1796 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Dr. William Perfect

Anonymous, Review of Perfect, Poetic Effusions; Analytic Review 24 (November 1796) 483-85.



English verse, in all it's varieties respecting structure of stanza or length of line, is distinguished by the general prevalence of the iambic measure. Hitherto, other measures have been only occasionally and sparingly introduced. In the present publication a different plan is pursued; the iambic measure is seldom used, and by far the greater number of the pieces are written in anapests. The author was, probably, early enamoured with Shenstone's beautiful pastoral, "Ye shepherds, so cheerful and gay, &c." His ear seems to have caught the melody of this poem; and he has transferred it, with tolerable success, into his own compositions, which are, almost throughout, closely copied from this model. These verses, however, we apprehend, will be perused by few readers, without a feeling a satiety, similar to that which is produced in music by the too frequent recurrence of similar combinations of harmony. In other more important respects, these poems are entitled to no higher praise, than that of mediocrity. The sentiments are chaste and tender: the descriptions are generally just, and often appropriate and uncommon: but we do not discover any peculiar richness of fancy, or elegance of poetical diction. There is so much uniformity of poetic character through the volume, that our readers will gain a very complete idea of the merit of the pieces, from perusing a single specimen. A large part of the work is a series of poems on the several months of the year: From the poem entitled March, we shall select the following descriptive and sentimental verses: p. 15.

What gifts for my fair shall I bring,
The primrose and March violet gay;
Such innocent poesies of spring
My purest affection convey.
She comes as the Moon from a cloud,
My snow-bosom'd Delia appears,
With the soul of a mild virtue endow'd,
And her cheeks unpolluted with tears.

The smiles and the buds of the grove
Instantaneous their foliage expand;
Rob'd in all the mild lustres of love,
A lambkin she leads in her hand.
It was the first born of the fold;
Which but for her care had been lost;
Her tenderness sav'd from the cold
The fatal effects of the frost.

She smiles; and, elate with the sound
Of bells from the hamlet below,
Festivity bids to abound,
The cause every shepherd must know.
And bear that Selander the gay,
To Melicent fortunate hind,
By Hymen on this happy day
The bridegroom of transport was joined.

Did Hymen e'er look with more grace?
The Muse is invited a guest:
Was ever more chearful his face
Than on this pleasing union express'd?
Ye shepherds, convene on the lea,
Let mirth the most sprightly be ours:
Go, Delia, announce the decree,
And call up the musical powers.

The crocus of flame-colour'd hue,
The hyacinth varied in vest,
The sweet polyanthuses too,
And anemonies wantonly dress'd.
The mizerian worthy of praise,
Tho' fraught with no lavish perfume,
And willow whose silver-like rays,
Are shed from its white velvet bloom.

These let us collect, and we'll weave
A garland for Melicent's brow;
I'm certain the fair will receive
The gift which her shepherds bestow.
The Fair will the present approve,
And gratefully honour my lay;
'Tis, Nature, the union of love,
Be ever recorded the day.

Selander, O long be thou blest,
Long cherish the maid of thy heart,
Dear choice of his unreserv'd breast,
A passion that's mutual impart.
So your loves shall no trouble annoy,
But Hymen perpetually sing,
That MARCH was the parent of joy,
As well as the FATHER OF SPRING.

In one of these pieces entitled, A Vernal Sketch, the poet passes, perhaps without having himself perceived it, from one kind of verse to another: the first stanza is anapestic, the rest iambic.

If this be not a posthumous publication, of which no intimation is given, it is somewhat singular, that it is introduced to the public by an "editor," who, in a passing preface, commends the poems for their consonancy to nature, and for the animating glow of inherent sensibility, which warms the descriptive parts; and recommends them to a place in the libraries of the lovers of retirement, and the local beauties of sylvan scenery.