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Ch. 5: The Miltonic Group

That the influence of Milton, in the romantic revival of the eighteenth century, should have been hardly second in importance to Spenser's is a confirmation of our remark that Augustan literature was "classical" in a way of its own. It is another example of that curiously topsy-turvy condition of things in which rhyme was a mark of the classic, and blank verse of the romantic. For Milton is the most truly classical of English poets; and yet, from the angle of observation at which the eighteenth century viewed him, he appeared a romantic. It was upon his romantic side, at all events, that the new school of poets apprehended and appropriated him.

This side was present in Milton in a fuller measure than his completed works would show. It is well known that he, at one time, had projected an Arthuriad, a design which, if carried out, might have anticipated Tennyson and so deprived us of "The Idyls of the King." "I betook me," he writes, "among those lofty fables and romances which recount in solemn cantos the deeds of knighthood."[1] And in the "Epitaphium Damonis" he thus apprised the reader of his purpose:

"Ipse ego Dardanais Rutupina per aequora puppes,
Dicam, et Pandrasidos regnum vetus Inogeniae,
Brennumque Arviragunque duces, priscumque Belinum,
Et tandem Armoricos Britonum sub lege colonos;
Tum gravidam Arturo fatali fraude Iörgernen;
Mendaces vultus, assumptaque Gorlöis arma,
Merlini dolus."[2]

The "matter of Britain" never quite lost the fascination which it had exercised over his youthful imagination, as appears from passages in "Paradise Lost"[3] and even in "Paradise Regained."[4] But with his increasing austerity, both religious and literary, Milton gravitated finally to Hebraic themes and Hellenic art forms. He wrote Homeric epics and Aeschylean tragedies, instead of masques and sonnets, of rhymed pieces on the Italian model, like "L'Allegro" and "Il Penseroso," and of stanzaic poems, like the "Nativity Ode," touched with Elizabethan conceits. He relied more and more upon sheer construction and weight of thought and less upon decorative richness of detail. His diction became naked and severe, and he employed rhyme but sparingly, even in the choral parts of "Samson Agonistes." In short, like Goethe, he grew classical as he grew old. It has been mentioned that "Paradise Lost" did much to keep alive the tradition of English blank verse through a period remarkable for its bigoted devotion to rhyme, and especially to the heroic couplet. Yet it was, after all, Milton's early poetry, in which rhyme is used—though used so differently from the way in which Pope used it—that counted for most in the history of the romantic movement. Professor Masson contradicts the common assertion, that "Paradise Lost" was first written into popularity by Addison's Saturday papers. While that series was running, Tonson brought out (1711-13) an ediction of Milton's poetical works which was "the ninth of 'Paradise Lost,' the eight of 'Paradise Regained,' the seventh of 'Samson Agonistes' and the sixth of the minor poems." The previous issues of the minor poems had been in 1645, 1673, 1695, 1705, and 1707. Six editions in sixty-eight years is certainly no very great showing. After 1713 editions of Milton multiplied rapidly; by 1763 "Paradise Lost" was in its forty-sixth, and the minor poems in their thirtieth.[5]

Addison selected an occasional passage from Milton's juvenile poems, in the Spectator; but from all obtainable evidence, it seems not doubtful that they had been comparatively neglected, and that, although reissued from time to time in complete editions of Milton's poetry, they were regarded merely as pendents to "Paradise Lost" and floated by its reputation. "Whatever causes," says Dryden, "Milton alleges for the abolishing of rime . . . his own particular reason is plainly this, that rime was not his talent: he had neither the ease of doing it, nor the graces of it: which is manifest in his 'Juvenilia' or verses written in his youth; where his rime is always constrained and forced and comes hardly from him."

Joseph Warton, writing in 1756,[6] after quoting copiously from the "Nativity Ode," which, he says, is "not sufficiently read nor admired," continues as follows: "I have dwelt chiefly on this ode as much less celebrated than 'L'Allegro' and "Il Penseroso,"[7] which are now universally known,; but which, by a strange fatality, lay in a sort of obscurity, the private enjoyment of a few curious readers, till they were set to admirable music by Mr. Handel. And indeed this volume of Milton's miscellaneous poems has not till very lately met with suitable regard. Shall I offend any rational admirer of Pope, by remarking that these juvenile descriptive poems of Milton, as well as his Latin elegies, are of a strain far more exalted than any the former author can boast?"

The first critical edition of the minor poems was published in 1785, by Thomas Warton, whose annotations have been of great service to all later editors. As late as 1779, Dr. Johnson spoke of these same poems with an absence of appreciation that now seems utterly astounding. "Those who admire the beauties of this great poem sometimes force their own judgment into false admiration of his little pieces, and prevail upon themselves to think that admirable which is only singular." Of Lycidas he says: "In this poem there is no nature, for there is no truth; there is no art, for there is nothing new. Its form is that of a pastoral, easy, vulgar, and therefore disgusting. . . Surely no man could have fancied that he read 'Lycidas' with pleasure, had he not known its author." He acknowledges that "L'Allegro" and "Il Penseroso" are "noble efforts of imagination"; and that, "as a series of lines," "Comus" "may be considered as worthy of all the admiration with which the votaries have received it." But he makes peevish objections to its dramatic probability, finds its dialogues and soliloquies tedious, and unmindful of the fate of Midas, solemnly pronounces the songs—"Sweet Echo" and "Sabrina fair"—"harsh in their diction and not very musical in their numbers"! Of the sonnets he says: "They deserve not any particular criticism; for of the best it can only be said that they are not bad."[8] Boswell reports that, Hannah More having expressed her "wonder that the poet who had written 'Paradise Lost' should write such poor sonnets," Johnson replied: "Milton, madam, was a genius that could cut a colossus from a rock, but could not carve heads upon cherry stones."

The influence of Milton's minor poetry first becomes noticeable in the fifth decade of the century, and in the work of a new group of lyrical poets: Collins, Gray, Mason, and the brothers Joseph and Thomas Warton. To all of these Milton was master. But just as Thomson and Shenstone got original effects from Spenser's stanza, while West and Cambridge and Lloyd were nothing but echoes; so Collins and Gray—immortal names—drew fresh music from Milton's organ pipes, while for the others he set the tune. The Wartons, indeed, though imitative always in their verse, have an independent and not inconsiderable position in criticism and literary scholarship, and I shall return to them later in that connection. Mason, whose "English Garden" has been reviewed in chapter iv, was a small poet and a somewhat absurd person. He aped, first Milton and afterward Gray, so closely that his work often seems like parody. In general the Miltonic revival made itself manifest in a more dispersed and indirect fashion than the Spenserian; but there was no lack of formal imitations, also, and it will be advisable to notice a few of these here in the order of their dates.

In 1740 Joseph Warton, then an Oxford undergraduate, wrote his blank-verse poem "The Enthusiast, or the Lover of Nature." The work of a boy of eighteen, it had that instinct of the future, of the set of the literary current, not uncommon in youthful artists, of which Chatterton's precocious verses are a remarkable instance. Composed only ten years later than the completed "Seasons," and five years before Shenstone began to lay out his miniature wilderness at the Leasowes, it is more distinctly modern and romantic in its preference of wild nature to cultivated landscape, and of the literature of fancy to the literature of reasons.

