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thusiasm, that our thoughts expand with his imagery, and kindle with his sentiments:
KLEIST, of Germany, in the same department of poetic composition, has been compared with Thomson, and is said, by some of his countrymen, to have attained nearly equal excellence. A similar comparison has also been made between the immortal British bard and Delille, of France, who, in his L'Homme des Champs, or Rural Philosopher, presented his countrymen with a poem of acknowledged merit. Though in this work, as well as in that which was before mentioned, there is but little display of invention; yet for correctness and elegance of versification, it sustains a very high character.
The Traveller, and The Deserted Village, by GOLDSMITH, are so well known, and have been so generally admired, that a formal and detailed account of their beauties is altogether unnecessary. His versification has been pronounced more sweet and harmonious than that of any other poet; and both his sentiments and imagery display excellence of the first order. The IVanderer, by SAVAGE, discovers a large portion of those various and extraordinary powers which distinguished that unfortunate and degraded man. It abounds with beautiful imagery, with“ strong descriptions of nature, and just observations on life.” The Shipwreck, by FALCONAR, is well known, and has been universally esteemed, as abounding with the. richest beauties. Scarcely, if at all, inferior in de
a Life of THOMSON, by Johnson.
b It is generally known that this extraordinary man was the son of ANNe, Countess of MACCLESFIELD, by an adulterous connection with Earl Rivers. His great talents; the unnatural cruelty of his mother; his degrading vices; his accumulated distresses, and his nielancholy end, have been so often the subject of mingled astonishment and regret, that to attempt to describe them is as unnecessary as it would be unpleasant. He was born in 1698, and died in 1743, one of the most remarkable instances of unfortunate genius that the age produced.
scriptive excellence to any that have been mentioned, are some of the poems of ROBERT BURNS, the Ayrshire bard. Though his versification is frequently faulty, yet, for ease and vigour of language, for strong descriptive powers, and a vein of rich and exquisite humour, his productions have few rivals. None can read the works of this justly celebrated writer without admiring the genius which, amidst so many difficulties and discouragements, could soar so high; nor without lamenting the misfortunes and the vices which, with such a genius, and amidst so many excitements to virtue, could sink him so low.
Walks in a Forest, and the Vales of IVever, by Mr. GISBORNE, display a very honourable share of original and strong descriptive powers. A Tour through Wales, by Mr. SOTHEBY; Grove-Hill, by Mr. MAURICE; The Sea, by Mr. BIDLAKE; The Pleasures of Memory, by Mr. Rogers, and the Pleasures of Hope, by Mr. CAMPBELL, are all considered by critics as possessing rich and various poetic beauties. The Farmer's Boy, by ROBERT BLOOMFIELD, to ease and sweetness of versification, adds descriptions of such original and inimitable excellence, as shows that they were drawn from nature; and it possesses likewise a vein of sentiment and morality of the most elevated kind.
The Pastoral poetry of the eighteenth century is also highly honourable to modern genius. A brief review of the principal names which belong to this class of authors will show that the last, with respect to this kind of poetic excellence, may be advantageously compared with any former ‘age.
The pastorals of Pope, though not equal to most of his other works, have yet considerable
merit to recommend them. The pastorals of Phillips, published about the same time, may be considered as occupying nearly the same grade of excellence. In the works of GAY and SHENSTONE are also found some specimens of this kind of composition, which have generally a place assigned them among the pastorals of superior character. The Shepherd's Week of the former, and the Pastoral Ballad of the latter, are considered among the most meritorious performances of their kind in our language. The Despairing Shepherd, of Rowe, is also worthy of high praise; and the various pastoral productions of COLLINS, in richness and strength of description, in justness and simplicity of sentiment, have rarely been excelled. But inferior to none that have been mentioned is the Gentle Shepherd, of ALLAN RAMSAY, a work of great and original genius, in which a happy delineation of characters, an affecting exhibition of incidents, and a captivating simplicity and tenderness remarkably prevail.
But among all the pastoral poetry of the eighteenth century, the Idylls of GESNER unquestionably hold the first place. He has, indeed, been pronounced the greatest pastoral poet that ever lived, not excepting THEOCRITUS himself, the father of this species of poetry. In the novelty of many of his thoughts; in the judicious choice of subjects; in liveliness of description; and in exquisite pathos and tenderness of sentiment, he is without a rival. The Idylls, or Rural Stories of Mademoiselle LEVESQUE, a poetess of France, are said by some critics to approach that excellence which distinguishes the productions of Gesner. To these may be added the Eclogues of FONTENELLE and DE LA Motte, of the same country, which deserve to be mentioned with honour
pastoral writings of the age.
The late pastoral poets of Great-Britain are numerous; but of these few are worthy of being distinguished. Among such as deserve to be mentioned with particular honour, Dr. BEATTIÉ änd' Mr. SOUTHEY stand in the first rank. The Hermit of the former, which belongs to this class rather than any other, in easé, in solemn musical expression, in elevation of sentiment, and in pathetic touches, is almost unrivalled, and would bé sufficient alone to establish the author's immortality as a poet. And the Old Mansion House, the Ruined Cottage, and the Botany-Bay Eclogues of the latter, display the fine imagination, the graceful simplicity, and the general poetic excellence, for which the author is remarkable.
In pastoral song and ballad, the poets of the last age incontestibly excelled those of all preceding centuries. In this class of poetic compositions Great-Britain has been particularly fruitful; and few names deserve to be mentioned with so much honour as that of ROBERT BURNS, who was noticed in a former section. In the happy union of ease, simplicity, humour, pathos, and energy, he has had few equals in any age.
The last age produced some specimens of lyric poetry which deserve the highest praise. It has been asserted, indeed, that in this species of composition modern poets are universally and indisputably inferior to the ancient; but this assertion is made too hastily, and without sufficient qualification. Some of the odes of COLLINS and of GRAY will bear an honourable comparison with the best productions of this kind of any age.
Besides these, the lyric compositions of Wirts, Thomson, Mason, WARTON, COWPER, Mrs. BARBAULD, and several other English poets, will long do honour to the literature of their country.
During the same period, much lyric poetry, of a respectable character, was produced on the continent of Europe. In the French language, the odes of J. B. ROUSSEAU, and of GRESSETT, are considered by the critics of that country as among the most finished productions of their kind. To the odes of Rousseau this character is especially applicable. In the Italian language, the odes of METASTASIO; in the German, those of KLOPSTOCK, Weisse, and WIELAND; and in the Swedish, those of DAHLIN, and of GYLLENBORG, are all admired among those who understand the languages in which they are respectively written. But it is believed that the best lyric poetry of Great-Britain, during this period, exceeds that of any other country in Europe, and of course in the literary world.
Under the head of lyric poetry, may be placed the species of composition called the Sonnet, with many excellent models of which the eighteenth century has remarkably abounded. This kind of poetry is of Italian origin. DANTE, though not the inventor, was the first who succeeded in the composition of it. The first successful attempts to present the Sonnet in our language, were made by DrumMOND, and afterwards by MILTON. The former excelled in delicacy; the specimens furnished by the latter were chiefly distinguished by strength of expression, and sublimity of thought; but were by no means remarkable for smoothness, harmony, or elegance. In these respects, several writers of Sonnets, since the day of that immortal bard, though greatly inferior'in genius, have much excelled him; and, of course, have produced compositions of this kind before unequalled in English literature. Among those who have most distinguished themselves in this department of poetry, are