1789 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sir John Denham

Anna Seward to Court Dewes, 20 July 1789; in Letters, ed. Scott (1811) 2:291-92.



I recently received a new proof of the progress made in the poetic art since Dryden's time. Till last winter, I never happened to meet with Denham's Cowper's Hill, which Pope so highly praised. His praises have been echoed by so many writers since, that I took the merit of that poem upon trust, admired the lines upon the Thames, so often quoted, and reckoned upon the pleasure I should have in reading it, when chance might throw it in my way. But I was amazed when I read it, for the Thames lines appeared to me as almost the only good lines in the composition. Stiff inharmonious numbers; forced thoughts, indistinct landscape; moral reflections trite and not naturally arising from the subject. I read Crowe's Lewesdon Hill with it, and exulted in the superiority of the modern.