"What are the lays of artful Addison,
Coldly correct, to Shakspere's warblings wild?"

asks the young enthusiast, in Milton's own phrase. And again

"Can Kent design like Nature?. . .
Though he, by rules unfettered, boldly scorns
Formality and method, round and square
Disdaining, plans irregularly great?. . .

"Versailles
May boast a thousand fountains that can cast
The tortured waters to the distant heavens;
Yet let me choose some pine-topped precipice
Abrupt and shaggy, whence a foamy stream,
Like Anio, tumbling roars; or some black heath
Where straggling stands the mournful juniper,
Or yew tree scathed."

The enthusiast haunts "dark forests" and loves to listen to "hollow winds and ever-beating waves" and "sea-mew's clang." Milton appears at every turn, not only in single epithets like "Lydian airs," "the level brine," "low-thoughted cares," "the light fantastic dance," but in the entire spirit, imagery, and diction of the poem. A few lines illustrate this better than any description.

"Ye green-robed Dryads, oft at dusky eve
By wondering shepherds seen; to forest brown,
To unfrequented meads and pathless wilds
Lead me from gardens decked with art's vain pomp. . .
But let me never fall in cloudless night,
When silent Cynthia in her silver car
Through the blue concave slides,. . .
To seek some level mead, and there invoke
Old midnight's sister, contemplation sage
(Queen of the rugged brow and stern-fixed eye),
To lift my soul above this little earth,
This folly-fettered world: to purge my ears,
That I may hear the rolling planet's song
And tuneful turning spheres."

Mason's Miltonic imitations, "Musaeus," "Il Bellicoso" and "Il Pacifico" were written in 1744—according to the statement of their author, whose statements, however, are not always to be relied upon. The first was published in 1747; the second "surreptitiously printed in a magazine and afterward inserted in Pearch's miscellany," finally revised and published by the author in 1797; the third first printed in 1748 in the Cambridge verses on the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle. These pieces follow copy in every particular. "Il Bellicoso," e.g., opens with the invocation.

"Hence, dull lethargic Peace,
Born in some hoary beadsman's cell obscure!"

The genealogies of Peace and War are recited, and contrasted pictures of peaceful and warlike pleasures presented in an order which corresponds as precisely as possible to Milton's in "L'Allegro" and "Il Penseroso."

"Then, to unbend my mind, I'll roam
Amid the cloister's silent gloom;
Or, where ranged oaks their shades diffuse,
Hold dalliance with my darling Muse,
Recalling oft some heaven-born strain
That warbled in Augustan reign;
Or turn, well pleased, the Grecian page,
If sweet Theocritus engage,
Or blithe Anacreon, mirthful wight,
Carol his easy love-lay light. . .
And joys like these, if Peace inspire
Peace, with thee I string the lyre."[9]

"Musaeus" was a monody on the death of Pope, employing the pastoral machinery and the varied irregular measure of "Lycidas." Chaucer, Spenser, and Milton, under the names of Tityrus, Colin Clout, and Thyrsis, are introduced as mourners, like Camus and St. Peter in the original. Tityrus is made to lament the dead shepherd in very incorrect Middle English. Colin Clout speaks two stanzas of the form used in the first eclogue of "The Shepherd's Calendar," and three stanzas of the form used in "The Faërie Queene." Thyrsis speaks in blank verse and is answered by the shade of Musaeus (Pope) in heroic couplets. Verbal travesties of "Lycidas" abound—"laureate hearse," "forego each vain excuse," "without the loan of some poetic woe," etc.; and the closing passage is reworded thus:

"Thus the fond swain his Doric oat essayed,
Manhood's prime honors rising on his cheek:
Trembling he strove to court the tuneful Maid,
With stripling arts and dalliance all too weak,
Unseen, unheard beneath an hawthorn shade.
But now dun clouds the welkin 'gan to streak;
And now down dropt the larks and ceased their strain:
They ceased, and with them ceased the shepherd swain."

In 1746 appeared a small volume of odes, fourteen in number, by Joseph Warton, and another by William Collins.[10] The event is thus noticed by Gray in a letter to Thomas Wharton: "Have you seen the works of two young authors, a Mr. Warton and a Mr. Collins, both writers of odes? It is odd enough, but each is the half of a considerable man, and one the counterpart of the other. The first has but little invention, very poetical choice of expression and a good ear. The second, a fine fancy, modeled upon the antique, a bad ear, a great variety of words and images with no choice at all. They both deserve to last some years, but will not." Gray's critical acuteness is not altogether at fault in this judgment, but half of his prophecy has failed, and his mention of Collins is singularly inappreciative. The names of Collins and Gray are now closely associated in literary history, but in life the two men were in no way connected. Collins and the Wartons, on the other hand, were personal friends. Joseph Warton and Collins had been schoolfellows at Winchester, and it was at first intended that their odes, which were issued in the same month (December), should be published in a volume together. Warton's collection was immediately successful; but Collins' was a failure, and the author, in his disappointment, burned the unsold copies.

The odes of Warton which most nearly resemble Milton are "To Fancy," "To
Solitude," and "To the Nightingale," all in the eight-syllabled couplet.
A single passage will serve as a specimen of their quality:

"Me, Goddess, by the right hand lead
Sometimes through the yellow mead,
Where Joy and white-robed Peace resort
And Venus keeps her festive court:
Where Mirth and Youth each evening meet,
And lightly trip with nimble feet,
Nodding their lily-crowned heads;
Where Laughter rose-lip'd Hebe leads," etc.[11]

Collins' "Ode to Simplicity" is in the stanza of the "Nativity Ode," and his beautiful "Ode to Evening," in the unrhymed Sapphics which Milton had employed in his translation of Horace's "Ode to Pyrrha." There are Miltonic reminiscences like "folding-star," "religious gleams," "play with the tangles of her hair," and in the closing couplet of the "Ode to Fear,"

"His cypress wreath my meed decree,
And I, O Fear, will dwell with thee."

But, in general, Collins is much less slavish than Warton in his imitation.

Joseph Warton's younger brother, Thomas, wrote in 1745, and published in 1747, "The Pleasures of Melancholy," a blank-verse poem of three hundred and fifteen lines, made up, in nearly equal parts, of Milton and Akenside, with frequent touches of Thomson, Spenser, and Pope's "Epistle of Eloisa to Abelard." Warton was a lad of seventeen when his poem was written: it was published anonymously and was by some attributed to Akenside, whose "Pleasures of Imagination" (1744) had, of course, suggested the title. A single extract will suffice to show how well the young poet knew his Milton:

"O lead me, queen sublime, to solemn glooms
Congenial with my soul; to cheerless shades,
To ruined seats, to twilight cells and bowers,
Where thoughtful Melancholy loves to muse,
Her favorite midnight haunts. . .
Beneath yon ruined abbey's moss-grown piles
Oft let me sit, at twilight hour of eve,
When through some western window the pale moon
Pours her long-levelled rule streaming light:
While sullen sacred silence reigns around,
Save the lone screech-owl's note, who build his bower
Amid the moldering caverns dark and damp;[12]
Or the calm breeze, that rustles in the leaves
Of flaunting ivy, that with mantle green
Invests some wasted tower. . .
Then when the sullen shades of evening close
Where through the room a blindly-glimmering gloom
The dying embers scatter, far remote
From Mirth's mad shouts, that through the illumined roof
Resound with festive echo, let me sit
Blessed with the lowly cricket's drowsy dirge. . .
This sober hour of silence will unmask
False Folly's smile, that like the dazzling spells
Of wily Comus cheat the unweeting eye
With blear illusion, and persuade to drink
That charmëd cup which Reason's mintage fair
Unmoulds, and stamps the monster on the man."

