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only to turn to the long, anonymous paraphrase of Ecclesiastes published in 1768 as Choheleth, or the Royal Preacher. In the tedious circumlocutions of this work, the haunting verse, "Or ever . . . the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern," reappears as,
The precious Golden Bowl itself, of frame
Raise from its Reservoir, and swift repell
After moralizings like this, the reader may be glad to see eddies or ripples of any kind in the sluggish stream of eighteenth-century religious verse; and, if he is curious as to how the clergymen of the day practised what they preached, he may derive unhallowed satisfaction from the career of the Rev. William Dodd.2 Dodd was known as the editor of a very popular Beauties of Shakspere (1752), as the author of a volume of poems (1767), and as a king's chaplain whom Cambridge had made a doctor of laws; but he was most commonly thought of as the "macaroni parson," whose affecting sermons drew large audiences. He dressed elaborately, lived extravagantly, and kept fast company; there were stories afloat of tavern dinners, gambling, and intrigues with women; and he was known to have tried to get a rich living through bribery, but after a short absence in France he returned to undiminished popularity. The extravagance, with its resulting debts, which had brought him into this last difficulty led him afterwards to forge the name of his pupil, Lord Chesterfield, to a bond for £4,200. His crime was immediately detected, he was arrested and condemned to be hanged, and, though Dr. Johnson wrote a number of addresses and prayers for him and Earl Percy presented the king with a petition for clemency signed by twentythree thousand persons, the sentence was carried out. Notoriety had only increased his popularity, and his execution was one of the famous sights of the time.
1 Pages 121-2 (Ecclesiastes, xii. 6).
* Dodd might well have formed the subject of one of the "Moral Tales in Verse" which Thomas Hull of the Covent Garden theater published in 1797, and which included a blank-verse poem on the Advantages of Repentance, that had first appeared in 1776.
Often reprinted up to 1880, and still in print. It is said to have been through this volume that Goethe became acquainted with Shakespeare.
While in Newgate awaiting death Dodd wrote a long blank-verse poem, Thoughts in Prison (1777), which from its character and the circumstances attending its composition naturally found many readers. Written as it was by a vain sentimentalist, weak-willed but kind-hearted, fond of theatrical effects and craving publicity even in his private affairs, the book is filled with gloomy reflections on the weakness of mankind, with the culprit's forgiveness of his enemies, and with his Christian resignation, with everything, in short, but an adequate realization of his own remissness and folly. From a literary standpoint it is worthless, - "vapid, stilted, unprofitable," his biographer calls it.' In subject-matter and tone, as well as in title, its debt to the Night Thoughts is apparent; but the style is less ejaculatory and more Miltonic, as will be seen from this description of prison life:
Hear how those veterans clank, even jovial clank,
Heroes or chiefs for noble acts renown'd,
On peaceful life their devastations wild;
Their dangers, hair-breadth 'scapes, atrocious feats,
This book was not Dodd's first tribute to Milton. More than twenty-five years before, when a young Oxonian, he had published an unrimed, mock-heroic Day in Vacation at College (1751), and in 1758 had followed this with eleven hundred lines of blank verse which he termed Thoughts on the Glorious Epiphany of the Lord Jesus Christ. The aim of this rambling, diffuse, tedious preachment, Miltonic in diction and in such inversions as "a squadron to behold of port divine," was to arouse a desire for the second advent of Christ by painting "the glories of his coming, and the happiness of it to believers." 3 In a volume of his poems published nine years later Dodd had included two more pieces of Miltonic blank verse, four odes modelled on Allegro and Penseroso (one of them in the meter and style of Paradise Lost), and a prologue to Comus. Mean
1 Percy Fitzgerald, A Famous Forgery (1865), 123. On Dodd, see also Boswell's Johnson (ed. Hill), iii. 120-22, 139–48, 270–71. The Critical Review (xliv. 218-21) was both impressed and moved by the Thoughts, finding "in almost every page. appearance of the author's unfeigned contrition, piety, and benevolence."
2 Part iii, pp. 54-5, of the edition printed at Exeter, New Hampshire, 1794. 3 See line 580, and page vii.
* See below, Bibl. I, 1760 w., 1767; II, 1759 w., 1760 w., 1767; and Poems (1767),
while he had prepared his Familiar Explanation of Milton's works (1762), and, as if this were not enough, he later quoted five lines from the epic on the title-page of his Thoughts in Prison. Yet, as his poems seem to contain none of the usual references to Milton and no phrases borrowed from his works, it is doubtful if the flashy, fashionable preacher was well acquainted with the writings of the stern Puritan, if his use of the style or the plan of Milton's poems meant anything more than that these were the models then in vogue.
Dodd was but one of a host of eighteenth-century clergymen who were given to versifying. Many of them doubtless got their effusions into print, as the Rev. Charles Billinge did his Poems on Christian Charity, Contentment, and Melancholy (1784), "by the concurrence of a very respectable and numerous List of Subscribers" 2 who admired the author and perhaps knew little about poetry. Billinge's work, though quite as dull and even more stiltedly Miltonic in style and diction than are the other pieces of its class, has at least the virtue of being short, whereas William Gilbank's Day of Pentecost (1789) contains twelve books. The title is a misnomer; for the piece is not particularly concerned with the gift of tongues, but aims to give a "comprehensive view of our religion, as it is supported by a long chain of extraordinary facts, and striking interpositions of Providence, recorded in the sacred histories." The scenes in heaven are modelled after Milton, "whose style and manner," the reviewer observes, "Mr. Gilbank not improperly, but feebly imitates," and without concealing the imitation, since he "apologises in his preface for introducing some well-known lines from Milton and Shakspeare."3 The year that favored the world with Gilbank's lengthy lucubrations also gave it another work of the same kind, and, notwithstanding its seven editions, of the same negative excellence, the Rev. Joseph Swain's Redemption. Its first book, "The Primitive State and Fall of Man," owes something to the contents of Paradise Lost, and the style and language of the entire work, though commonplace enough, are frequently as Miltonic as in these lines:
Satan perhaps exulted. He might think
God's ancient purpose frustrate; all the fruit
Of his high counsel in creating man
Abortive rendered, and this embryo world
First American ed. (Boston, 1812), p. 66. The poem originally consisted of five books, but in the second edition was extended to eight. The Monthly Review thought poorly of it, giving Swain the dubious title, "a middling poet" (enl. ed., ii. 459–61).
