1824 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Drummond

Anonymous, in Retrospective Review 9 (1824) 352, 366.



Drummond, of Hawthornden, is a name familiar as a "household word" to most men; but, from our little experience, we are inclined to believe that, to the great majority, he is nothing but a name. He has been adduced as evidence, and cavilled at — rated high, and, to use the world more familiarly, rated soundly — just as it suited the purpose of the critics and commentators; but, reading him, without reference to what he has been made to say for and against Ben Jonson, seems to have been out of the question....

Feeling, as we have before observed, is the very essence of Drummond's poetry; where he did not feel, or where he affected to do more than feel, he not unfrequently fails altogether. His ode on the Death of Gustavus Adolphus is of this class; and the madrigal and epigrams, beginning at page 99 [of the 1711 folio], are the worst part of the volume. Tears on the Death of Moeliades are infinitely better. There are a great many well-measured and high-sounding lines which, after poetry, are the next best thing; but of poetry itself, — of that holy and consecrating essence, which gives life and beauty to the "meanest flower that blows;" (and in proof of what we mean, we offer the "young-eye-speaking lovers" in this very elegy;) which ennobles the lowest, and neither seeks, nor needs, the majesty of language, though enriched by it, to give it universal currency, or touch the heart, there is very little. — That little,

Th' immortal amaranthus, princely rose,
Sad violet, and that sweet flow'r that bears
In sanguine spots the tenor of our woes,

it is probable that the young Milton remembered when he wrote Lycidas.