I italicize the most direct borrowings, but both the Wartons had so saturated themselves with Milton's language, verse, and imagery that they ooze out of them at every pore. Thomas Warton's poems, issued separately from time to time, were first published collectively in 1777. They are all imitative, and most of them imitative of Milton. His two best odes, "On the First of April" and "On the Approach of Summer," are in the familiar octosyllabics.

"Haste thee, Nymph! and hand in hand,
With thee lead a buxom band;
Bring fantastic-footed joy,
With Sport, that yellow-tressëd boy," etc.[13]

In Gray and Collins, though one can hardly read a page without being reminded of Milton, it is commonly in subtler ways than this. Gray, for example, has been careful to point out in his notes his verbal obligations to Milton, as well as to Shakspere, Cowley, Dryden, Pindar, Vergil, Dante, and others; but what he could not well point out, because it was probably unconscious, was the impulse which Milton frequently gave to the whole exercise of his imagination. It is not often that Gray treads so closely in Milton's footsteps as he does in the latest of his poems, the ode written for music, and performed at Cambridge in 1769 on the installation of the Duke of Grafton as Chancellor; in which Milton is made to sing a stanza in the meter of the "Nativity Ode";

"Ye brown o'er-arching groves
That Contemplation loves,
Where willowy Camus lingers with delight;
Oft at the blush of dawn
I trod your level lawn,
Oft wooed the gleam of Cynthia, silver bright,
In cloisters dim, far from the haunts of Folly,
With Freedom by my side, and soft-eyed Melancholy."

Not only the poets who have been named, but many obscure versifiers are witnesses to this Miltonic revival. It is usually, indeed, the minor poetry of an age which keeps most distinctly the "cicatrice and capable impressure" of a passing literary fashion. If we look through Dodsley's collection,[14] we find a mélange of satires in the manner of Pope, humorous fables in the manner of Prior, didactic blank-verse pieces after the fashion of Thomson and Akenside, elegiac quatrains on the model of Shenstone and Gray, Pindaric odes ad nauseam, with imitations of Spenser and Milton.[15]

To the increasing popularity of Milton's minor poetry is due the revival of the sonnet. Gray's solitary sonnet, on the death of his friend Richard West, was composed in 1742 but not printed till 1775, after the author's death. This was the sonnet selected by Wordsworth, to illustrate his strictures on the spurious poetic diction of the eighteenth century, in the appendix to the preface to the second edition of "Lyrical Ballads." The style is noble, though somewhat artificial: the order of the rhymes conforms neither to the Shaksperian nor the Miltonic model. Mason wrote fourteen sonnets at various times between 1748 and 1797; the earlier date is attached, in his collected works, to "Sonnet I. Sent to a Young Lady with Dodsley's Miscellanies." They are of the strict Italian or Miltonic form, and abound in Miltonic allusions and wordings. All but four of Thomas Edwards' fifty sonnets, 1750-65, are on Milton's model. Thirteen of them were printed in Dodsley's second volume. They have little value, nor have those of Benjamin Stillingfleet, some of which appear to have been written before 1750. Of much greater interest are the sonnets of Thomas Warton, nine in number and all Miltonic in form. Warton's collected poems were not published till 1777, and his sonnets are undated, but some of them seem to have been written as early as 1750. They are graceful in expression and reflect their author's antiquarian tastes. They were praised by Hazlitt, Coleridge, and Lamb; and one of them, "To the River Lodon," has been thought to have suggested Coleridge's "To the River Otter—"

"Dear native stream, wild streamlet of the west—"

as well, perhaps, more remotely Wordsworth's series, "On the River Duddon."

The poem of Milton which made the deepest impression upon the new school of poets was "Il Penseroso." This little masterpiece, which sums up in imagery of "Attic choice" the pleasures that Burton and Fletcher and many others had found in the indulgence of the atrabilious humor, fell in with a current of tendency. Pope had died in 1744, Swift in 1745, the last important survivors of the Queen Anne wits; and already the reaction against gayety had set in, in the deliberate and exaggerated solemnity which took possession of all departments of verse, and even invaded the theater; where Melpomene gradually crowded Thalia off the boards, until sentimental comedy—la comedie larmoyante—was in turn expelled by the ridicule of Garrick, Goldsmith, and Sheridan. That elegiac mood, that love of retirement and seclusion, which have been remarked in Shenstone, became now the dominant note in English poetry. The imaginative literature of the years 1740-60 was largely the literature of low spirits. The generation was persuaded, with Fletcher, that

"Nothing's so dainty sweet as lovely melancholy."

But the muse of their inspiration was not the tragic Titaness of Dürer's painting:

"The Melencolia that transcends all wit."[16]

rather the "mild Miltonic maid," Pensive Meditation.

There were various shades of somberness, from the delicate gray of the Wartons to the funereal sable to Young's "Night Thoughts" (1742-44) and Blair's "Grave" (1743). Goss speaks of Young as a "connecting link between this group of poets and their predecessors of the Augustan age." His poem does, indeed, exhibit much of the wit, rhetorical glitter, and straining after point familiar in Queen Anne verse, in strange combination with a "rich note of romantic despair."[17] Mr. Perry, too, describes Young's language as "adorned with much of the crude ore of romanticism. . . At this period the properties of the poet were but few: the tomb, an occasional raven or screech-owl, and the pale moon, with skeletons and grinning ghosts. . . One thing that the poets were never tired of, was the tomb. . . It was the dramatic—can one say the melodramatic?—view of the grave, as an inspirer of pleasing gloom, that was preparing readers for the romantic outbreak."[18]

It was, of course, in Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" (1751), that this elegiac feeling found its most perfect expression. Collins, too has "more hearse-like airs than carols," and two of his most heartfelt lyrics are the "Dirge in Cymbeline" and the "Ode on the Death of Mr. Thomson." And the Wartons were perpetually recommending such themes, both by precept and example.[19] Blair and Young, however, are scarcely to be reckoned among the romanticists. They were heavy didactic-moral poets, for the most part, though they touched the string which, in the Gothic imagination, vibrates with a musical shiver to the thought of death. There is something that accords with the spirit of Gothic ecclesiastical architecture, with Gray's "ivy-mantled tower"—his "long-drawn aisle and fretted vault"—in the paraphernalia of the tomb which they accumulate so laboriously; the cypress and the yew, the owl and the midnight bell, the dust of the charnel-house, the nettles that fringe the grave-stones, the dim sepulchral lamp and gliding specters.

"The wind is up. Hark! how it howls! Methinks
Till now I never heard a sound so dreary,
Doors creak and windows clap, and night's foul bird,
Rocked in the spire, screams loud: the gloomy aisles,
Black-plastered and hung 'round with shreds of scutcheons
And tattered coats-of-arms, send back the sound,
Laden with heavier airs, from the low vaults,
The mansions of the dead."[20]

Blair's mortuary verse has a certain impressiveness, in its gloomy monotony, not unlike that of Quarles' "Divine Emblems." Like the "Emblems," too, "The Grave," has been kept from oblivion by the art of the illustrator, the well-known series of engravings by Schiavonetti from designs by Wm. Blake.