On a granite obelisk near Southampton are the words, "The grave of Robert Pollok, author of The Course of Time: His immortal Poem is his monument," an interesting contrast to that other inscription, carved about the same time, "Here lies one whose name was writ in water." No one reads the Course of Time to-day, nor is there any reason for reading it. It is a long work of three hundred pages, purporting to be an account of life on earth related in heaven to spirits from other worlds. There is a great deal of diffuse moralizing of an obvious kind, but little apparent system. Hell and heaven are described, and almost every aspect of earthly existence is reviewed from a narrowly religious standpoint; nature descriptions and illustrative episodes are introduced; and the closing books picture the last ages of the world, its final destruction, and the day of judgment. An undertaking of this kind is typical of the eighteenth century, and the appearance of such a work in 1827 shows how slowly the influence of the romantic poets made itself felt. The poem is, indeed, a later Night Thoughts in the style and manner of The Task; for, aside from Milton, Pollok's literary enthusiasms were Young and Cowper, poets representative of the age that was past. If we miss the homelike charm and the incisive, vigorous expression which mark Cowper at his best, we are at least spared the hollow, declamatory pessimism of Young and the pompous involutions of eighteenth-century blank verse. The influence of the newer poetry was at work, but it had not gone far. The Course of Time is easy reading, and pleasant if one skips the moralizing and does not read too long. It is sincere, Another writer who "of Redemption made damned work" was William Williams, a young law-student, who planned to issue a book of his Redemption, with Notes, Doctrinal, Moral, and Philosophical, every three months; but fortunately only the first book of his dull discourse, which is slightly Miltonic in style, seems to have got into print (see Mo. Rev., 1796, enl. ed., xxi. 226-7). I have not seen this poem, or the three which Mason Chamberlin published in 1800 and 1801 as Equanimity, Harvest, and Ocean, and of which the Monthly Review said (enl. ed., xxxiii. 429-30, xxxvi. 437–8, and cf. Crit. Rev., new arr., xxxi. 112): "The first of these poems is in fact a sermon in blank verse, on the text In patience possess your souls; and the latter may be considered as a composition of the same description, on the subject of grateful piety and trust in God.... texts of scripture are very liberally interwoven, which often produce a prosaic effect. ... We cannot compliment Mr. C. as manifesting the fervid glow of poetic sentiment,' —which, to judge from the extracts given, is putting it mildly. The style shows some influence from Paradise Lost. George Townsend's Armageddon, in twelve books, eight of which were published in 1815, is called extravagant and absurd by the Eclectic Review (new series, iv. 392-5). God and Christ are characters and the style is patterned on Milton's.
1 The inscription was of course none of his doing. Four editions of the Course of Time were sold within a year, and the seventy-eighth thousand was published in 1868. A striking testimony to the high repute in which Pollok was held is the fifty-page essay, "Sacred Poetry, Milton and Pollok," which was published as late as 1861 in T. McNicoll's Essays on English Literature.
comparatively natural in expression, and at times impressive, but it lacks vigor, is diffuse, and soon becomes monotonous. It has not proved "immortal," for it has no spark of the divine fire. Yet, when one learns that it was written by a high-minded youth of twenty-seven who died of overwork the year it was published, one hesitates to mention anything but the unusual talents that the poem certainly exhibits.
Pollok's style, though similar to Cowper's, is much more Miltonic. It is, indeed, strangely so for a work that appeared the same year as Tennyson's first volume; but here again it belongs with the eighteenth century. Inversions occur in almost every line, adjectives are commonly used for adverbs, and words that would be expressed in prose are frequently omitted. The diction, however, recalls Milton's only in the scenes in heaven, which are among Pollok's best and, as might be expected, are closely modelled on those in Paradise Lost. I shall quote not from any of these passages, but from a more characteristic one devoted to Byron:
As some fierce comet of tremendous size,
To which the stars did reverence as it passed,
So he, through learning and through fancy, took
Of Fame's dread mountain sat; not soiled and worn,
As if he from the earth had laboured up;
But as some bird of heavenly plumage fair,
He looked, which down from higher regions came,
We who think of the first third of the nineteenth century as the period of Byron, Wordsworth, Shelley, and Keats are likely to be disconcerted when we find what the people of the time actually read and wrote, when we learn that after these men were dead or had ceased composing, and even after two of Tennyson's volumes had appeared, verses quite as inflated and absurdly Miltonic in expression as Philips's Cyder were still being composed. One of these works was indeed by a later Phillips, who, however, spelled his name with two l's and was called William instead of John. His poem, Mount Sinai, which appeared in 1830 with a dedication accepted by the king, narrates in four books the giving of the ten commandments, the making of the golden calf, and the building of the ark of the
1 iv. 720-28. Pollok refers to Milton in vi. 68-72, ix. 500-511. His brother writes that Robert first read Paradise Lost when he was in his eighteenth year, and was immediately "captivated with it. . . from that time Milton became his favourite author and,... next to the Bible, his chief companion. Henceforward, he read more or less of him almost every day" (Life, by David Pollok, 1843, p. 19).