1837 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Thomas May

Henry Hallam, in Introduction to the Literature of Europe of the Fifteenth, Sixteenth, and Seventeenth Centuries (1837-39; 1882) 3:269.



The first Latin poetry which England can vaunt is May's Supplement to Lucan, in seven books, which carry down the history of the Pharsalia to the death of Caesar. This is not only a very spirited poem, but, in many places at least, an excellent imitation. The versification, though it frequently reminds us of his model, is somewhat more negligent. May seems rarely to fall into Lucan's tumid extravagances, or to emulate his philosophical grandeur: but the narration is almost as impetuous and rapid, the images as thronged; and sometimes we have rather a happy imitation of the ingenious sophisms Lucan is apt to employ. The death of Cato and that of Caesar are among the passages well worthy of praise. In some lines on Cleopatra's intrigue with Caesar, while married to her brother, he has seized, with felicitous effect, not only the broken cadences, but the love or moral paradox, we find in Lucan.