1823 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

James Beattie

Rev. Charles Burton, in The Bardiad; a Poem (1823) pp. 23, 138-39n.



So thought enchanting BEATTIE, when he sung
(Oh why was such a harp so soon unstrung?)
How Nature's self, by beauty, converse, dreams,
Form'd a sweet minstrel midst her rocks and streams;
And every stage, with nice distinction, shows,
How opening genius to perfection grows.

It must have been a matter of undissembled regret that a Poet so pure and so perfect as Dr. Beattie should have blessed the world with so few performances. But surely it is better to leave but little, and that of the first quality, than like many since his time, who might think that mankind had nothing to do, but to read their Poems. The reader would be displeased not to find, in this place, a few stanzas from the "Minstrel." The "Minstrel" is a performance so complete in its connexion, and in which beauties and elegancies are so uniformly distributed, that our selection of the following stanzas is rather to exhibit the style of the Poet, than to display the extent of his powers. The whole must be read. If the Spencerian stanza were ever employed with the perfection of poetic accuracy, it will be found in Beattie's "Minstrel," and Thomson's "Castle of Indolence;" both of which are executed with such inexpressible beauty, that the penetration of criticism is at a loss to determine to whether should be awarded the palm of superiority. There can be only one regret on the subject of the Minstrel. It is one of those rare performances of which the shortness is the greatest disappointment.