1793 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. George Richards

Anna Seward to Henry Francis Cary, 9 March 1793; Letters, ed. Scott (1811) 3:213-14.



Apropos of odes, I am delighted with the Aboriginal Odes. In my estimation, the light of genius shines with tenfold force in them, compared to the author's first poem in couplets, the Aboriginal Britons — though that will, I am sensible, much more generally please.... The multitude, however, may, in time, be talked into applauding lyric excellence, when the suffrages of men of genius, liberal enough warmly to celebrate what they feel deserves celebration, shall accumulate, and form a mass of fame, to which the variety of superficial readers, and of those of bounded taste, will induce them to add, rather than, by fruitlessly attempting to diminish it, disgrace themselves. Such, at least, was the inevitable destiny of fine odes; such it will again unquestionably be, if the idle sneers of Johnson, on that line of poetry, shall fall into the contempt they deserve; but if they continue to be generally thought oracular, in vain, for his future glory, shall the bard strike the lyre of Pindar and of Gray, with congenial happiness. — With congenial happiness, surely, has Mr. Richards struck it, especially in the second ode, the Captivity of Caractacus. The first has fine passages; but resembling, somewhat too nearly, the Alexander's Feast, and the Welch Bard, if has less originality than its younger brother.