1823 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Campbell

Rev. Charles Burton, in The Bardiad; a Poem (1823) pp. 24, 148-50n.



Accomplish'd CAMPBELL, with his fragrant wing,
Sweeps every flower of Hope's enchanted spring.

The conspicuous place which Mr. Campbell sustains as an arbiter on the subject of Poetry, and the valuable Lectures with which lie has enriched the Belles Lettres of this country, render praise valueless, and criticism nugatory. His merit has been duly appreciated and acknowledged; and therefore any observations in this place will be unable to exalt him to a greater elevation. His "Pleasures of Hope" are quite equal, if not superior to Mr. Rogers' "Pleasures of Memory." His Muse seems to travel in a loftier region, and his imagery to possess more of that ardour and pathos which distinguish essential poetry. To select beauties from his Poem, is to choose brilliants from the treasures of the Lapidary; you pause in the centre of rival loveliness, and brightening lustres. He has ventured upon the work of personification with a boldness which can scarcely be equalled. The mountain of the Andes is "a giant looking down from his throne of clouds o'er half the world;" — the comet, is "a fiery giant careering on bickering wheels, and adamantine car, whirling thro' realms beyond the reach of thought, till he curbs the red yoke, and mingles with the sun;" — the Avenging Deity of India, is a personage of tremendous magnitude and power, "shaking a sunless sky, riding the horse of heaven's fire, pawing the clouds, and galloping upon the storm, with arms glowing like summer suns; shaking the earth, and the trembling islands, and causing all nature to rock beneath his tread." — His poetry glows with some of the most vivid conceptions; such as, "the starless night of desolation" — " the gentle gale stunn'd with the cries of death" — "the verdure of the vale bathed in blood" — "kingdoms peopled with despair" — "sounds rolling on the azure paths of the wind" — "heaven bursting her starry gates," &c. Other modes of expression are exquisitely touching: — "the shadowy forms of uncreated joy" — "the wintry paradise of home" — "life's torrent frozen at it's fountain" — "dark idolaters of chance, in joyless union wedded to the dust," &c. &c. What can be more poetical than to describe the discoverer of a new planet a one "who yields the lyre of heaven another string?" But of the general character of Mr. Campbell's composition, we may judge from the passages subjoined.