1821 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Charles Lloyd

Thomas Noon Talfourd, in "Mr. Charles Lloyd's Poems" London Magazine 3 (April 1821) 407-08.



The peculiar qualities of Mr. Lloyd's genius have never been so clearly developed as in the chief poem of the work before us [Desultory Thoughts in London]. In his Nugae Canorae, all his thoughts and feelings were overcast by a gentle melancholy, which rendered their prominences less distinct, as it shed over them one sad and sober hue. Even, however, in his most pensive mood the vigorous and restless activity of his intellect might be discerned, curiously enquiring for the secret springs of its own distress, and regarding its sorrows as high problems worthy of the most painful scrutiny. While he exhibited to us the full and pensive stream of emotion, with all the images of soft clouds and delicate foliage reflected on its bosom, he failed not to conduct us to its deep-seated fountains, or to lay open to our view the jagged caverns within its banks. Yet here the vast intellectual power was less conspicuous than in his last poems, because the personal emotion was more intense, single, and pervading. He is now, we rejoice to observe, more "i' the sun," and consequently, the nice workings of his reason are set more distinctly before us. The Desultory Thoughts in London embrace a great variety of topics, associated in the mind of the author with the metropolis, but many of them belonging to those classes of abstraction which might as fitly be contemplated in a desart. Among these are "Fate, free will, foreknowledge absolute," — the theories of manners and morals — the doctrines of expediency and self-interest — with many speculations relating to the imaginative parts of literature, and the influences of religion upon them — all of which are grasped by the hand of a master. The whole range of controversial writing scarcely affords an example of propositions stated so lucidly, qualified so craftily, and urged with such exemplary fairness and candour, as in this work. It must, indeed, be admitted, that the admirable qualities of the argument render it somewhat unfit for marriage "with immortal verse." Philosophical poetry, when most attractive, seizes on some grand elemental truths, which it links to the noblest material images, and seeks rather to send one vast sentiment to the heart through the medium of the imagination, than to lead the mind by a regular process of logic, to the result which it contemplates. Mere didactic poetry, as Pope's Essay on Man, succeeds not by the nice balance of reasons, but by decking out some obvious common place in a gorgeous rhetoric, or by expressing a familiar sentiment in such forcible language as will give it a singular charm to all who have felt its justice in a plainer garb. In general, the poet, no less than the woman, who deliberates, is lost. But Mr. Lloyd's effusions are in a great measure exceptions to this rule; — for though they are sometimes "harsh and crabbed," and sometimes too minute, they are marked by so hearty an earnestness, and adorned by such variety of illustration, and imbued with such deep sentiment, that they often enchant while they convince us. Although his processes are careful, his results belong to the stateliest range of truths. His most laborious reasonings lead us to elevated views of humanity — to the sense of a might above reason itself — to those objects which have inspired the most glorious enthusiasm, and of which the profoundest bards have delighted to afford us glimpses. It is quite inspiring to follow him as he detects the inconsistencies of worldly wisdom, as he breaks the shallow reasonings of the advocates of expediency into pieces, or as he vindicates their prerogatives to faith and hope. He leads us up a steep and stony ascent, step by step; but cheers us by many a ravishing prospect by the way, and conducts at last to an eminence, not only above the mists of error, but where the rainbow comes, and whence the gate of heaven may be seen as from the Delectable Mountains which Bunyan's Pilgrim visited.