But the thoughtful scholarly fancy of the more purely romantic poets haunted the dusk rather than the ebon blackness of midnight, and listened more to the nightingale than to the screech-owl. They were quietists, and their imagery was crepuscular. They loved the twilight, with its beetle and bat, solitude, shade, the "darkening vale," the mossy hermitage, the ruined abbey moldering in its moonlit glade, grots, caverns, brooksides, ivied nooks, firelight rooms, the curfew bell and the sigh of the Aeolian harp.[21] All this is exquisitely put in Collins' "Ode to Evening." Joseph Warton also wrote an "Ode to Evening," as well as one "To the Nightingale." Both Wartons wrote odes "To Solitude." Dodsley's "Miscellanies" are full of odes to Evening, Solitude, Silence, Retirement, Contentment, Fancy, Melancholy, Innocence, Simplicity, Sleep; of Pleasures of Contemplation (Miss Whately, Vol. IX. p. 120) Triumphs of Melancholy (James Beattie, Vol. X. p. 77), and similar matter. Collins introduced a personified figure of Melancholy in his ode, "The Passions."

"With eyes upraised, as one inspired,
Pale Melancholy sat retired;
And from her wild, sequestered seat,
In notes by distance made more sweet,
Poured through the mellow horn her pensive soul;
And dashing soft from rocks around,
Bubbling runnels joined the sound;
Through glades and glooms the mingled measure stole,
Or o'er some haunted stream, with fond delay,
Round a holy calm diffusing
Love of peace and lonely musing,
In hollow murmurs died away."

Collins was himself afflicted with a melancholia which finally developed into madness. Gray, a shy, fastidious scholar, suffered from inherited gout and a lasting depression of spirits. He passed his life as a college recluse in the cloistered retirement of Cambridge, residing at one time in Pembroke, and at another in Peterhouse College. He held the chair of modern history in the university, but never gave a lecture. He declined the laureateship after Cibber's death. He had great learning, and a taste most delicately correct; but the sources of creative impulse dried up in him more and more under the desiccating air of academic study and the increasing hold upon him of his constitutional malady. "Melancholy marked him for her own." There is a significant passage in one of his early letters to Horace. Walpole (1737): "I have, at the distance of half a mile, through a green lane, a forest (vulgar call it a common) all my own, at least as good as so, for I spy no human thing in it but myself. It is a little chaos of mountains and precipices. . . Both vale and hill are covered with most venerable beeches and other very reverend vegetables that, like most other ancient people, are always dreaming out their old stories to the winds. . . At the foot of one of these, squats ME, I, (il penseroso) and there grow to the trunk for a whole morning."[22] To Richard West he wrote, in the same year, "Low spirits are my true and faithful companions"; and, in 1742, "Mine is a white Melancholy, or rather Leucocholy, for the most part . . . but there is another sort, black indeed, which I have now and then felt."

When Gray sees the Eton schoolboys at their sports, he is sadly reminded:

"—how all around them wait
The ministers of human fate
And black Misfortune's baleful train."[23]

"Wisdom in sable garb," and "Melancholy, silent maid" attend the footsteps of Adversity;[24] and to Contemplation's sober eye, the race of man resembles the insect race:

"Brushed by the hand of rough mischance,
Or chilled by age, their airy dance
They leave, in dust to rest."[25]

Will it be thought too trifling an observation that the poets of this group were mostly bachelors and quo ad hoc, solitaries? Thomson, Akenside, Shenstone, Collins, Gray, and Thomas Warton never married. Dyer, Mason, and Joseph Warton, were beneficed clergymen, and took unto themselves wives. The Wartons, to be sure, were men of cheerful and even convivial habits. The melancholy which these good fellows affected was manifestly a mere literary fashion. They were sad "only for wantonness," like the young gentlemen in France. "And so you have a garden of your own," wrote Gray to his young friend Nicholls, in 1769, "and you plant and transplant, and are dirty and amused; are you not ashamed of yourself? Why, I have no such thing, you monster; nor ever shall be either dirty or amused as long as I live." Gray never was; but the Wartons were easily amused, and Thomas, by all accounts, not unfrequently dirty, or at least slovenly in his dress, and careless and unpolished in his manners, and rather inclined to broad humor and low society.

Romantically speaking, the work of these Miltonic lyrists marks an advance upon that of the descriptive and elegiac poets, Thomson, Akenside, Dyer, and Shenstone. Collins is among the choicest of English lyrical poets. There is a flute-like music in his best odes—such as the one "To Evening," and the one written in 1746—"How sleep the brave," which are sweeter, more natural, and more spontaneous than Gray's. "The Muse gave birth to Collins," says Swinburne; "she did but give suck to Gray." Collins "was a solitary song-bird among many more or less excellent pipers and pianists. He could put more spirit of color into a single stroke, more breath of music into a single note, than could all the rest of the generation into all the labors of their lives."[26] Collins, like Gray, was a Greek scholar, and had projected a history of the revival letters. There is a classical quality in his verse—not classical in the eighteenth-century sense—but truly Hellenic; a union, as in Keats, of Attic form with romantic sensibility; though in Collins, more than in Keats, the warmth seems to comes from without; the statue of a nymph flushed with sunrise. "Collins," says Gosse, "has the touch of a sculptor; his verse is clearly cut and direct: it is marble pure, but also marble cold."[27] Lowell, however, thinks that Collins "was the first to bring back into poetry something of the antique flavor, and found again the long-lost secret of being classically elegant without being pedantically cold."[28]

These estimates are given for what they are worth. The coldness which is felt—or fancied—in some of Collins' poetry comes partly from the abstractness of his subjects and the artificial style which he inherited, in common with all his generation. Many of his odes are addressed to Fear, Pity, Mercy, Liberty, and similar abstractions. The pseudo-Pindaric ode, is, in itself, an exotic; and, as an art form, is responsible for some of the most tumid compositions in the history of English verse. Collins' most current ode, though by no means his best one, "The Passions," abounds in those personifications which, as has been said, constituted, in eighteenth century poetry, a sort of feeble mythology: "wan Despair," "dejected Pity," "brown Exercise," and "Music sphere-descended maid." It was probably the allegorical figures in Milton's "L'Allegro" and "Il Penseroso," "Sport that wrinkled care derides," "spare Fast that oft with gods doth diet," etc., that gave a new lease of life to this obsolescent machinery which the romanticists ought to have abandoned to the Augustan schools.

The most interesting of Collins' poems, from the point of view of these inquiries, is his "Ode on the Popular Superstitions of the Highlands of Scotland." This was written in 1749, but as it remained in manuscript till 1788, it was of course without influence on the minds of its author's contemporaries. It had been left unfinished, and some of the printed editions contained interpolated stanzas which have since been weeded away. Inscribed to Mr. John Home, the author of "Douglas," its purpose was to recommend to him the Scottish fairy lore as a fit subject for poetry. Collins justifies the selection of such "false themes" by the example of Spenser, of Shakspere, (in "Macbeth"), and of Tasso

"—whose undoubting mind Believed the magic wonders which he sung."

