1788
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sonnet by Mr. Bowles.

Gentleman's Magazine 58 (December 1788) 1104.

Rev. William Lisle Bowles


William Lisle Bowles renders a subject familiar from the allegorical odes in the form of a sonnet, reducing the epithets to a bare minimum while packing nine personifications into his fourteen lines. The manner of William Collins is plainly apparent in this early verse by a former pupil of Joseph Warton. John Bampfylde's Sixteen Sonnets (1778) are also an influence. This sonnet is reprinted with substantive variations as Sonnet IX in Fourteen Sonnets (1789). Bowles went on to become one a prolific poet, critic, and controversialist, achieving the height of his fame in the 1820s when he took up the critical cudgels to defend the doctrine of "pure poetry" advocated by his former teacher. He was also prolific in years, dying so late as 1850, the same year as William Wordsworth.

New Monthly Magazine: "Of these sonnets, the fame has been so widely spread, and so firmly established, that they have operated somewhat to the injury of Mr. B.'s general character as a poet; causing him to be considered merely as a writer of sonnets; whereas these poems, excellent as they are in their kind, form but a very small and comparatively inconsiderable part of Mr. B.'s compositions; and his larger poems are, in many instances, full as much distinguished, in their respective classes, as any of his sonnets" 14 (November 1820) 482.

Thomas Frognall Dibdin: "Mr. Bowles has secured a lasting reputation as a writer of Sonnets; and of these Sonnets, few are more soothing, or sink deeper into the heart of a son of Alma Mater, than that upon a distant view of Oxford" Library Companion (1824; 1825) 2:754n.

Henry Hallam: "The Sonnets of Bowles may be reckoned among the first-fruits of a new era in poetry. They came in an age when a common-place facility in rhyming on the one hand, and an almost nonsensical affectation in a new school on the other, had lowered the standard so much, that critical judges spoke of English poetry as of something nearly extinct, and disdained to read what they were sure to disapprove. In these Sonnets there was observed a grace of expression, a musical versification, and especially an air of melancholy tenderness, so congenial to the poetical temperament, which still, after sixty years of a more propitious period than that which immediately preceded their publication, preserves for their author a highly respectable position among our poets. The subsequent poems of Mr. Bowles did not belie the promise of his youth. They are indeed unequal; many passages, no doubt, are feeble, and some are affected; but there are characteristics of his poetry which render it dear to the young and susceptible, — not those characteristics only which have been just mentioned, but a sympathy with external nature, a quickness in perceiving, and a felicity in describing, what most charms the eye and the ear; his continual residence in the country assisting him in the one, his ardent love of music in the other" Address to the Royal Society of Literature, quoted in Gentleman's Magazine NS 33 (1850) 674.

Samuel Austin Allibone: "Rev. William Lisle Bowles, 1762-1850, was descended from the Bowleses of Burcombe, in Wiltshire. He was born at King's Sutton; placed at Winchester, 1776; elected a member of Trinity College Oxford, 1781; Vicar of Chicklade, 1792; Rector of Dumbleton, 1797; Vicar of Bremhill, and Prebendary of Salisbury, 1804; Canon Residentiary, 1828. Mr. Bowles was a voluminous writer" Critical Dictionary of English Literature (1858-71; 1882) 1:228.



O Poverty, tho' from thy haggard eye,
Thy chearless mein, of every charm bereft,
Thy brow, that Hope's last traces long have left,
Vain Fortune's feeble sons with terror fly;
Thy rugged paths with pleasure I attend;
For Fancy, that with many a dream can bless,
And Patience, in the pall of wretchedness,
Sad-smiling as the ruthless storms descend;
And Piety, forgetful of each wrong,
And meek Content, whose griefs no more rebel;
And Genius, warbling sweet her saddest song,
And Pity, list'ning to Misfortune's knell,
Long banish'd from the world's insulting throng,
With thee, and loveliest Melancholy dwell.

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