1843 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Samuel Boyse

John Holland, in Psalmists of Britain. Records of upwards of One Hundred and Fifty Authors, who have rendered the Whole or Parts of The Book of Psalms, into English Verse (1843) 2:179-80.



Few anomalies are calculated to strike a good man more forcibly in reading the Memoirs, and looking over the works of the English Poets, than the fact that compositions having a religious object — or at least a title respective of religion, are frequently found under the names of men, over whose lives no stretch of Christian charity can extend the slightest imputation of personal piety. It may not, perhaps, be difficult to account for this: few men of genius are wholly devoid of regard for the opinions of society, however they may be lost to self-respect; and hence, while the conduct of the Poet often bitterly reproaches his better judgment, the latter, not unnaturally, seeks to propitiate public censure, if not indeed to pacify its own upbraidings, by the transparent artifice of substituting a religious theme for consistent conduct. The rich vulgar strive to atone for their sins by the bestowment of a portion of their wealth to charitable uses; the poor Poet, on the same principle gives — not, indeed, money, but, that which alone he has to bestow — religious verse! But besides this, there are few men of genius, however generally dissipated their lives may have been, who are without some lucid intervals of deep and serious reflection: and in these seasons of penitential retrospection, how likely it is that the mind should fall upon the versification of one or more of the Psalms of David, or the composition of an original Hymn — and in either case with affecting success! These reflections are almost inevitably excited on reading the works of Samuel Boyse, a man whose poetical attainments undoubtedly entitle him to a respectable place in the ranks of his contemporaries; but whose whole life was a melancholy course of low dissipation, impudent meanness, and consequent merited suffering and neglect. Of such an individual, however useful his history may be as a beacon to warn presumptuous genius against seeking to despise with impunity the decencies and obligations of Society, it is not necessary to say much in this place: especially as the paraphrases two Psalms — the 4th and 42nd — constitute his sole claim to be mentioned at all. As a Poet, his works are somewhat extensive, and very various in character. "His reputation has been chiefly fixed o the production entitled DEITY, which, although irregular and monotonous, contains many striking proofs of poetical genius." Boyse died in 1749.