1806 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

James Thomson

John Aikin, in Letters to a Young Lady (1806) 221-22.



Perhaps the most pleasing of all allegorical poems in Spenser's manner is Thomson's Castle of Indolence. It is, indeed, one of the capital performances of this writer, and would alone have entitled him to poetical eminence. The description with which it opens presents a most delightful rural scene, and prepares the mind for a favourable hearing of the subsequent address of the wizard or enchanter Indolence. This potent being is represented as acting, like Spenser's Despair, by the force of persuasion; and a more eloquent harangue is nowhere to be met with than that which the poet puts into his mouth. I know not, indeed, whether it is not almost too persuasive for the moral effect of the piece, especially when enforced by the delicious picture of the life led in this mansion of pleasure. No wonder that the poet himself was too well disposed to become a subject of the Power whose allurements he so feelingly describes; and we may believe that he spoke from his heart when he exclaimed

Escaped the castle of the Sire of sin,
Ah! where shall I so sweet a dwelling find?

Yet the bard of Industry is a truly animated orator; and the reader is judiciously left under the impression of his strains, which may finally incline the balance to the right side.