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FLATNESS OF THE COARSE SCENES. 271
some of the stuff which has dropped, in this inauspicious attempt, from the pen of one of the first poets of his age or country:
“‘ Old dost thou wax, and wars grow sharp;
“‘No, comrade 1 — no such fortune mine.
His Highland freebooters, indeed, do not use a much nobler style. For example: —
“‘It is, because last evening tide
Scarcely more tolerable are such expressions as —
Or that unhappy couplet, where the King himself is in such distress for a rhyme, as to be obliged to apply to one of the most obscure saints on the calendar.
“'Tis James of Douglas, by Saint Serle;
272 LADY of the LAKE – Its FAULTs very VENIAL,
We would object, too, to such an accumulation of strange words as occurs in these three lines: —
“‘Nay, lovely Ellen! Dearest! nay.’” These, however, and several others that might be mentioned, are blemishes which may well be excused in a poem of more than five thousand lines, produced so soon after another still longer: and though they are blemishes which it is proper to notice, because they are . evidently of a kind that may be corrected, it would be absurd, as well as unfair, to give them any considerable weight in our general estimate of the work, or of the powers of the author. Of these, we have already spoken at sufficient length; and must now take an abrupt leave of Mr. Scott, by expressing our hope, and tolerably confident expectation, of soon meeting with him again. That he may injure his popularity by the mere profusion of his publications, is no doubt possible; though many of the most celebrated poets have been among the most voluminous: but, that the public may gain by this liberality, does not seem to admit of any question. If our poetical treasures were increased by the publication of Marmion and the Lady of the Lake, notwithstanding the existence of great faults in both those works, it is evident that we should be still richer if we possessed fifty poems of the same merit; and, therefore, it is for our interest, whatever it may be as to his, that their author's muse should continue as prolific as she has hitherto been. If Mr. Scott will only vary his subjects a little more, indeed, we think we might engage to insure his own reputation against any material injury from their rapid parturition; and, as we entertain very great doubts whether much greater pains would enable him
AND PROBABLY NOT WORTH CORRECTING. 273
to write much better poetry, we would rather have two beautiful poems, with the present quantum of faults— than one, with only one tenth part less alloy. He will always be a poet, we fear, to whom the fastidious will make great objections; but he may easily find, in his popularity, a compensation for their scruples. He has the jury hollow in his favour; and though the court may think that its directions have not been sufficiently attended to, it will not quarrel with the verdict.
WOL. II. T
Poems. By the Reverend GEORGE CRABBE. 8vo. pp. 260. London, 1807.*
WE receive the proofs of Mr. Crabbe's poetical existence, which are contained in this volume, with the same sort of feeling that would be excited by tidings of an ancient friend, whom we no longer expected to hear of in this world. We rejoice in his resurrection, both for his sake
* I have given a larger space to Crabbe in this republication than to any of his contemporary poets; not merely because I think more highly of him than most of them, but also because I fancy that he has had less justice done him, The nature of his subjects was not such as to attract either imitators or admirers, from among the ambitious or fanciful lovers of poetry; or, consequently, to set him at the head of a School, or let him surround himself with the zealots of a Sect: And it must also be admitted, that his claims to distinction depend fully as much on his great powers of observation, his skill in touching the deeper sympathies of our nature, and his power of inculcating, by their means, the most impressive lessons of humanity, as on any fine play of fancy, or grace and beauty in his delineations. I have great faith, however, in the intrinsic worth and ultimate success of those more substantial attributes: and have, accordingly, the strongest impression that the citations I have here given from Crabbe, will strike more, and sink deeper into the minds of readers to whom they are new (or by whom they may have been partially forgotten), than any I have been able to present from other writers. It probably is idle enough (as well as a little presumptuous) to suppose that a publication like this will afford many opportunities of testing the truth of this prediction. But, as the experiment is to be made, there can be no harm in mentioning this as one of its objects. It is but candid, however, after all, to add, that my concern for Mr. Crabbe's reputation would scarcely have led me to devote near one hundred pages to the estimate of his poetical merits, had I not set some value on the speculations as to the elements of poetical excellence in general, and its moral bearings and affinities — for the introduction of which this estimate seemed to present an occasion, or apology.
CRABBE's PoEMs — Too LoNG Disco NTINUED. 275
and for our own: But we feel also a certain movement of self-condemnation, for having been remiss in our inquiries after him, and somewhat too negligent of the honours which ought, at any rate, to have been paid to his memory. It is now, we are afraid, upwards of twenty years since we were first struck with the vigour, originality, and truth of description of “The Village;” and since, we regretted that an author, who could write so well, should have written so little. From that time to the present, we have heard little of Mr. Crabbe; and fear that he has been in a great measure lost sight of by the public, as well as by us. With a singular, and scarcely pardonable indifference to fame, he has remained, during this long interval, in patient or indolent repose; and, without making a single movement to maintain or advance the reputation he had acquired, has permitted others to usurp the attention which he was sure of commanding, and allowed himself to be nearly forgotten by a public, which reckons upon being reminded of all the claims which the living have on its favour. His former publications, though of distinguished merit, were perhaps too small in volume to remain long the objects of general attention, and seem, by some accident, to have been jostled aside in the crowd of more clamorous competitors. Yet, though the name of Crabbe has not hitherto been very common in the mouths of our poetical critics, we believe there are few real lovers of poetry to whom some of his sentiments and descriptions are not secretly familiar. There is a truth and a force in many of his delineations of rustic life, which is calculated to sink deep into the memory; and, being confirmed by daily observation, they are recalled upon innumerable occasions—when the ideal pictures of more fanciful authors have lost all their interest. For ourselves at least, we profess to be indebted to Mr. Crabbe for many of these strong impressions; and have known more than one of our unpoetical acquaintances, who declared they could never pass by a parish workhouse, without thinking of the description of it they had read at school in the Poetical Extracts. The volume before us will renew, we trust, and extend many