1788 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Henry Francis Cary

Anna Seward to Henry Francis Cary, 19 July 1788; Letters, ed. Scott (1811) 2:148-50.



Lichfield, July 19, 1788.

I am extremely flattered, and anew delighted, my dear ingenious Cary, by the poetic tribute with which you have honoured my Horatian Odes. Except Anacreon, Horace is certainly the gayest and lightest of the lyric poets. You say he has not a Pindaric feather in his wing. To me he often appears to have flashes of sublimity, at least, along the course of his odes. They frequently shone upon me through the dim veil of a literal prose translation; — but it is my creed, that verse-literality draws off all the spirit of an author. It was the creed of Dryden and Pope — as is evident from their always infusing a portion of new and original matter into their translations.

I could not, at the time, quite accede to your objection to the expression, "jocund scorn," in a poem of mine. We as often see scorn gaily, as gloomily expressed. Dipping, since we parted, into my favourite Pleasures of the Imagination, by Akenside, I found the following line, which has an expression synonymous to that of mine, which you disliked,

Where gay derision bends her hostile aim.

My favourite word "yellow," of more than Italian liquidness, except when it is spoiled by the vulgar pronunciation "yallow," and which has such a picturesque glow on the imagination, is as frequent in Thomson, as you say the word "bowers" is in my writings. If "bowers" is a word of infinite convenience in rhyme, Milton, however, uses it, through the Paradise Lost, not less lavishly, though blank verse calls not for it with the same pressing necessity. Adieu!