1798 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Alexander Pope

Edward Gardner, "The Rape of the Lock" Miscellanies, in Prose and Verse (1798) 1:105-06.



The Rape of the Lock still keeps its place as the most finished poem in our language. Its two rivals, "The Triumphs of temper" and "The loves of the plants," must yield the palm of excellence, as a finished whole. Mr. Hayley, by spreading his colors on too wide a canvass, has weakened their effect; and Dr. Drawin, whose skill in poetical embellishment is superior to that of his rival, has exhibited no proof of invention, feeling, or passion: his performance contains a heap of splendid materials, thrown together without order of proportion; and his ornaments are so profusely laid on, that a chaste imagination would pronounce them meretricious.

Mr. Cambridge's Scribleriad is formed on a purer model of the mock heroic, than either of the poems we have noticed, and it is executed every where with equal genius and judgment. The reason why this exquisitely finished piece is not so generally known as the poems of Pope, or Hayley, proceeds from its being adapted only to the studious. A performance which does not contain frequent allusions to the popular topics, and to the reigning fashions of the day, or does not detail the history of the passions, has no prospect of becoming a favourite with the public.