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Oh say! ye Commentators who explore 525
The fire of Genius shall but blaze the more :
For all, save Seward, shall beyond them live, 545
And all, save she, their comments long survive!
Seward reminds me, that in Darwin's* school
She learned to mourn and ornament by rule :
* I forbear to make any quotations from this deceased Poet, (Dr. Darwin,) not only as it might be deemed an invidious attempt to wrest from him the few bays, which the Botanic Garden, after the prunings of an unknown and of a modern Satirist, has afforded him; but because I feel a delicacy in taking up a subject, previously so well and so admirably treated; yet as the imposing meretriciousness of a false and vitiated style of Poetry seems daily gaining ground, and likely wholly to supersede its sterling qualities, vigor of thought, and strength of expression, by brilliant metaphor, and elaborate simile; by the incoherence of enthusiasm, and the smoothness of numbers;—I must not allow this opportunity to pass over without endeavouring to point out how directly they tend to the utter subversion of the noblest qualities of good Poetry. The polished and sounding phraseology of
Dr. Darwin conceals either a paucity of ideas, or a looseness Darwin the theorist, who strove to prove,
That worlds and systems sprang from sacred love.
of description: where there was little imagined, he was exuberant, that it might not appear; where he could not be concise, his luxurious redundance tended to obscure his want of strength. Perhaps there never was yet the Poet who could be less pithy than Darwin. When he is elevated by his subject to sublimity, he dwells upon it till it palls on the attention: a succession of sweets produces acidity to the palate; and it is thus, that, although his sonorous majesty may charm in the first couplet and astonish in the second, it will fatigue in the third. Preserving the same dignity and loftiness of expression through a whole Poem,-not descending to meet his situations with the varied style which they require, his grandeur degenerates into bombast, his minuteness becomes prolixity, and his playful elegance descends into laboured absurdity. Ever too erudite to be simple, and too elaborate to be natural, the same exaggerated imagery appears through all his productions. In scenery requiring rather the rugged boldness of nature than the finished softness of art, the latter is made to predominate and the former totally to disappear: and in descriptions of simplicity he abounds with stupendous
similes; like a scene badly managed, Gardens are introduced in
In his botanic page what wonders teem
What idle Fancies of a sickly dream!
frightful Deserts, or frightful Deserts are exhibited in Gardens. It is this persevering incongruity, this ceaseless love of finished description, apparent in every thing that he has written, whether sentimental or didactic, sombre or lively, that will justify me in saying, “ he mourns and ornaments by rule.” It is the apprehension, that so specious a substitute for sense as sound, the brilliancy of verbiage for the solidity of intellect, may overcome the genuine spirit of Poetry; and in thus displacing real excellence for glittering ornament, be considered as the same proof of a national decline, as a similar failing of Poetical Talent was thought to augur to Rome, after the Age of Augustus, that has induced me to quarrel with a Writer now no more: and though
it be a charitable maxim
the claims of Justice and the authority of Satire are not to be sacrificed to that feeling of respect for the dead, which would dictate nothing but praise; and so long as Dr. Busby shall put forth his translation of Lucretius, we can but recollect the “fallen
is not yet dead.”—The Music Doctor seems a professed imitator
All Nature changes her primordial shapes,
Bespatters Planets, Comets, Plants, and, Men.
of the Doctor of Medicine; and Dr. Busby may perhaps undertake a “ Temple of Nature” “some day.” For the gross absurdities, the wild theories, and the extravagant speculations hinted at above, the curious reader will find them at large in the 1st vol. of the “Zoonomia, or the Laws of Organic Life.” Of Miss Seward I should have ventured an opinion, did I not find that I had been anticipated by some able articles in recent periodical publications. She is an evident Darwinian: equally polished, but not equally majestic; perfectly as elaborate, but not so successful in ornament. This, however, is the mere failing of inability, not of disinclination. In allusion to Dr. Darwin's capacity to write as Miss Seward could, and Miss Seward's wish to compose as Dr. Darwin would ; Buckingham's remark on King Charles and his brother James would not be inapplicable, thus alter'd : — I. B.
He could if he would; she would if she could.