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Honour, Truth, and growing Peace
sounds like a solemn parody of—
Joy, Temperance, and Repose.
Slam the door in the Doctor's nose.
The lines recently inspired by England's war seem to me no exception, but I must admit that I have met other, and better, critics who disagree with my judgment.
In my opinion the best verses which have been called forth by the present situation are those written by the strongest singer in the English tongue to-day, he who in Mr. Dooley's happy phrase "makes poetry while you wait"; he who is so often at his best in the purely topical. He, too, it is that has told us how
There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays,
The type of Robert Bridges' art would deserve a place in a far less inclusive canon. For it is an art whose tradition, inherited from many of the greatest names in English literature, is, in his own case, pursued with fine skill and high aims. For many it will remain no more than the "stretched metre of an antique song." Let me end as I began, by saying it can never be popular poetry. It is aristocratic in a good sense-the poetry, not of power or passion or personality, but of elusive grace, of delicacy, of aloofness, and of distinction. It is a flower which, lacking the brighter colors and stronger odors of more luxuriant growth, has none the less its own rare tint and a peculiar fragrance, pure and exquisite.
LOUIS WARDLAW MILES.
THOMAS WARTON'S POETRY AND ITS RELATION
TO THE ROMANTIC MOVEMENT
Thomas Warton first attempted to express his genius in poetry, but, both because the age in which he lived was unfavorable to poetry, and because, as Christopher North said, "the gods had made him poetical, but not a poet," he turned later to criticism and history, where he won more immediate as well as more enduring fame. He did not, however, wholly cease to write poetry, which he somewhat diffidently submitted to public approval, and which shows the development of his tastes and interests and the growth of his romantic tendencies. That Warton does not loom so large in the history of poetry as he does in that of criticism and scholarship we may explain by the fact that he very early neglected poetry for work which was more acceptable to his generation. But if the importance of his poetry is not comparable to that of his other work, neither can it be dismissed as insignificant. Compared with his achievements in other fields of literature, it is obscured by their greater value; but compared with contemporary poetry, it assumes a more significant place.
Warton's most considerable contributions to the new movement were in developing the Gothic or mediæval element, encouraging the nature school of poetry, and giving impetus to the sonnet revival. Beside this, his verse illustrates more fully than that of any of his contemporaries the whole change that was taking place in English poetry; it embodies practically every tendency of the new movement: the repudiation of the pseudoclassical models, the Spenserian and Miltonic revivals, the return to nature, the cult of solitude, the melancholy of the moonlight and graveyard schools, the interest in the supernatural, and the Gothic revival. While Warton lacked the lyrical sweetness and poetic insight of his friend Collins, whose qualities he could at least appreciate, and the poetic fire and inspiration of Gray, to whom he paid the tribute of a sonnet, these are the poets with whom one feels bound to compare him. If he had less poetical genius than either of them, he had a greater variety of inter
ests to which he applied it, and he made distinguished contributions in the direction of his principal interests, - nature and the past.
Warton's romantic tendencies were partly inherited. His father, Thomas Warton senior, though not a gifted poet, had a taste for mediæval subjects, which he transmitted to his sons. Almost twenty years before Percy' and Gray' were writing their "runic" odes, and even before their chief source of inspiration, Mallet's Histoire de Dannemarck, was published, the elder Warton had versified two Latin translations of a portion of a northern song which Sir William Temple had quoted approvingly as containing a "vein truly Poetical," and he thus introduced the runic element into poetry before northern mythology came to be studied seriously. He was not so strikingly novel, but he was almost equally romantic, in contributing a poem to the Spenserian revival. Although he did not imitate Milton, he is known to have been devoted to his work, including the minor poems, which contributed so largely to the new movement, and his sons claimed for him the merit of having brought the Juvenilia to Pope's attention."
In addition to this poetical inheritance, there seems to have been very early fostered in the sons of the first Thomas Warton a love for the past, for old romances wherein the glorious deeds of chivalry were immortalized, and for the visible remains of former days, the feudal castles and Gothic churches of the Middle Ages. It is probable that the elder Warton influenced his son much more by developing and cultivating such natural tastes than through his own Spenserian and runic poems, for the younger Warton seems not to have known of their existence until after his father's death,' and by that time at least the
See Phelps, English Romantic Movement, p. 142.
