1800 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Robert Southey

Nathan Drake, in Literary Hours (1800) 2:184-85.



Mr. Southey's Joan of Arc, though incorrect, and written with inexcusable rapidity, reflects great credit on his genius and abilities; the sentiments are noble and generous, and burn with an enthusiastic ardour for liberty; the characters, especially that of his Heroine, are well supported, and his visionary scenes are rich with bold and energetic imagery. His fable, however, I cannot but consider peculiarly unfortunate, as directly militating against national pride and opinion; most epic writers have been solicitous to acquire popularity by aggrandizing the heroic deeds and bold emprise of their respective nations, but in Joan of Arc the tide of censure falls upon one of our most gallant Kings, and who has ever been a favourite with the multitude. It is true that the votaries of ambition scatter desolation in their train, and merit the indignant reprobation of every friend to humanity, but had Mr. Southey consulted his own fame and popularity he had chosen a different subject as the vehicle of his sentiments. The versification of this poem is in many parts very beautiful, and would have been altogether so, had the author condescended to bestow more time on its elaboration In his promised epic on the Discovery of America by Madoc, the ingenious poet, it is hoped, will apply more care and assiduity to the necessary work of perfecting and polishing.