1795 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Thomas Blacklock

Robert Anderson, in Works of the British Poets (1795) 11:1159.



As a poet, though not of the highest class, he is entitled to a rank not inferior to Addison, Parnell, and Shenstone, with respect to proper imagery, correct style, or creative genius. His compositions exhibit ample proofs of ready invention, lively fancy, ardent feeling, correct taste, and a copious command of poetical language. They are the productions of a mind not deficient in fire or poetical enthusiasm; but they are more recommended by simplicity, tenderness, animation, and harmony, than by sublimity, variety, comprehension, or originality; they bear evident marks of poetical genius and classical taste, though we do not find in them the traces of that patient industry which fixes the stamp of faultless accuracy upon every line. Pope seems to have been his model for versification, and it must be allowed that he has copied his pauses, cadence, and cast of diction, with considerable success; many passages are written with an elegance, correctness, spirit and harmony, which rival the best productions of that celebrated poet; but he does not uniformly maintain his easy elegance, nor breath his free and unwearied spirit.

His Elegies, Hymns, Odes, and Epistles, are chiefly distinguished by seriousness of subject, sublimity of thought, opulence of imagery, tenderness of sentiment, and strength and elegance of composition. Of his Pastorals, the principal merit consists in the harmony of versification. The images are seldom new, and the sentiments and descriptions are generally trite and common. His Songs are commonly tender, delicate and sprightly. The Braes of Ballendyne ranks with the most popular compositions of the kind in the English language. His Occasional Poems, and pieces of humour and pleasantry, have their brighter passages, and may be read with pleasure; but they require no distinct examination or particular criticism.