1740 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. John Dyer

Henry Fielding?, Review of Dyer, Ruins of Rome; The Champion 1 (8 March 1740) 340-42, 347.



Booksellers are the best Judges whether Poetry is a thriving Branch of Trade; and Authors whether they find a Mecaenas to reward their Studies. But this the whole Age is sensible of, that there never were more Adventurers to Parnassus, than at present; and all, who have Taste and Candour, must acknowledge several late Performances have a legitimate Title to their Applause. — Not to mention the Works of our Arch-Poet, who is celebrated by every Pen as well as his own; we have been oblig'd with an excellent Essay on Human Nature, by Lord Paget; several miscellaneous Pieces, by Mr. Littleton; the Chace, by Mr. Somerville; the Oeconomy of Love, by an ingenious Physician; Leonidas and London, by Mr. Glover; Grisselda, by Mr. Ogle; a Canto of Spencer's Fairy Queen, by Mr. W—; and within these few Days, The Ruins of Rome, by a Gentleman, who, together with all those first mention'd, has only to communicate his Name, to render it immortal.

This is one of those happy Poems that is founded on a Subject that carries Inspiration along with it.

Lo the resistless Theme, imperial Rome,
Fall'n, fall'n, a silent Heap!

And it requires no great Courage to say, never Author did his Subject nobler Justice. — If the Image is sublime, the Language is equal, and the Measure every where accommodated to both.

Deep lies in Dust the Theban Obelisc
Immense along the Waste; minuter Art,
Gliconian Forms, or Phidian, subtly fair,
O'erwhelming; as th' immense Leviathan
The finny Brood, when near Ierne's Shore,
Out-stretch'd, unwieldy, his Island-Length appears
Above the foamy Flood—

The last Line but one errs in Quantity by being a Syllable too long; and the last Line of the following Passage is equally defective by being a Syllable too short.

—The clefted Domes
Tremble to ev'ry Wind. The Pilgrim oft,
At dead of Night, mid his Oraison hears
The Voice of Time disparting Tow'rs,
Tumbling all precipitate down dash'd.—

Puny Critics may, if they please, cavil with these Liberties: But they are such as only a masterly Hand is capable of; and demand not Excuse, but Applause....

To conclude: If such superior, such commanding Beauties cannot awake the Curiosity, or excite the Gratitude of the Age, let no Man, for the future, put his Trust in the Muses, or flatter himself that Merit is the Road to Reputation. — The Hints of Acknowledgment, scatter'd up and down this Paper, are a Free-will Offering; and owe their Rise neither to Friendship, Flattery, or Interest. The Champion is an utter Stranger even to the Name of the Author of The Ruins of Rome, and praises him merely because he deserves it: He is both the Admirer and Friend of Genius, however discountenanc'd or obscure; nor waits for the Fashion to prompt his Panegyric; and, though not of the illustrious Society for the Encouragement of Learning, would make it his highest Glory to assist the Endeavours of all who labour, as well as he, either to instruct, delight, or polish Mankind.