1896 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. John Keble

George Saintsbury, in History of Nineteenth-Century Poetry (1896) 363.



With Herbert and Miss Rossetti, Keble ranks as the greatest of English writers in sacred verse, the irregular and unequal efforts of Vaughan and Crashaw sometimes transcending, oftener sinking below the three. If Keble has not the exquisite poetical mysticisms of Christina Rossetti he is more copious and more strictly scholarly, while he escapes the quaint triviality or the triviality sometimes not even quaint, which mars Herbert. The influence of Wordsworth is strongly shown, but it is rendered and redirected in an entirely original manner. The lack of taste which mars so much religious poetry never shows itself even for a moment in Keble; yet the correctness of his diction, like the orthodoxy of his thought is never frigid or tame. There are few poets who so well deserve the nickname of a Christian Horace, though the phrase may seem to have something of the paradox of "prose Shakespeare." The careful melody of the versification and the exact felicity of the diction exclude, it may be, those highest flights which create most enthusiasm, at any rate in this country. But for measure, proportion, successful attainment of the proposed end, Keble has few superiors.