He mentions, as instances of popular beliefs that have poetic capabilities, the kelpie, the will-o'-the-wisp, and second sight. He alludes to the ballad of "Willie Drowned in Yarrow," and doubtless with a line of "The Seasons" running in his head,[29] conjures Home to "forget not Kilda's race," who live on the eggs of the solan goose, whose only prospect is the wintry main, and among whose cliffs the bee is never heard to murmur. Perhaps the most imaginative stanza is the ninth, referring to the Hebrides, the chapel of St. Flannan and the graves of the Scottish, Irish, and Norwegian kings in Icolmkill:

"Unbounded is thy range; with varied skill
Thy muse may, like those feathery tribes which spring
From their rude rocks, extend her skirting wing,
Round the moist marge of each cold Hebrid isle,
To that hoar pile which still its ruins shows;
In whose small vaults a pygmy folk is found,
Whose bones the delver with his spade upthrows,
And culls them, wondering, from the hallowed ground;
Or thither, where, beneath the showery west,
The mighty kings of three fair realms are laid;
Once foes, perhaps, together now they rest,
No slaves revere them and no wars invade.
Yet frequent now at midnight's solemn hour,
The rifted mounds their yawning cells unfold,
And forth the monarchs stalk with sovereign power,
In pageant robes, and wreathed with sheeny gold,
And on their twilight tombs aerial council hold."

Collins' work was all done by 1749; for though he survived ten years longer, his mind was in eclipse. He was a lover and student of Shakspere, and when the Wartons paid him a last visit at the time of his residence with his sister in the cloisters of Chichester Cathedral, he told Thomas that he had discovered the source of the "Tempest," in a novel called "Aurelio and Isabella," printed in 1588 in Spanish, Italian, French, and English. No such novel has been found, and it was seemingly a figment of Collins' disordered fancy. During a lucid interval in the course of this visit, he read to the Wartons, from the manuscript, his "Ode on the Superstitions of the Scottish Highlands"; and also a poem which is lost, entitled, "The Bell of Arragon," founded on the legend of the great bell of Saragossa that tolled of its own accord whenever a king of Spain was dying.

Johnson was also a friend of Collins, and spoke of him kindly in his "Lives of the Poets," though he valued his writings little. "He had employed his mind chiefly upon works of fiction and subjects of fancy; and by indulging some peculiar habits of thought, was eminently delighted with those flights of imagination which pass the bounds of nature, and to which the mind is reconciled only by a passive acquiescence in popular traditions. He loved fairies, genii, giants, and monsters; he delighted to rove through the meanders of enchantment, to gaze on the magnificence of golden palaces, to repose by the water-falls of Elysian gardens. This was, however, the character rather of his inclination than his genius; the grandeur of wildness and the novelty of extravagance were always desired by him, but were not always attained."[30]

Thomas Gray is a much more important figure than Collins in the intellectual history of his generations; but this superior importance does not rest entirely upon his verse, which is hardly more abundant than Collins', though of a higher finish. His letters, journals, and other prose remains, posthumously published, first showed how long an arc his mind had subtended on the circle of art and thought. He was sensitive to all fine influences that were in the literary air. One of the greatest scholars among English poets, his taste was equal to his acquisitions. He was a sound critic of poetry, music, architecture, and painting. His mind and character both had distinction; and if there was something a trifle finical and old-maidish about his personality—which led the young Cantabs on one occasion to take a rather brutal advantage of his nervous dread of fire—there was also that nice reserve which gave to Milton, when he was at Cambridge, the nickname of the "lady of Christ's."

A few of Gray's simpler odes, the "Ode on the Spring," the "Hymn to Adversity" and the Eton College ode, were written in 1742 and printed in Dodsley's collection in 1748. The "Elegy" was published in 1751; the two "sister odes," "The Progress of Poesy" and "The Bard," were struck off from Horace Walpole's private press at Strawberry Hill in 1757. Gray's popular fame rests, and will always rest, upon his immortal "Elegy." He himself denied somewhat impatiently that it was his best poem, and thought that its popularity was owing to its subject. There are not wanting critics of authority, such as Lowell and Matthew Arnold, who have pronounced Gray's odes higher poetry than his "Elegy." "'The Progress of Poesy,'" says Lowell, "overflies all other English lyrics like an eagle. . . It was the prevailing blast of Gray's trumpet that, more than anything else, called men back to the legitimate standard."[31] With all deference to such distinguished judges, I venture to think that the popular instinct on this point is right, and even that Dr. Johnson is not so wrong as usual. Johnson disliked Gray and spoke of him with surly injustice. Gray, in turn, could not abide Johnson, whom he called Ursa major. Johnson said that Gray's odes were forced plants, raised in a hot-house, and poor plants at that. "Sir, I do not think Gray a first-rate poet. He has not a bold imagination, nor much command of words. The obscurity in which he has involved himself will not persuade us that he is sublime. His 'Elegy in a Churchyard' has a happy selection of images, but I don't like what are called his great things." "He attacked Gray, calling him a 'dull fellow.' Boswell: 'I understand he was reserved, and might appear dull in company; but surely he was not dull in poetry.' Johnson: 'Sir, he was dull in company, dull in his closet, dull everywhere. He was dull in a new way and that made many people think him GREAT. He was a mechanical poet.' He then repeated some ludicrous lines, which have escaped my memory, and said, 'Is not that GREAT, like his odes?'. . . 'No, sir, there are but two good stanzas in Gray's poetry, which are in his "Elegy in a Country Churchyard." He then repeated the stanza—

"'For who, to dumb forgetfulness a prey,'" etc.

"In all Gray's odes," wrote Johnson, "there is a kind of cumbrous splendor which we wish away. . . These odes are marked by glittering accumulations of ungraceful ornaments; they strike rather than please; the images are magnified by affectation; the language is labored into harshness. The mind of the writer seems to work with unnatural violence. . . His art and his struggle are too visible and there is too little appearance of ease and nature. . . In the character of his 'Elegy,' I rejoice to concur with the common reader; for by the common sense of readers uncorrupted with literary prejudices, after all the refinements of subtlety and the dogmatism of learning, must be finally decided all claims to poetical honors. The 'Churchyard' abounds with images which find a mirror in every mind, and with sentiments to which every bosom returns an echo."

There are noble lines in Gray's more elaborate odes, but they do make as a whole that mechanical, artificial impression of which Johnson complains. They have the same rhetorical ring, the worked-up fervor in place of genuine passion, which was noted in Collins' ode "On the Passions." Collins and Gray were perpetually writing about the passions; but they treated them as abstractions and were quite incapable of exhibiting them in action. Neither of them could have written a ballad, a play, or a romance. Their odes were bookish, literary, impersonal, retrospective. They had too much of the ichor of fancy and too little red blood in them.

