1795 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Pattison

Robert Anderson, in Works of the British Poets (1795) 8:552.



As a poet, the pretensions of Pattison seem not to have been hitherto sufficiently considered or allowed. His compositions, though little known, are characterised by a degree of tenderness, terseness, refinement, and harmony, which entitles them to the attention of the readers of poetry. They possess a considerable portion of the strong imagination of Spenser and Milton, and the rich melody of Dryden and Pope. The piece of most conspicuous merit in his works, is the Epistle of Abelard to Eloisa, in answer to Pope's inimitable Epistle of Eloisa to Abelard. It is evidently the production of a man of sensibility and genius; and for flowing description, passionate language, picturesque imagery, and pathetic exclamation, is only inferior to the production of Pope, of which it is an imitation, even to the cadence of the verse. It is impossible to read it without experiencing the alternate impulse of desire, pity, or rage; and lastly, the freezing languor of irrecoverable despair. It has not been exceeded by the compositions of Cawthorne and Warwick on the same subject. The Epistles of Rosamond to Henry, and Henry to Rosamond, abound in natural and tender sentiments, and apposite imagery. The fragment of an Epistle from Yarico to Inkle is truly Ovidian; it is much to be regretted, that it is unfinished. The Morning Contemplation abounds in excellent morality, enlivened by a variety of appropriate imagery, and many of the ornaments of true poetry. The verses on the 5th of November are vigorously written. They abound in sublime description, vivid imagery, and striking metaphors.

The College Life contains some animated, expressive, and harmonious lines. The liveliness of the description evinces a most vigorous imagination. The Hour Glass deserves every praise. The morality and the poetry are equally conspicuous. His translations from Strada, Claudian, and Virgil, are, in general, classical and spirited, and remarkable for the harmony and elegance of the verse. His Festum Lustrale shews what a master he was of the Latin language. The description is lively, humorous, and just. Of his amatory, humorous, and occasional pieces, the poetical merit is much beyond his years; but they are scarcely to be inspected with all the severity of criticism. Considerable allowances are to be made for the exercises of a school-boy, for the incorrect effusions of momentary passion; for a few lines thrown together to please a female, or to amuse a school-fellow; and perhaps not less for the hasty and involuntary productions of indigence and necessity, calculated for the sole purpose of procuring a subsistence.