1779 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas Gray

Vicesimus Knox, in "On the Fluctuation of Taste" Essays Moral and Literary (1779) 92-93.



The Elegy in a country church-yard, breathes a spirit of melancholy which flatters the imagination of an Englishman. It is solemn, it is picturesque: but after all, it is thought, by some, to be no more than a confused heap of splendid ideas, thrown together without order and without proportion; and to resemble the loose jewels in the artist's casket before they are formed into a diadem. The odes of the same author, said to be more unintelligible than the aenigma of a sphinx, are in the same predicament, and present to the mind ideas similar to those which arise from a survey of the clouds empurpled by the setting sun. The variegated hues are indeed beautiful; but, they quickly vanish, and leave no idea but that of a transient assemblage of visionary colours