'See Gray's Works, ed. Gosse, Vol. I, p. 60, and Walpole's Letters, ed. Toynbee, Vol. V, p. 55, and Vol. VII, p. 175.
'Warton's poems were published posthumously in 1748. He died in 1745. 'Temple's Works, ed. 1720, Vol. I, p. 216.
"Philander: An Imitation of Spencer, on the Death of Mr. Levinz (in 1706).
"T. Warton's Milton, 2nd ed. (1791), Pref., p. x.
'Wooll, Biographical Memoirs of Joseph Warton (1806), pp. 214-5.
Pleasures of Melancholy and the Ode to Morning had been written.
"Mr Warton possessed a classic taste with a Gothic Muse," said a reviewer in the Critical Review. While we feel certain that Warton's taste was Gothic as well as classic, we grant that the critic was right in recognizing in his poetry a marked classical element. But by classical we mean what the critic probably did not, genuine as well as pseudo-classical characteristics. Thomas Warton's education was largely classical. He had an intimate acquaintance with both the Greek and the Latin poets and was himself, not only in his youth, when Latin verses were a large part of his school exercises, but even all through his life, the author of Latin poetry of no little merit. His first poetical attempt was in translation of an epigram of Martial; one of his best humorous pieces' was the development of a Latin epigram of his own composition, and all his works abound in classical allusions, not simply in the conventional fashion of all the pseudo-classical poets, but with the warmth and freshness of real intimacy with classical literature.
Although I speak of Warton as a romantic poet, it cannot, of course, be expected that a novice whose first important poem was written the year following the death of Pope should be wholly free from the characteristics of pseudo-classical verse. A strong love for the Gothic in every form, and for Spenser and Milton in particular, even unlimited enthusiasm, imagination, and poetic genius cannot produce a complete revolution in poetry without a preliminary period of experimentation in which the poetry of the age plays a prominent part. And Warton's poetical genius was not of that robust, vigorous sort. Except in his principal contribution, the Gothic element, he was never strikingly original.
Warton's first poetry was therefore experimental, imitative. It shows a confusion of pseudo-classicism, real classicism, and romanticism. Much of it consists of poetical exercises in
8 Series 2, Vol. X, p. 20.
The Progress of Discontent.
various metres and styles, ranging from satires in the manner of Pope and of Swift to melancholy and nature poems under the influence of Milton, from ode to sonnet, and from a translation of Job in heroic couplets to imitations of Theocritus and Horace in the Miltonic fashion, and an inscription with something of the clarity of the Greek. In all of these Warton was evidently trying to find himself. Many of these first poems are extremely significant in showing how early certain aspects of Warton's romanticism appeared.
The first long poem, the Pleasures of Melancholy," savors decidedly of Milton's minor poems in tone and diction, though the title and the form were obviously directly suggested by Akenside's much less romantic Pleasures of Imagination. The poem follows the general plan of Il Penseroso, being a description of the various pleasures which the man devoted to melancholy contemplation may enjoy, and it is full of personifications of abstractions and Miltonic epithets and diction. A few typical passages will illustrate both Warton's command of blankverse harmony and the influence of Milton: the invocationMother of musings, Contemplation sage,
Whose grotto stands upon the topmost rock
and distinct references to particular poems, such as
the dazzling spells
Of wily Comus cheat th' unweeting eye
With blear illusion, and persuade to drink
The taper'd choir, at the late hour of pray'r,
The many-sounding organ peals on high,
The clear slow-dittied chaunt, or varied hymn,
Till all my soul is bath'd in ecstasies,
And lapp'd in Paradise.12
The whole poem is saturated, too, with the melancholy of the graveyard school of poets, and passages can be selected which
10 Written in 1745 ; published anonymously in 1747.
11 Cf. Comus, lines 154-5 and 528-30.
12 Cf. Il Penseroso, lines 161-6,