1769 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir William Davenant

James Granger, in Biographical History of England (1769; 1824) 5:246.



Sir William Davenant, poet-laureat in the reigns of Charles I. and II. was a man of great natural and improved talents, which he unfortunately misapplied. He distinguished himself by a bold, but unsuccessful attempt to enlarge the sphere of poetry. He composed an heroic poem, called Gondibert, in five books, after the model of the drama; applauded himself greatly upon this invention; and looked upon the followers of Homer as a timorous, servile herd, that were afraid to leave the beaten track. This performance, which is rather a string of epigrams than an epic poem, was not without its admirers, among whom were Waller and Cowley. But the success did not answer his expectation. When the novelty of it was over, it presently sunk into contempt; and he at length found, that when he strayed from Homer he deviated from nature. Ob. 7 April, 1668, Aet. 63.