1805 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Robert Southey

Visconti, in "Present State of Engish Poetry" Literary Miscellany [Cambridge MA] 1 (October 1805) 370.



Southey in the opinion of many produced a fine poem in the Joan of Arc, and by general suffrage discovered talents, which prognosticated a national epic. But all have been disappointed. His Madoc has beautiful scenes, but is deficient as a whole. It wants the unity of the critics, and the daring thoughts of the anticritics. Both parties have therefore been careless of pleasing him; and the English reader, not having found in his poem the Golconda mine of gems and gold, now reverts to the harmonious versification of Pope, or the natural landscapes of Cowper. I know not why Southey failed. He certainly has powers of no common kind. He was not indeed so carefully nursed by the muses and graces on the hills or in the vallies, as Thompson; and fancy did not blow on him so strong a breath, as on Burns; yet he has scenes, and little delicate phrases, and nice peculiarities, and sometimes strong bursts of passion, which exhibit something more, than the quotidianarum harum formarum.