1821 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir William Temple

Lord Byron, Observations on the Observations (1821); Letters and Journals, ed. Rowland E. Prothero (1898-1901) 5:590.



Sir William Temple observes, "that of all the numbers of mankind that live within the compass of a thousand years, for one man that is born capable of making a great poet, there may be a thousand born capable of making as great generals and ministers of state as any in story." Here is a statesman's opinion of poetry: it is honourable to him, and to the art. Such a "poet of a thousand years" was Pope. A thousand years will roll away before such another can be hoped for in our literature.