1822
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Sonnet. To John Keats, on his first Poems.

Literary Speculum 2 (November 1822) 368.

Cornelius Webbe


Cornelius Webbe, one of the most obscure of the Cockney poets, celebrates his friend's early poetry which "Spenser pleased might hear." This last line of the sonnet is a "Spenserian" alexandrine. John Keats's first, most Spenserian, volume of poems was not at all well received, nor has it found much favor since. The poem is signed "C. W."; Webbe was a frequent contributor of sonnets to the Literary Speculum.

La Belle Assemblee: "John Keats was a man of genius, and the want of judgment that led him to seek a model in Leigh Hunt, must be forgiven and imputed to the immaturity incident to his years, had time been allowed, he would have proved an ornament to English literature. Cornelius Webbe is another whom this rage of imitation has spoiled: some of his sonnets are exquisitely beautiful, but slurred here and there with Huntean phrases. The productions which have appeared under the name of Barry Cornwall have merit, but have been praised far beyond their deserts" NS 27 (January 1823) 5.

Oliver Elton: "The great poets of the time, though they have their true disciples as well as their parrot-followers, cannot be said to form schools, in the sense in which Pope or Tennyson have done so. Wordsworth's influence, in England, outlasted Byron's, and was better for our poetry, but it told most powerfully later on. That of Shelley was also more restricted for the moment. The attraction of Keats, strong as it was, especially in his own circle, was much blended, during this period, with the attraction of the old writers, Elizabethan or Italian, on whom he drew, and it is not disengaged and seen in its purity till afterwards, when it is working upon the youthful Tennyson and then upon the 'pre-Raphaelites.' The minor writers, therefore, do not band themselves at all clearly under assignable masters; there is not Pleiade. The central strand, perhaps, of the many-coloured cord is romance, in the historical sense of the term; — the revival of colour, of intimate passion, of beauty for its own sake; and of all this as beheld through the old poets and their stories, now made new" Survey of English Literature 1780-1930 (1912) 2:257-58.

The Literary Speculum ran from November 1821 to January 1823.



Delicious as the mingling songs of spring,
As lark's loud hyming to the dewy hours,
Or earliest opening of sweet-lipped flowers,
Which we have watched from their first blooming;
Wild as the notes which some white hand will fling
From new-strung harp, unweeting of its powers;
Glad as that happy song the bee doth sing
When he sees summer decking out her bowers;
Sweet as the voice of a blythe-hearted maid
When she is blythest, or the seldom heard
Impassionate lay that love doth serenade
A mistress with, taking her like a bird,—
Are these first voicings of thy early lyre,
Which Spenser pleased might hear, who was thy genius' sire.

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