1822
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Engelberg.

Memorials of a Tour on the Continent 1820. By William Wordsworth.

William Wordsworth


Two Spenserians. Wordsworth's comment: "The Rock of Engelberg could not have been seen under more fortunate circumstances, for masses of cloud glowing with the reflection of the rays of the setting sun were hovering around it, like choirs of spirits preparing to settle upon its venerable head" p. 87n.

Monthly Repository: "Wordsworth is indeed a great poet. If his admirers be few, they are chosen from among the best of our species. At his shrine the young, the ingenuous, the susceptible, and the strong-minded have laid down their grateful offerings. Though noiseless as the voice of time, he has produced a deeper and a more lasting influence of modern English poetry than any writer of his epoch. His spirit may be traced in almost every thing that has obtained the chance of enduring fame. His poetry has made its way — an unobtrusive, gentle proselytizer — like the great stream of knowledge and improvement. He has not gathered the harvest of general applause: it will be for his memory and not for his earthly triumph" 17 (June 1822) 365.

Port Folio: "These Sonnets have given us more pleasure in the perusal, on account of the portraitures they present. They are not descriptive of what every man sees or may see every day, but bring before us characteristic scenes which, while their remoteness invests them with a certain romantic interest, have enough of resemblance to what is most familiar to us within our daily observation, to make them mix with our habitual thoughts, and find their way readily to our bosoms. Nor can we help remarking that the manner in which these little poems have been suggested, has given them a freshness and fidelity of tact which greatly assist their effect. They have the flavour as well as the bloom of fruit just gathered. What is prepared in the closet with the double labour of recollection and description, is usually defective in that accurate and felicitous representation which realizes and illumines remote objects — which catches and retains transitory and fading forms — which gives body and permanence to accidental graces and evanescent glories. The living landscape should be taken while it is speaking to the fancy, and unfolding its moral. Mr. Wordsworth has caught this expression and character with the eye and feeling of the poet, and has given it an utterance in most appropriate language" [Philadelphia] S4 20 (November 1825) 419.

John Wilson: "All poets have, since Warton's time, agreed in thinking the Spenserian stanza the finest ever conceived by the soul of music — and what various delightful specimens of it have we now in our language! Thomson's Castle of IndolenceShenstone's SchoolmistressBeattie's Minstrel — Burns's Cotter's Saturday Night — Campbell's Gertrude of Wyoming — Scott's Don Roderick — Wordsworth's Female Vagrant — Shelley's Revolt of Islam — Keats's Eve of St. Agnes — Croly's Angel of the World — Byron's Childe Harold! And many 'a lovely lay' might be added to the list — for it would seem, that so divine is the nature of the stanza, that even mediocre poets, with a fair or fine ear, become inspired beyond themselves, 'even by the sounds themselves have made;' and that almost any lyre sends pleasant music from its strings, however even unskilfully constructed on the model of Spenser's, and struck by no master's hand, but even the clumsy fingers of a journeyman, or the feeble ones of an apprentice" Blackwood's Magazine 36 (1834) 421.



For gentlest uses, oft-times Nature takes
The work of Fancy from her willing hands;
And such a beautiful creation makes
As renders needless spells and magic wands,
And for the boldest tale belief commands.
When first mine eyes beheld that famous Hill
The sacred ENGELBERG, celestial Bands,
With intermingling motions soft and still,
Hung round its top, on wings that changed their hues at will.

Clouds do not name those Visitants; they were
The very Angels whose authentic lays,
Sung from that heavenly ground in middle air,
Made known the spot where piety should raise
A holy Structure to the Almighty's praise.
Resplendent Apparition! if in vain
My ears did listen, 'twas enough to gaze;
And watch the slow departure of the train,
Whose skirts the glowing Mountain thirsted to detain!

[pp. 20-21]