1822 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Henry More

Anonymous, in Retrospective Review 5 (1822) 224-5.



The author's design was the same with that of the great philosophical poet of our own days,

—to rouse the sensual from their sleep
Of death, and win the vacant and the vain
To noble raptures,

by an exhibition of their own capabilities of excellence and enjoyment. This noble design shines through the whole, and animates the dulness of his laboured and prosaic argumentation. Not that his doctrines are unpoetical in themselves: whatever opinion may be formed as to the truth of the Platonic philosophy, it will not be denied, that, in its lofty and imaginative tenets, there is something adapted to the purposes of poetry. But Henry More was not Prometheus. He may have perceived the capabilities of his subject, but he wanted the animating touch to waken it into life and beauty. Dry argument, unornamented statements of fact, awkward and ill-sustained fiction, compose the greater part of his poem [Song of the Soul]. His zeal could not, like the indignation of Juvenal, supply the deficiencies of nature. His diction is copious, not select; his versification rugged, and incorrect in the extreme. Notwithstanding all his faults, however, we fully assent to the observation of a writer [Robert Southey], whose path we have frequently crossed in our antiquarian researches, and whose opinion on matters of taste, though not always accurate, is generally of some value, that "amidst the uncouth allegory, and still more uncouth language, of this strange series of poems, there are a few passages to be found of extreme beauty."