1804 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. John Ogilvie

William Tooke, Note to The Journey; Poetical Works of Charles Churchill (1804) 2:373-74n.



Under dark allegory's flimsy veil
Let them with Ogilvie spin out a tale
Of rueful length; let them plain things obscure,
Debase what's truly rich, and what is poor
Make poorer still by jargon most uncouth;
With every pert, prim prettiness of youth....

John Ogilvie, A.M. was the author of Providence, an allegorical poem, published in 1764, in which it is attempted to arrange all the most cogent arguments in favor of the divine providence, which are to be met with in the best writers on the subject; and to enliven and adorn them with pleasing allegorical imagery and harmonious numbers. The author divides his poem into three parts, in which he distinctly treats of the attributes and power of the supreme being, the revelation of his will, and of the conduct of his providence with regard to human life. He enlarges upon these several heads with considerable perspicuity and strength of argument; but they involve subjects so serious and abstruse, that few readers can follow the chain of the discussion with that ease which can alone render poetry pleasing. He evidently imitates Akenside without attaining his harmony of style, and the intolerable length of the poem will for ever preclude its revival, if it can ever have been said to live. Subjects of this nature do not easily accord with poetry less sublime than that of Milton or of Young. The principal charm of Lucretius is in his digressions, while the authors of Paradise Lost and the Night Thoughts exclusively possess the power of interesting the heart, at the same time that they captivate the understanding with arguments, which, if not always philosophically correct, are urged with a poetic fervour of inspiration, which almost supplies the place of demonstration.

The following lines are so much in the style and manner of Dr. Akenside, that one would almost think they were the composition of that eccentric writer.

Know then, whate'er in nature's ample field
The scanty ken of thy revolving eye
Hath mark'd as evil; in the general plan
Is just, is beauteous: the conjoining parts,
Though each when separate, like a single limb
In some proportioned shape appears deform'd,
As view'd apart; yet when exactly wrought
In the full work, an heighten'd grace assumes,
And aids the perfect symmetry of all.