1814 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir William Davenant

Isaac D'Israeli, in Quarrels of Authors (1814) 2:223-24.



The Gondibert has poetical defects fatal for its popularity; the theme was not happily chosen; the quatrain has been discovered by capricious ears to be unpleasing, though its solemnity was felt by DRYDEN; the style is sometimes harsh and abrupt, though often exquisite; and the fable is deficient in that rapid interest which the story-loving readers of all times seem most to regard. All these are diseases which would long since proved mortal in a poem less vital; but our Poet was a commanding genius, who redeemed his bold errors by his energetic originality. The luxuriancy of his fancy; the novelty of his imagery; the grandeur of his views of human life; his delight in the new sciences of his age; — these are some of his poetical virtues: but above all, the impressive solemnity of his philosophical reflections; and his condensed epigrammatic thoughts. The work is often more ethical than poetical; yet, while we feel ourselves becoming wiser at every page, in the fullness of our minds, we still perceive that our emotions have been seldom stirred by passion. The poem falls from our hands! yet there is none, of which we wish to retain so many single verses.