1801 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Anna Seward

Alexander Thomson, in The British Parnassus, at the Close of the Eighteenth Century (1801) 72-73.



To rival a name now so widely endear'd,
A maiden Competitor lately appear'd;
And, resolving at least not in numbers to yield,
Of Sonnets a Century brought to the field;
But, SEWARD, believe me, — depend too upon it,
You have wholly mistaken the aim of a Sonnet,
And your pieces, with all their legitimate claims,
Come far short of CHARLOTTE'S more negligent frames;
Whatever the rules which they strictly fulfil,
They give not our bosoms that wonderful thrill,
They ne'er with such cadence of melody flow,
Nor deluge our souls with the fame pleasing woe:
You'll say, they're MILTONIC — the Model is coarse,
And for Sonnets you could not have chosen a worse;
Hence that stiffness of style, which all grace undermines,
And that Blank-verse confusion of different lines:
But I speak of the general tone of thy lays,
For a few of them merit unqualified praise;
Such is that, which man's fall, or by age or disease,
Compares to the leaves as they drop from the trees,
And thy speech to the Door of our slumber eternal,
Which was soon to receive thy Protector paternal.