1795 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Julius Mickle

Robert Anderson, in Works of the British Poets (1795) 11:837.



His Sir Martyn, or the Progress of Dissipation, is the longest and most elaborate of his original poetical compositions. Among the numerous imitations of Spenser, it will not only be easy to point out one that will so well bear a comparison with the original. It indicates a warm and fruitful imagination, with much taste. The design and spirit of the poem deserve great praise. After an invocation to the genius of Spenser, and the proposition of the subject, Sir Martyn's first attachment to his concubine, his levity, his love of pleasure and dissipation, and the influence over him which she assumes, are described. The effects of this influence are next exemplified in the different parts of his relative character, — in his domestic elegance of park, garden, and house; — in his unhappiness as a lover, a parent, a man of letters; — behaviour as a master to his tenants, as a friend and brother; — and in his feelings in his hours of retirement, as man of birth and a patriot. The poem closes with an allegorical catastrophe. The reasons he gives in his preface for having adopted the manner of Spenser, are "That the fulness and wantonness of description, the quaint simplicity, and above all, the ludicrous, of which the antique phraseology and manner of Spenser, are so happily and peculiarly susceptible, inclined him to esteem it, not only as the best, the only mode of composition adapted to his subject." Though the relation between verse of Gothic structure, and the Progress of Dissipation may not generally be allowed, yet it cannot be denied, that the imitation is very successfully performed, with respect to the metre, the language, and the fiction. He has the same style of harmony, and the same spirit of enthusiasm which distinguish the poetry of Spenser. His descriptions are equally copious and luxuriant, and are embellished with the same degree of imagery, and heightened by the same colorings of animated fancy.