surpassed perhaps by no one.
CRABBE is a writer of great power, but of a perverse and morbid taste. He gives the very objects and feelings he treats of, whether in morals or rural scenery, but he gives none but the most uninteresting or the most painful. His poems are a sort of funeral dirge over human life, but without pity, without hope. He has neither smiles nor tears for his readers.
COLERIDGE has shewn great wildness of conception in his Ancient Mariner, sublimity of imagery in his Ode to the Departing Year, grotesqueness of fancy in his Fire, Famine, and Slaughter, and tenderness of sentiment in his Genevieve. He has however produced nothing equal to his powers.
Mr. WORDSWORTH'S characteristic is one, and may be expressed in one word;—a power of raising the smallest things in nature into sublimity by the force of sentiment. He attaches the deepest and loftiest feelings to the meanest and most superficial objects. His peculiarity is his combination of simplicity of subject with profundity and power of execution. He has no fancy, no wit, no humour, little descriptive power, no dramatic power, great occasional elegance, with continual rusticity and baldness of allusion; but he is sublime without the Muse's aid, pathetic in the contemplation of his own and man's nature; add to this, that his style is natural and severe, and his versification sonorous and expressive.
Mr. SOUTHEY'S talent in poetry lies chiefly in fancy and the invention of his subject. Some of his oriental descriptions, characters, and fables, are wonderfully striking and impressive, but there is an air of extravagance in them, and his versification is abrupt, affected, and repulsive. In his early poetry there is a vein of patriotic fervour, and mild and beautiful moral reflection.
Sir WALTER SCOTT is the most popular of our living poets. His excellence is romantic narrative and picturesque description. He has great bustle, great rapidity of action and flow of versification, with a sufficient distinctness of character, and command of the ornaments of style. He has neither lofty imagination, nor depth or intensity of feeling; vividness of mind is apparently his chief and pervading excellence.
Mr. C. LAMB has produced no poems equal to his prose writings: but I could not resist the temptation of transferring into this collection his Farewell to Tobacco, and some of the sketches in his John Woodvil; the first of which is rarely surpassed in quaint wit, and the last in pure feeling. .
MONTGOMERY is an amiable and pleasing versifier, who puts his heart and fancy into whatever he composes.
Lord BYRON'S distinguishing quality is intensity of conception and expression. He wills to be sublime or pathetic. He has great wildness of invention, brilliant and elegant fancy, caustic wit, but no humour. Gray's description of the poetical character—“Thoughts that glow, and words that burn,”—applies to him more than to any of his contemporaries.
THOMAS MOORE is the greatest wit now living. His light, ironical pieces are unrivalled for point and facility of execution. His fancy is delightful and brilliant, and his songs have gone to the heart of a nation.
LEIGH HUNT has shewn great wit in his Feast of the Poets, elegance in his occasional verses, and power of description and pathos in his Story of Rimini. The whole of the third canto of that poem is as chaste as it is classical.
The late Mr. SHELLEY (for he is dead since the commencement of this publication) was chiefly distinguished by a fervour of philosophic speculation, which he clad in the garb of fancy, and in words of Tyrian die. He had spirit and genius, but his eagerness to give effect and produce conviction often defeated his object, and bewildered himself and his readers.
Lord THURLOW has written some very unaccountable, but some occasionally good and feeling poetry.
CRITICAL LIST OF AUTHORS. xv.
Mr. KEATS is also dead. He gave the greatest promise of genius of any poet of his day. He displayed extreme tenderness, beauty, origimality and delicacy of fancy; all he wanted was manly strength and fortitude to reject the temptations of singularity in sentiment and expression. Some of his shorter and later pieces are, however, as free from faults as they are full of beauties.
Mr. MILMAN is a writer of classical taste and attainments rather than of original genius. Poeta nascitur—non fit.
Of BOWLESS SoNNets it is recommendation enough to say, that they were the favourites of Mr. Coleridge's youthful mind.
It only remains to speak of Mr. BARRY CORNWALL, who, both in the Drama, and in his other poems, has shewn brilliancy and tenderness of fancy, and a fidelity to truth and nature, in conceiving the finer movements of the mind equal to the felicity of his execution in expressing them.
