1810 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Bp. Reginald Heber

Walter Scott, in "Living Poets" Edinburgh Annual Register for 1808 (1810) 2:440.



Mr. REGINALD HEBER may, we fear, be considered as one whom a too easy situation in life is likely to seduce from the service of the Muses, his proper and natural mistresses. — The answer of the wealthy veteran, "Ibit qui perdidit zonam," has a force in poetry as well as in military enterprise. He who hopes to acquire, by is talents, that distinction which is the road to fortune, is compelled to place himself frequently before the public. But the man of affluence naturally shrinks from the trouble necessary to assert his literary rank, and from exposing himself to virulent criticism and unceasing cabal. He feels that whatever the vulgar suppose, the real pleasure of the poetic talent consists in the power of calling up and arraying imaginary groupes; and that the toil of arresting the glittering visions, of embodying them in verse, and clothing them with suitable language, is usually unsatisfactory labour. But the author of Palestine, and of Europe ought not to think so. The former, a juvenile work, had the faults natural to early compositions. There was a profusion of epithet, an affectation of balanced and sounding versification, and a pomp of eloquence which sometimes exceeded the classical standard. In Europe, Mr. Heber's latest composition, the unfortunate turn of events, which has baffled the prophecy of the poet, and the sagacity of the statesman, casts an unpleasing gloom over the subject. We do not like to look back upon disappointed hoped and successless efforts, when we remember the glow of expectation which originally preceded our disappointment. Under these disadvantages, however, Mr. Heber's essays place him in a fair rank for poetical fame; for he has a richness of language, command of versification, and strength of ideas, that may lead him to high and distinguished eminence. We sincerely hope that neither the duties of his profession, nor the opiate of ease and affluence, will prevent his again claiming the public notice, or occasion his sinking into the genteel and occasional versifier.