1820 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Leigh Hunt

P. G. Patmore, in "Mr. Leigh Hunt's Poetry" London Magazine 2 (July 1820) 55.



In conclusion, we do not hesitate to say, that, upon the whole, Mr. Hunt is one of the most pleasing, and original poets of the day; but we suppose his most reckless admirers will not demand for him the title of one of the greatest. We do not think of placing him beside such men as Wordsworth or Lord Byron; but we do claim for his genius at least a kindred, with their's. — His poetry does not bear us away with it, from the world in which we live, and "the thing we are," and place us among the sounds, and images, and fancies of other spheres. It cannot make us see "Helen's beauty in a brow of Egypt;" — or, snatch the "prisoned soul" from its fleshly dungeon, "and lap it in Elysium." It cannot revive the visions of our fancy, or cast a halo of radiance round the forms our memory has consecrated. It cannot bring back the days of our childhood, or help us to carry forward those days into after life, by clothing the whole moral and visible world in a mantle of impossible beauty, or causing it to burst upon us again, in all the freshness of a new creation. It cannot restore "the glory to the grass, the splendour to the flower." It cannot breathe into us that lofty and ideal purity of thought and principle, which, if it makes us yearn after, and adore what may he, is but too apt to make us despise what is. — It cannot do these, and a thousand other things, which the imagination of a great poet, — acting on, and acted upon by that of his readers, — can. — But it performs what, in these times, is a most acceptable service: It come to us in our homes on the face of the earth, and makes us content with them; — it meets us with a smile, and what is better, makes us meet others with a smile; — it shows us what is good and beautiful, and teaches us to love that goodness and beauty, wherever we find them. — To conclude these scattered and imperfect remarks, — if Mr. Hunt has not that transcendent genius which can lift us from the realities of daily life, into the "sky of poetry," he can, at least, make its see the reflections of that sky in the waters of our own earth, — and hear the echoes of its music in the song of our own birds,and fancy we feel its airs in the breezes that come about us in our own bowers.