1715
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Lecture XXIX. Of Epic, or Heroic Poetry.

Praelectiones Poeticae. 2 Vols.

Rev. Joseph Trapp


Joseph Trapp finds fault with the romantic qualities in Tasso and Spenser, while declaring that the latter "was born a Poet, if any one ever was." He gives higher praise to Paradise Lost, making the striking remark that Moderns would do well to imitate Milton rather than Homer and Virgil. Trapp's lectures were translated into English in 1742.

Joseph Warton: "Of all the parts of Trapp's translation of Virgil, that of his Georgics is most blameable and prosaic. The Author of the Prelusions lost himself much in this translation of Virgil; yet many of his notes shew that he understood and felt his author; and his Prelusions may be read with advantage by young scholars. His Latin translation of Milton was a woful performance" in Works of Alexander Pope, ed. Warton (1797) 7:138n.

Robert Southey: "Dr. Trapp was the first professor of poetry at Oxford, and like many other professors in other things, professed what he certainly did not practise" Common-Place Book (1849-51) 4:349.




Tasso is, indeed, truly heroic, and has justly attain'd no small Esteem. But, to pass by other Particulars, he is too full of Magic, Enchantments, Machinery, and aerial Personages. Of the same Fault our Countryman Spencer is still more remarkably guilty, who treads almost perpetually upon enchanted Ground, and the greatest Part of whose Characters are Fairies, Ghosts, Magicians and Giants. He is all over Allegory, pursues not one Action but several, and such as have so little Relation to each other, that it is difficult to see any Connection. But, in other Respects, this most ingenious Writer was born a Poet, if any one ever was. If we consider his Versification, and especially his Copiousness of Invention, he is justly celebrated, among the Poets of the first Class.

If Milton did not write and Heroic Poem, properly so call'd, yet he certainly wrote an excellent one, such as deserves, or rather is above all Commendation. He is no slavish Imitator of Homer and Virgil, he opens a Way entirely new, and entirely his own: In Fruitfulness of Invention, Sublimity of Genius, in the Weight and Lustre of his Thoughts and Words, and, lastly, in the Perfection of his Judgment, he is, perhaps, equal to either of them, tho' he wrote in a Language much inferior to both theirs, especially Homer's; and is particularly much less correct than Virgil. Let other Moderns imitate Milton, by imitating Homer and Virgil less: Let them improve and form themselves, as much as possible, by their Genius, their Judgment, and their Way of Writing and Thinking: To do this, is to imitate; but to transcribe their Poems, or, at least, a great Part of them, into their own, is not Copying, but Stealing.


[trans. Clarke and Bowyer (1742) 351]