But the "Elegy" is the masterpiece of this whole "Il Penseroso" school, and has summed up for all English readers, for all time, the poetry of the tomb. Like the "Essay on Man," and "Night Thoughts" and "The Grave," it is a poem of the moral-didactic order, but very different in result from these. Its moral is suffused with emotion and expressed concretely. Instead of general reflections upon the shortness of life, the vanity of ambition, the leveling power of death, and similar commonplaces, we have the picture of the solitary poet, lingering among the graves at twilight (hora datur quieti), till the place and the hour conspire to work their effect upon the mind and prepare it for the strain of meditation that follows. The universal appeal of its subject and the perfection of its style have made the "Elegy" known by heart to more readers than any other poem in the language. Parody is one proof of celebrity, if not of popularity, and the "sister odes" were presently parodied by Lloyd and Colman in an "Ode to Obscurity" and an "Ode to Oblivion." But the "Elegy" was more than celebrated and more than popular; it was the most admired and influential poem of the generation. The imitations and translations of it are innumerable, and it met with a response as immediate as it was general.[32] One effect of this was to consecrate the ten-syllabled quatrain to elegiac uses. Mason altered the sub-title of his "Isis" (written in 1748) from "An Elegy" to "A Monologue," because it was "not written in alternate rimes, which since Mr. Gray's exquisite 'Elegy in the Country Church-yard' has generally obtained, and seems to be more suited to that species of poem."[33] Mason's "Elegy written in a Church-yard in South Wales" (1787) is, of course, in Gray's stanza and, equally of course, introduces a tribute to the master:

"Yes, had he paced this church-way path along,
Or leaned like me against this ivied wall,
How sadly sweet had flowed his Dorian song,
Then sweetest when it flowed at Nature's call."[34]

It became almost de rigueur for a young poet to try his hand at a churchyard piece. Thus Richard Cumberland, the dramatist, in his "Memoirs," records the fact that when he was an undergraduate at Cambridge in 1752 he made his "first small offering to the press, following the steps of Gray with another church-yard elegy, written on St. Mark's Eve, when, according to rural tradition, the ghost of those who are to die within the year ensuing are seen to walk at midnight across the churchyard."[35] Goldsmith testifies to the prevalence of the fashion when, in his "Life of Parnell," he says of that poet's "Night Piece on Death"[36] that, "with very little amendment," it "might be made to surpass all those night-pieces and church-yard scenes that have since appeared." But in this opinion Johnson, who says that Parnell's poem "is indirectly preferred by Goldsmith to Gray's 'Churchyard,'" does not agree; nor did the public.[37]

Gray's correspondence affords a record of the progress of romantic taste for an entire generation. He set out with classical prepossessions—forming his verse, as he declared, after Dryden—and ended with translations from Welsh and Norse hero-legends, and with an admiration for Ossian and Scotch ballads. In 1739 he went to France and Italy with Horace Walpole. He was abroad three years, though in 1741 he quarreled with Walpole at Florence, separated from him and made his way home alone in a leisurely manner. Gray is one of the first of modern travelers to speak appreciatively of Gothic architecture, and of the scenery of the Alps, and to note those strange and characteristic aspects of foreign life which we now call picturesque, and to which every itinerary and guidebook draws attention. Addison, who was on his travels forty years before, was quite blind to such matters. Not that he was without the feeling of the sublime: he finds, e.g., an "agreeable horror" in the prospect of a storm at sea.[38] But he wrote of his passage through Switzerland as a disagreeable and even frightful experience; "a very troublesome journey over the Alps. My head is still giddy with mountains and precipices; and you can't imagine how much I am pleased with the sight of a plain."

"Let any one reflect," says the Spectator,[39] "on the disposition of mind he finds in himself at his first entrance into the Pantheon at Rome, and how his imagination is filled with something great and amazing; and, at the same time, consider how little, in proportion, he is affected with the inside of a Gothic cathedral, though it be five times larger than the other; which can arise from nothing else but the greatness of the manner in the one, the meanness in the other."[40]

Gray describes the cathedral at Rheims as "a vast Gothic building of a surprising beauty and lightness, all covered over with a profusion of little statues and other ornaments"; and the cathedral at Siena, which Addison had characterized as "barbarous," and as an instance of "false beauties and affected ornaments," Gray commends as "labored with a Gothic niceness and delicacy in the old-fashioned way." It must be acknowledged that these are rather cold praises, but Gray was continually advancing in his knowledge of Gothic and his liking for it. Later in life he became something of an antiquarian and virtuoso. He corresponded with Rev. Thomas Wharton, about stained glass and paper hangings, which Wharton, who was refitting his house in the Gothic taste, had commissioned Gray to buy for him of London dealers. He describes, for Wharton's benefit, Walpole's new bedroom at Strawberry Hill as "in the best taste of anything he has yet done, and in your own Gothic way"; and he advises his correspondent as to the selection of patterns for staircases and arcade work. There was evidently a great stir of curiosity concerning Strawberry Hill in Gray's coterie, and a determination to be Gothic at all hazards; and the poet felt obliged to warn his friends that zeal should not outrun discretion. He writes to Wharton in 1754: "I rejoice to find you at last settled to your heart's content, and delight to hear you talk of giving your house some Gothic ornaments already. If you project anything, I hope it will be entirely within doors; and don't let me (when I come gaping into Coleman Street) be directed to the gentlemen at the ten pinnacles, or with the church porch at his door." Again, to the same (1761): "It is mere pedantry in Gothicism to stick to nothing but altars and tombs, and there is no end to it, if we are to sit upon nothing but coronation chairs, nor drink out of nothing but chalices or flagons." Writing to Mason in 1758 about certain incongruities in one of the latter's odes, he gives the following Doresque illustration of his point. "If you should lead me into a superb Gothic building, with a thousand clustered pillars, each of them half a mile high, the walls all covered with fret-work, and the windows full of red and blue saints that had neither head nor tail, and I should find the Venus de Medici in person perked up in a long niche over the high altar, as naked as she was born, do you think it would raise or damp my devotions?"[41] He made it a favorite occupation to visit and take drawings from celebrated ruins and the great English cathedrals, particularly those in the Cambridge fens, Ely and Peterboro'. These studies he utilized in a short essay on Norman architecture, first published by Mitford in 1814, and incorrectly entitled "Architectura Gothica."

Reverting to his early letters from abroad one is struck by the anticipation of the modern attitude, in his description of a visit to the Grande Chartreuse, which he calls "one of the most solemn, the most romantic, and the most astonishing scenes."[42] "I do not remember to have gone ten paces without an exclamation that there was no restraining. Not a precipice, not a torrent, not a cliff, but is pregnant with religion and poetry. . . One need not have a very fantastic imagination to see spirits there at noonday."[43] Walpole's letter of about the same date, also to West,[44] is equally ecstatic. It is written "from a hamlet among the mountains of Savoy. . . Here we are, the lonely lords of glorious desolate prospects. . . But the road, West, the road! Winding round a prodigious mountain, surrounded with others, all shagged with hanging woods, obscured with pines, or lost in clouds! Below a torrent breaking through cliffs, and tumbling through fragments of rocks!. . . Now and then an old foot bridge, with a broken rail, a leaning cross, a cottage or the ruin of an hermitage! This sounds too bombast and too romantic to one that has not seen it, too cold for one that has." Or contrast with Addison's Italian letters passages like these, which foretoken Rogers and Byron. We get nothing so sympathetic till at least a half century later. "It is the most beautiful of Italian nights. . . There is a moon! There are starts for you! Do not you hear the fountain? Do not you smell the orange flowers? That building yonder is the convent of St. Isidore; and that eminence with the cypress-trees and pines upon it, the top of Mt. Quirinal."[45] "The Neapolitans work till evening: then take their lute or guitar and walk about the city, or upon the sea shore with it, to enjoy the fresco. One sees their little brown children jumping about stark naked and the bigger ones dancing with castanets, while others play on the cymbal to them."[46] "Kennst dud as Land," then already? The

"small voices and an old guitar, Winning their way to an unguarded heart"?

And then, for a prophecy of Scott, read the description of Netley Abbey,[47] in a letter to Nicholls in 1764. "My ferryman," writes Gray in a letter to Brown about the same ruin, "assured me that he would not go near it in the night time for all the world, though he knew much money had been found there. The sun was all too glaring and too full of gauds for such a scene, which ought to be visited only in the dusk of the evening."

