1807 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

George Steevens

Anonymous, in Review of Southey, Specimens of the Later English Poets; Edinburgh Review 11 (October 1807) 36-37.



By the guarded title of "Later English Poets," Mr. Southey seems not to consider himself bound to give us specimens of the last; yet he has included Cowper, one of the very latest deceased of our good poets. From such an extension of his boundaries, we should have expected Beattie and Anstey (author of the New Bath Guide) to have been admitted also. We regret also, that his industry has not been directed to discover some of the floating fugitives of a man whose genius as a poet was still superior to his powers as a critic, Stephens, the colleague of Johnson in his edition of Shakespeare. It is true, the poems of Stephens were never put into a substantive or collective form; but the cause of good taste requires that his name should not be forgotten. A poem of this man, purporting to be written to his mistress on her marriage with a fortunate rival, possesses the very nerve and soul of nature and passion. It is probably so well known to many lovers of poetry, that we forbear to transcribe it. Another of his love-songs, concluding with the following stanza,

And when with envy Time transported,
Shall think to rob us of our joys,
You'll in your girls again be courted,
And I'll go wooing in my boys—

has so much simplicity and merit, as to make us regret it should be omitted in any compilation of English poetry.