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The Poetical Works of William Lisle Bowles Vol. 2   By: (1762-1850)

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Transcriber's note

Minor punctuation errors have been changed without notice. Printer errors have been changed and are listed at the end. All other inconsistencies are as in the original.

Characters that could not be displayed directly in Latin 1 are transcribed as follows:

[)] breve over the following letter ['] vertical accent mark over the following letter

THE

POETICAL WORKS

OF

WILLIAM LISLE BOWLES,

CANON OF ST PAUL'S CATHEDRAL, AND RECTOR OF BREMHILL.

With Memoir, Critical Dissertation, and Explanatory Notes,

BY THE

REV. GEORGE GILFILLAN.

VOL. II.

EDINBURGH: JAMES NICHOL, 9 NORTH BANK STREET. LONDON: JAMES NISBET AND CO. DUBLIN: W. ROBERTSON. M.DCCC.LV.

MEMOIR AND CRITICISM ON THE WORKS OF THE REV. W. L. BOWLES.

The poetry of each age may be considered as vitally connected with, and as vividly reflective of, its character and progress, as either its politics or its religion. You see the nature of the soil of a garden in its tulips and roses, as much as in its pot herbs and its towering trees. We purpose, accordingly, to compare briefly the poetry of the past and of the present centuries, as indices of some of the points of contrast between the two, and to show also how, and through what causes, the one grew into the other. This will be a fitting introduction to a consideration of the life and writings of the first of the poets of this century included in our series, the more as he was in a measure the father of modern poetry.

It is impossible to take up a volume of the poetry of the eighteenth century, such as, for instance, Churchill's, or Pope's, or Johnson's, and to compare it with some of the leading poetical works of the present, such as the poems of Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, and Byron, and not to feel as if you were reading the productions of two different races of beings so different are the style, the sentiments, the modes of thought, the imagery, the temperament, and the spirit of the poets and the poetry. It is like stepping, we will not say from the frigid, but from the temperate into the torrid zone. In the one class of authors you find the prevalence of strong sense, flanked by wit and by fancy, but without much that can be called imaginative or romantic. In the other, imagination or fancy is the regnant faculty; and if wit and sense are there too, they are there as slaves, the "Slaves of the lamp," to the imperious imaginative power. The style of the one is clear, masculine, sententious, and measured; that of the other is bold, unmeasured, diffuse, fervid, and sometimes obscure. The one style may be compared to a clear crescent; the other to a full, but partially eclipsed, moon. The sentiment of the one is chiefly the sublimation of passion: bitter contempt, noble indignation, a proud, stern patriotism, sometimes united with a sombre, but manly melancholy, are the principal feelings expressed; that of the other, although occasionally morbid, is far more varied, more profound, purer, on the whole, and more poetical. The thought of the one is acute and logical; that of the other aspires to the deep, if not to the mystical and the transcendental. The subjects of the poets of the eighteenth century are generally of a dignified cast (except in the case of satirical productions), such as "The Temple of Fame," "The Pleasures of Imagination," "The Traveller," "London," and "The Vanity of Human Wishes." The subjects of the other class are as varied as their mode of treatment is often daringly peculiar. The leech gatherer on his lonely moor, the pedlar on his humble rounds, the tinker linked by a "fellow feeling" to the animal he beats and starves, a mad mariner, a divorced wife, a wandering roué such characters as these have called forth the utmost stretch of the powers of our best modern poets. The images of the former race of poets are limited to what are called classical subjects including in this term the ancient mythologies, the incidents in Grecian and Roman story, the more beautiful objects of nature, and the more popular productions of art... Continue reading book >>




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