"If thou woulds't view fair Melrose aright
Go visit it by the pale moonlight,
For the gay beams of lightsome day
Gild, but to flout, the ruins, Gray."

In 1765, Gray visited the Scotch Highlands and sent enthusiastic histories of his trip to Wharton and Mason. "Since I saw the Alps, I have seen nothing sublime till now." "The Lowlands are worth seeing once, but the mountains are ecstatic, and ought to be visited in pilgrimage once a year. None but those monstrous creatures of God know how to join so much beauty with so much horror. A fig for your poets, painters, gardeners, and clergymen that have not been among them."

Again in 1770, the year before his death, he spent six weeks on a ramble through the western counties, descending the Wye in a boat for forty miles, and visiting among other spots which the muse had then, or has since, made illustrious, Hagley and the Leasowes, the Malvern Hills and Tintern Abby. But the most significant of Gray's "Lilliputian travels," was his tour of the Lake Country in 1769. Here he was on ground that has since become classic; and the lover of Wordsworth encounters with a singular interest, in Gray's "Journal in the Lakes," written nearly thirty years before the "Lyrical Ballads," names like Grasmere, Winander, Skiddaw, Helvellyn, Derwentwater, Borrowdale, and Lodore. What distinguishes the entries in this journal from contemporary writing of the descriptive kind is a certain intimacy of comprehension, a depth of tone which makes them seem like nineteenth-century work. To Gray the landscape was no longer a picture. It had sentiment, character, meaning, almost personality. Different weathers and different hours of the day lent it expressions subtler than the poets had hitherto recognized in the broad, general changes of storm and calm, light and darkness, and the successions of the seasons. He heard Nature when she whispered, as well as when she spoke out loud. Thomson could not have written thus, nor Shenstone, nor even, perhaps, Collins. But almost any man of cultivation and sensibility can write so now; or, if not so well, yet with the same accent. A passage or two will make my meaning clearer.

"To this second turning I pursued my way about four miles along its borders [Ulswater], beyond a village scattered among trees and called Water Mallock, in a pleasant, grave day, perfectly calm and warm, but without a gleam of sunshine. Then, the sky seeming to thicken, the valley to grown more desolate, and evening drawing on, I returned by the way I came to Penrith. . . While I was here, a little shower fell, red clouds came marching up the hills from the east, and part of a bright rainbow seemed to rise along the side of Castle Hill. . . The calmness and brightness of the evening, the roar of the waters, and the thumping of huge hammers at an iron forge not far distant, made it a singular walk. . . In the evening walked alone down to the lake after sunset and saw the solemn coloring of night draw on, the last gleam of sunshine fading away on the hilltops, the deep serene of the waters, and the long shadows of the mountains thrown across them till they nearly touched the hithermost shore. At distance heard the murmur of many waterfalls not audible in the day-time.[48] Wished for the moon, but she was dark to me and silent, hid in her vacant inter-lunar cave."[49]

"It is only within a few years," wrote Joseph Warton in 1782, "that the picturesque scenes of our own country, our lakes, mountains, cascades, caverns, and castles, have been visited and described."[50] It was in this very year that William Gilpin published his "Observations on the River Wye," from notes taken upon a tour in 1770. This was the same year when Gray made his tour of the Wye, and hearing that Gilpin had prepared a description of the region, he borrowed and read his manuscript in June, 1771, a few weeks before his own death. These "Observations" were the first of a series of volumes by Gilpin on the scenery of Great Britain, composed in a poetic and somewhat over-luxuriant style, illustrated by drawings in aquatinta, and all described on the title page as "Relative chiefly to Picturesque Beauty." They had great success, and several of them were translated into German and French.[51]


Footnotes:


[1] "An Apology for Smectymnuus."

[2] Lines 162-168. See also "Mansus," 80-84.

[3] "What resounds
In fable or romance of Uther's son,
Begirt with British and Armoric knights;
And all who since, baptized or infidel,
Jousted in Aspramont, or Montalban,
Damasco, or Marocco, or Trebisond,
Or whom Biserta sent from Afric shore
When Charlemain with all his peerage fell
By Fontarabbia."
Book I, 579-587.

[4] "Faery damsels met in forest wide
By knights of Logres, or of Lyones,
Lancelot, or Pelleas, or Pellenore."
Book II, 359-361.

[5] "Masson's Life of Milton," Vol. VI. P. 789

[6] "Essay on Pope," Vol. I. pp. 36-38 (5th edition). In the dedication to Young, Warton says: "The Epistles (Pope's) on the Characters of Men and Women, and your sprightly Satires, my good friend, are more frequently perused and quoted than 'L'Allegro' and 'Il Penseroso' of Milton."

[7] The Rev. Francis Peck, in his "New Memoirs of the Life and Poetical Works of Mr. John Milton," in 1740, says that these two poems are justly admired by foreigners as well as Englishmen, and have therefore been translated into all the modern languages. This volume contains, among other things, "An Examination of Milton's Style"; "Explanatory and Critical Notes on Divers Passages of Milton and Shakspere"; "The Resurrection," a blank verse imitation of "Lycidas," "Comus," "L'Allegro" and "Il Penserosa," and the "Nativity Ode." Peck defends Milton's rhymed poems against Dryden's strictures. "He was both a perfect master of rime and could also express something by it which nobody else ever thought of." He compares the verse paragraphs of "Lycidas" to musical bars and pronounces its system of "dispersed rimes" admirable and unique.

[8] "Life of Milton."

[9] "Il Pacifico: Works of William Mason," London, 1811, Vol. I. p. 166.

[10] "Odes on Several Descriptive and Allegoric Subjects."

[11] "To Fancy."

[12] Cf. Gray's "Elegy," first printed in 1751:

"Save that, from yonder ivy-mantled tower,
The moping owl does to the moon complain
Of such as, wandering near her secret bower,
Molest her ancient, solitary reign."

[13] "On the Approach of Summer." The "wattled cotes," "sweet-briar hedges," "woodnotes wild," "tanned haycock in the mead," and "valleys where mild whispers use," are transferred bodily into this ode from "L'Allegro."

[14] Three volumes appeared in 1748; a second edition, with Vol. IV. added in 1749, Vols. V. and VI. in 1758. There were new editions in 1765, 1770, 1775, and 1782. Pearch's continuations were published in 1768 (Vols. VII. and VIII.) and 1770 (Vols. IX. and X.); Mendez's independent collection in 1767; and Bell's "Fugitive Poetry," in 18 volumes, in 1790-97.

[15] The reader who may wish to pursue this inquiry farther will find the following list of Miltonic imitations useful: Dodsley's "Miscellany," I. 164, Pre-existence: "A Poem in Imitation of Milton," by Dr. Evans. This is in blank verse, and Gray, in a letter to Walpole, calls it "nonsense." II. 109. "The Institution of the Order of the Garter," by Gilbert West. This is a dramatic poem, with a chorus of British bards, which is several times quoted and commended in Joseph Warton's "Essay on Pope." West's "Monody on the Death of Queen Caroline," is a "Lycidas" imitation. III. 214, "Lament for Melpomene and Calliope," by J. G. Cooper; also a "Lycidas" poem. IV. 50, "Penshurst," by Mr. F. Coventry: a very close imitation of "L'Allegro" and "Il Penseroso." IV. 181, "Ode to Fancy," by the Rev. Mr. Merrick: octosyllables. IV. 229, "Solitude, an Ode," by Dr. Grainger: octosyllables. V. 283, "Prologue to Comus," performed at Bath, 1756. VI. 148, "Vacation," by——, Esq.: "L'Allegro," very close—

"These delights, Vacation, give,
And I with thee will choose to live."

