1819 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Warner

Thomas Campbell, in Specimens of the British Poets (1819; 1845) 71.



WILLIAM WARNER was a native of Oxfordshire, and was born, as Mr. Ellis conjectures, in 1558. He left the university of Oxford without a degree, and came to London, where he pursued the business of an attorney of the common pleas. Scott, the poet of Amwell, discovered that he had been buried in the church of that parish in 1609, having died suddenly in the night-time.

His Albion's England was once exceedingly popular. Its publication was at one time interdicted by the star-chamber, for no other reason that can now be assigned, but that it contains some love-stories more simply than delicately related. His contemporaries compared him to Virgil, whom he certainly did not make his model. Dr. Percy thinks he rather resembles Ovid, to whom he is, if possible, still more unlike. His poem is, in fact, an enormous ballad on the history, or rather on the fables appendant to the history of England; heterogeneous, indeed like the Metamorphoses, but written with an almost doggrel simplicity. Headley has rashly preferred his works to our ancient ballads; but with the best of these they will bear no comparison. Argentile and Curan has indeed some beautiful touches, yet that episode requires to be weeded of many lines to be read with unqualified pleasure; and through the rest of his stories we shall search in vain for the familiar magic of such ballads as Chevy Chase or Gill Morrice.