1800 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Dr. Erasmus Darwin

Nathan Drake, in Literary Hours (1800) 2:194-95



Nothing can exceed the exquisite taste with which the diction of the Botanic Garden is selected, and the facility which the author enjoys of describing, without the smallest injury to the polish and melody of his lines, the most intricate objects of nature and of art, is truly astonishing. A playfulness of fancy, and unbounded variety of fiction, an imagination wild and terrific as that of Dante or Shakespeare, and an intimate knowledge of every branch of science and natural history, conspire to render this poem perfectly unique. Scripture narrative, ancient mythology, gothic superstition and the miracles of philosophy are drawn in to decorate or elucidate the history or metamorphoses of his plants, and the bold and beautiful personifications which every where start forward, and with a projection which indicates the hand of genius, infuse life and vigour through the work.... Who can contrast these didactic poets [Downman, Polwhele, and Darwin] with the philosophical and metaphysical ones of the age of Elizabeth, and for an instant hesitate where to bestow a decided preference!