1801 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Gregory Lewis Way

John Penn, Preface, Penn, Poems (1801) 1:lxiii-lxv.



The second volume begins with a version of The Squire's Tale of Chaucer. In considering it, something ought to be said of the method fallen upon by the late lamented Mr. Way, of adapting the poetry of our old writers to the taste of modern readers. Great credit is due for every attempt to add character to composition: and Mr. Way's execution of his plan does not fall short of it; yet I think this style may be in request without superseding that of Pope. For as I have endeavoured to shew elsewhere, a species of writing should be considered genuine, in proportion as it is necessary to satisfy a want of the mind. Now, if we consider an old poet, either as modernized or translated, what is undertaken is not performed unless we are enabled to read him throughout in the language of the day. We may therefore desire to see the thoughts of our old poets heightened partially by the language of their time; but we may likewise desire to see them heightening that of our own.