1751
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

A Continuation of the Discourse before the Ode on Martial Virtue.

An Ode on the Powers of Poetry: to which are prefixed Observations on Taste, and on the present state of Poetry and Criticism in England.

Thomas Cooke


Thomas "Hesiod" Cooke comments on Milton as an imitator of Spenser. The essay, continued from the "Ode on Martial Virtue" (1750), continued from the "Ode to Beauty" (1749) devotes brief paragraphs to Spenser, Shakespeare, Beaumont and Fletcher, Ben Jonson, and Milton. Writing anonymously, Cooke announces that "I shall be more copious in some Remarks, which I shall hereafter publish separate from these Discourses, on Spenser, Shakespear, and Milton, and on their Editors and Critics" p. 6. Later installments in this unusual mode of publication were added in 1752 and 1753.




Poetry, in its Infancy, was devoted to the Services of Religion and Morality: how far it has degenerated from its original Purity the Herd of English Poets such as they are (very few to be excepted) shamefully demonstrate.

Spenser, than whom no Poet antient or modern had a richer Fancy, has endeavoured, with great Success, to render his Genius serviceable to his Country: his Fairy Queen is one continued allegorical Representation of religious Fortitude and the Virtues of Humanity: his shadowy Scenes are so many enchanted Castles, Palaces, and Bowers, and many of them so divinely adorned as to inspire the attentive Reader with Notions and Desires superior to the Frailty of his Nature: in his seventh Eclogue he has beautiful Strokes in Favour of the Reformation, and against the exorbitant Power of the Church of Rome. Spenser is not without Faults; but his Beauties, which are more than ordinary, compensate greatly for what is to be found in him not strictly poetical. He has furnished some following illustrious Poets with Hints and more than Hints. Milton borrowed the Artillery, with which he supplied the Armies of Lucifer, and some other inestimable Materials, from the Fairy Queen; and he must be allowed to have used them with Judgment, and partly in the Words of Spenser. . . .


[pp. 4-5]