Some additions have been made in the Miscellaneous part of the volume, from the Lyrical effusions of the elder Dramatists, whose beauty, it is presumed, can never decay, whose sweetness can never cloy!
PROLOGUE to the CANTERBURP TALES.
WhawNE that April with his shoures sote The drought of March hath perced to the rote, And bathed every veine in swichelicour Of which vertue engendred is the flour; Whan Zephirus eke with his sote brethe Enspired hath in every holte and hethe The tendre croppes; and the yonge sonne Hath in the Ram his halfe cours yronne; And smale foules maken melodie, That slepen alle night with open eye, So priketh hem nature in hir corages;– Than longen folk to gon on pilgrimages, And palmeres for to seken strange strondes, To serve halwes couth in sondry londes; And specially, from every shires ende Of Englelond to Canterbury they wende, The holy, blissful martyr for to seke That hem hath holpen, whan that they were sike. Befelle, that, in that seson, on a day, in Southwerk at the Tabard as I lay, Redy to wenden on my pilgrimage To Canterbury with devoute corage, At night was come into that hostelrie Wel nine-and-twenty in a compagnie Of sondry folk, by aventure yfalle In felawship, and pilgrims were they alle, That toward Canterbury wolden ride, The chambres and the stables weren wide, And wel we weren esed, atte beste. And shortly, whan the sonne was gon to reste, So hadde I spoken with hem everich on, That I was of hir felawship anon, And made forwarderly for to rise, To take oure way ther as I you devise. But, natheles, while I have time and space, Or that I forther in this Tale pace, Me thinketh it accordant to reson To tellen you alle the condition Of eche of hem, so as it semed me; And whiche they weren; and of what degre; And eke in what araie that they were inne:— And, at a knight, than wol I firste beginne. A Knight ther was, and that a worthy man, That fro the time that he first began To riden out, he loved chevalrie, Truthe and honour, fredom and curtesie. Fal worthy was he in his lordes werre; And, therto, hadde he ridden, none more ferre, As wel in Cristendom as in Hethenesse, And ever honoured for his worthinesse. B
At Alisandre was he whan it was wonne, Ful often time he hadde the bord begonne, Aboven alle nations, in Pruce, In Lettawe had he reysed, and in Ruce; No Cristen-man so ofte, of his degre, In Germade-at the siege, eke, hadde he be Of Algesir; and ridden in Belmarie. At Leyes was he, and at Satalie, whan they were wonne; and, in the Grete see At many a noble armee hadde he be ; At mortal batailles hadde he ben fiftene ; And foughten for our faith, at Tramissene; In listes, thries—and ay slain his fo. This ilke worthy Knight hadde ben also, Somtime, with the Lord of Palatie, Agen another Hethen in Turkie; And evermore he hadde a sovereine pris, And though that he was worthy he was wise; And of his port, as meke as is a mayde: He never yet no vilainie ne sayde, In all his lif, unto no manere wight, He was a veray parfit gentil knight. But, for to tellen you of his araieHis hors was good, but he ne was not gaie. Of fustian he wered a gipon Alle besmatred with his habergeon, For he was late yeome fro his viage, And wente for to don his pilgrimage. with him, ther was his some, a yonge Squier, A lover, and a lusty bacheler; With lockes crull as they were laide in presse. Of twenty yere of age he was I gesse. Of his stature he was of even lengthe ; And wonderly deliver, and grete of strengthe, And he hadde be, somtime, in chevachie In Flaundres; in Artois; and in Picardie; And borne him wel, as of so litel space, In hope to standen in his ladies grace. Embrouded was he, as it were a mede All full of freshe floures, white and rede. Singing he was, or floyting, all the day: He was as freshe as is the moneth of May. Short was his goune, with sleves long and wide. Welcoude he sitte on hors, and fayre ride, He coude songes make, and wel endite; Juste, and eke dance; and wel pourtraie and write: So hote he loved, that by nightertale He slep no more than doth the nightingale: Curteis he was, lowly, and servisable; And cars before his fader at the table. A Yeman hadde he i and servantes no mo At that time; for him luste to ride so: