1709
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Death's Vision: The Preface.

Death's Vision represented in a Philosophical, Sacred Poem.

Rev. John Reynolds


Discussing the relation of philosophy to poetry, John Reynolds, a dissenting clergyman who writes anonymously, makes a reference to Henry More, Cambridge Platonist and Spenserian poet. "Death's Vision" itself is a vast Lucianic vision that John W. Draper, The Funeral Elegy (1929) mentions as belonging to a group of Spenser-influenced elegies.

Edward Payson Morton: "A faint allusion to Spenser in the Preface ... in which he asked: 'Or has the Ruggedness and Antique Dress of Dr. Henry More's Philosophical Essays discourag'd others from attempting anything in the like kind?' In the third edition (1735), Reynolds changed his sentence to read: 'Dr. Henry More has attempted some Philosophical odes; but the antique dress and measures, that he has chosen, it is to be feared, have prejudiced his own, and discouraged others'" "The Spenserian Stanza in the Eighteenth Century" (1913) 372.

Hoxie Neale Fairchild: "John Reynolds was an intelligent and learned Presbyterian minister, an intimate friend of Isaac Watts, and a Christian of warmly emotional piety. He wins at once our favorable attention by his admiration for George Herbert" Religious Trends in English Verse (1939) 1:151.

The first printing (Foxon R177) not in ESTC (1997). A copy of the 1735 edition of this poem appears in the 1769 sale catalogue of the libraries of William Duncombe and Joseph Spence; see A. N. L. Munby, in Sale Catalogues of Libraries of Eminent Persons (1971-75) 2:228.




Is it not wonder then, that among the numerous Subjects, that are Elaborately Sung, Philosophy in a Philosophical Age (and so Philosophical, that such Problems have been Resolv'd, and Discoveries made, as no Ages are known to have been blest with before) shou'd be no more Cultivated by the Sons of the Muses? What! is Philosophy so Barren a Soil? or is it too Stubborn to yield to those Notional Flights, that are not Govern'd by Matter and Motion? or are the two Genus's, of the Philosopher and Poet, too Widely distant to be Consistent? Certainly there have been a more Easy Conjunction of 'em, had our Poets been furnish'd with as much Philosophy, as Philosophers have with Strength of Imagination and Fancy. Or has the Ruggedness and Antique Dress of Dr. Henry More's Philosophical Essays Discouraged others from attempting any thing in the life Kind? 'Tis true such Matter is Restive, Refactory and Unpolishable enough. Not unlike the Philosopher's Materia Prima, Susceptive of all, Especially Vivid Forms. 'Tis Unactive, Heavy and Dull; Refuses, Ordinarily, that Metaphorical Cloathing, those turns of Fancy and Wit, that almost Essentiate a Poem, and Accomodate it to Sprightly minds. With Stubborn Matter, must Philosophical Terms and Mechanical Language be Employ'd, which are reckon'd Contradictions to the Sweetness and Softness of Poetry; and are, usually, as Insignificant and Insipid to the Men of Air and Wit, as they themselves are wont to be to those of Philosophical Thought and Study. The Consideration of the necessity of Introducing here such Novel, Uncouth words and Diction, seems to have afforded Discouragement even to Lucretius himself.

Nec me Animi fallit, Graiorum obscura reperta
Difficile inlustrare Latinis versibus Esse.
(Multa Novis verbis parefertim cum sit Agendum)
Propter Egestatem Linguae et Rerum Novitatem.

But 'tis to be suppos'd, that those Difficulties and Discouragements may be either Conquer'd or Compensated by the true Poetical Genius and Wit, that cannot be so, by one that can pretend to neither. And, methinks, twas a Noble path, for Matter and Tendency, that, That Philsophical Doctor trod; tho', since that, Trac'd by so few. . . .


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