1795 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Samuel Daniel

Robert Anderson, in Works of the British Poets (1795) 4:113.



The style of Daniel is distinguished from that of his contemporaries, by a peculiar neatness and simplicity. The original rectitude of his judgment seems to have served him in place of examples. He uses no antiquated words, and has no fantastic incongruities. He has rejected, with equal propriety, the coarse and obsolete idioms of Spenser, and the metaphysical conceits of Donne. His expression is clear and concise, and his versification correct and harmonious. He is not deficient in tenderness, and sometimes shows sublimity; but want of fire and enthusiasm is his characteristic fault. He was unhappy in the choice of the Civil Wars, as the subject of his principal poem, as it obliged him to descend to minute descriptions; and nothing merely narrative is susceptible of the higher ornaments of poetry. It has, however, considerable merit in the execution. The descriptions are often beautifully expressive, and some of the pathetic passages, with which it abounds, are equal to any that are to be found in the whole compass of of English poetry. In his Complaint of Rosamond, he has caught Ovid's manner very happily, and has often the softness of Rowe without his effeminacy. His Musophilus has a right to the merit of still higher excellence. It displays a correctness and manliness of thought, and a beauty and harmony of versification that leave little to wish. His Sonnets are entitled to the peculiar praise of having no obscurities either of style or language. In all his pieces are to be found marks of good sense and manly sensibility; free from pedantry and affectation, which have concurred to banish from use the productions of many of his contemporaries. He has undeservedly shared the neglect they have met with, as he is innocent of their faults, and highly worthy of the attention and esteem of the present age.