1742 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Dryden

Thomas Gray to Richard West, April 1742; Poems of Mr. Gray, ed. Mason (1775) 139-40.



As to matter of stile, I have this to say: The language of the age is never the language of poetry; except among the French, whose verse, where the thought or image does not support it, differs in nothing from prose. Our poetry, on the contrary, has a language peculiar to itself; to which almost every one, that has written, has added something by enriching it with foreign idioms and derivatives: nay sometimes words of their own composition or invention. Shakespear and Milton have been great creators this way; and no one more licentious than Pope or Dryden, who perpetually borrow expressions from the former.