IX. (Pearch) 199, "Ode to Health," by J. H. B., Esq.: "L'Allegro." X. 5, "The Valetudinarian," by Dr. Marriott; "L'Allegro," very close. X. 97, "To the Moon," by Robert Lloyd: "Il Penseroso," close. Parody is one of the surest testimonies to the prevalence of a literary fashion, and in Vol X. p 269 of Pearch, occurs a humorous "Ode to Horror," burlesquing "The Enthusiast" and "The Pleasures of Melancholy," "in the allegoric, descriptive, alliterative, epithetical, hyperbolical, and diabolical style of our modern ode wrights and monody-mongers," form which I extract a passage:

"O haste thee, mild Miltonic maid,
From yonder yew's sequestered shade. . .
O thou whom wandering Warton saw,
Amazed with more than youthful awe,
As by the pale moon's glimmering gleam
He mused his melancholy theme.
O Curfew-loving goddess, haste!
O waft me to some Scythian waste,
Where, in Gothic solitude,
Mid prospects most sublimely rude,
Beneath a rough rock's gloomy chasm,
Thy sister sits, Enthusiasm."

"Bell's Fugitive Poetry," Vol. XI, (1791), has a section devoted to "poems in the manner of Milton," by Evans, Mason, T. Warton and a Mr. P. (L'Amoroso).

[16] See James Thomson's "City of Dreadful Night," xxi. Also the frontispiece to Mr. E. Stedman's "Nature of Poetry" (1892) and pp. 140-41 of the same.

[17] "Eighteenth Century Literature," pp. 209, 212.

[18] "English Literature in the Eighteenth Century," pp. 375, 379.

[19] Joseph mentions as one of Spenser's characteristics, "a certain pleasing melancholy in his sentiments, the constant companion of an elegant taste, that casts a delicacy and grace over all his composition," "Essay on Pope," Vol. II. p. 29. In his review of Pope's "Epistle of Eloisa to Abelard," he says: "the effect and influence of Melancholy, who is beautifully personified, on every object that occurs and on every part of the convent, cannot be too much applauded, or too often read, as it is founded on nature and experience. That temper of mind casts a gloom on all things.

"'But o'er the twilight grows and dusky caves,' etc." —Ibid, Vol. I. p. 314.

[20] "The Grave," by Robert Blair.

[21] The aeolian harp was a favorite property of romantic poets for a hundred years. See Mason's "Ode to an Aeolus's Harp" (Works, Vol. I. p. 51). First invented by the Jesuit, Kircher, about 1650, and described in his "Musurgia Universalis," Mason says that it was forgotten for upwards of a century and "accidentally rediscovered" in England by a Mr. Oswald. It is mentioned in "The Castle of Indolence" (i. xl) as a novelty:

"A certain music never known before
Here lulled the pensive melancholy mind"—

a passage to which Collins alludes in his verses on Thomson's death—

"In yon deep bed of whispering reeds
His airy harp shall now be laid."

See "The Lay of the Last Minstrel" I. 341-42 (1805)

"Like that wild harp whose magic tone
Is wakened by the winds alone."

And Arthur Cleveland Coxe's (Christian Ballads, 1840)

"It was a wind-harp's magic strong,
Touched by the breeze in dreamy song,"

And the poetry of the Annuals passim.

[22] Cf. the "Elegy":

"There at the foot of yonder nodding beech," etc.

[23] "On a Distant Prospect of Eton College."

[24] "Hymn to Adversity"

[25] "Ode on the Spring."

[26] "Ward's English Poets," Vol. III. pp. 278-82.

[27] "Eighteenth Century Literature," p. 233.

[28] "Essay on Pope."

[29] See ante, p. 114.

[30] "Life of Collins."

[31] Essay on "Pope."

[32] Mr. Perry enumerates, among English imitators, Falconer, T. Warton, James Graeme, Wm. Whitehead, John Scott, Henry Headly, John Henry Moore, and Robert Lovell, "Eighteenth Century Literature," p. 391. Among foreign imitations Lamartine's "Le Lac" is perhaps the most famous.

[33] "Mason's Works," Vol. I. p. 179.

[34] Ibid., Vol. I. p. 114.

[35] Cf. Keats' unfinished poem, "The Eve of St. Mark,"

[36] Parnell's collected poems were published in 1722.

[37] Not the least interesting among the progeny of Gray's "Elegy" was "The Indian Burying Ground" of the American poet, Philip Freneau (1752-1832). Gray's touch is seen elsewhere in Freneau, e.g., in "The Deserted Farm-house."

"Once in the bounds of this sequestered room
Perhaps some swain nocturnal courtship made:
Perhaps some Sherlock mused amid the gloom,
Since Love and Death forever seek the shade."

[38] Spectator, No. 489.

[39] No. 415.

[40] John Hill Burton, in his "Reign of Queen Anne" give a passage from a letter of one Captain Burt, superintendent of certain road-making operations in the Scotch Highlands, by way of showing how very modern a person Carlyle's picturesque tourist is. The captain describes the romantic scenery of the glens as "horrid prospects." It was considerably later in the century that Dr. Johnson said, in answer to Boswell's timid suggestion that Scotland had a great many noble wild prospects, "I believe, sir, you have a great many, Norway, too, has noble wild prospects, and Lapland is remarkable for prodigious noble wild prospects. But, sir, let me tell you, the noblest prospect which a Scotchman ever sees is the high-road that leads him to England."

[41] See also Gray's letter to Rev. James Brown (1763) inclosing a drawing, in reference to a small ruined chapel at York Minster; and a letter (about 1765) to Jas. Bentham, Prebendary of Ely whose "Essay on Gothic Architecture" has been wrongly attributed to Gray.

[42] To Mrs. Dorothy Gray, 1739.

[43] To Richard West, 1739.

[44] Gray, Walpole, and West had been schoolfellows and intimates at Eton.

[45] To West, 1740.

[46] To Mrs. Dorothy Gray, 1740.

[47] "Pearch's Collection" (VII. 138) gives an elegiac quatrain poem on "The Ruins of Netley Abbey," by a poet with the suggestive name of George Keate; and "The Alps," in heavy Thomsonian blank verse (VII. 107) by the same hand.

[48] "A soft and lulling sound is heard
Of streams inaudible by day."
The White Doe of Rylstone, Wordsworth.

[49] "Samson Agonistes."

[50] "Essay on Pope" (5th ed.), Vol. II. p. 180.

[51] These were, in order of publication: "The Mountains and Lakes of Cumberland and Westmoreland" (2 vols.), 1789; "The Highlands of Scotland," 1789; "Remarks on Forest Scenery," 1791; "The Western Parts of England and the Isle of Wight," 1798; "The Coasts of Hampshire," etc., 1804; "Cambridge, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex," etc., 1809. The last two were posthumously published. Gilpin, who was a prebendary of Salisbury, died in 1804. Pearch's "Collection" (VII. 23) has "A Descriptive Poem," on the Lake Country, in octosyllabic couplets, introducing Keswick, Borrowdale, Dovedale, Lodore, Derwentwater, and other familiar localities.

Henry Augustin Beers

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