1868 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Isaac Watts

George Macdonald, in England's Antiphon (1868; 1890) 280-81.



If any man would look upon absurdity in the garb of sobriety, let him search Dryden's Annus Mirabilis: Dr. Watt's Lyrics are as bad; they are fantastic to utter folly. An admiration of "the incomparable Mr. Cowley" did the sense of them more injury than the imitation of his rough-cantering ode could do their rhythm. The sentimentalities of Roman Catholic writers towards our Lord and his mother, are not half so offensive as the courtier-like flatteries Dr. Watts offers to the Most High. To say nothing of the irreverence, the vulgarity is offensive. He affords another instance amongst thousands how little the form in which feeling is expressed has to do with the feeling itself. In him the thought is true, the form of its utterance false; the feeling lovely, the word, often to a degree, repulsive. The ugly web is crossed now and then by a fine line, and even damasked with an occasional good poem: I have found two, and only two, in the whole of his seventy-five Lyrics sacred to Devotion. His objectivity and boldness of thought, and his freedom of utterance, cause us ever and anon to lament that he had not the humility and faith of an artist as well as a Christian.