1801 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir Philip Sidney

George Ellis, in Specimens of Early English Poets (1801; 1845) 2:213.



The anecdotes of the short but brilliant life of this accomplished man, to whose patronage our literature owes so many obligations, are too well known to require any notice in this place. Considered as a poet, he was certainly too much infected with that fondness for conceit and antithesis, which the example of the Italian writers had rendered fashionable; but this fault in him was evidently the effect of imitation, not of character; and is often compensated by real wit, and elegance, and facility. His amatory poems are not whining lamentations about the perfections and cruelty of an ideal paragon, but are lively, dramatic, and descriptive of real passion.

The Arcadia, if considered as a romance, is tiresome and uninteresting; so that few readers have the patience to search for the many curious and animated descriptions, the acute observations, and just sentiments, with which it abounds, and which induced Sir William Temple to describe this author as "the greatest poet and the noblest genius of any that have left writings in our own or any modern language."