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To him let Camoens, Milton, Tasso, yield,
* Thalaba, Mr. SOUTHEY's second poem, is written in open defiance of precedent and poetry. Mr. S. wished to produce something novel, and succeeded to a miracle. Joan of Arc was marvellous enough, but Thalaba was one of those poems “ which, in the words of Porson, will be read when Homer and Virgil are forgotten, but-not till then."
Since startled mètre fled before thy face,
Now, last and greatest, Madoc spreads his sails,
Tells us strange tales, as other travellers do,
As thou art strong in verse, in mercy spare !
A fourth, alas ! were more than we could bear.
* We beg Mr. SOUTHEY's pardon : “ Madoc disdains the degraded title of Epic.” See his preface. Why is Epic degraded ? and by whom? Certainly the late Romaunts of Masters COTTLE, Laureat Pye, Ogilvy, Hole, and gentle Mistress COWLEY, have not exalted the Epic Muse, but as Mr. SOUTHEY's poem,“ disdains the appellation," allow us to ask-has he substituted any thing better in its stead ? or must he be content to rival Sir Richard BLACKMORE, in the quantity as well as quality of his verse ?
But if, in spite of all the world can say,
Next comes the dull disciple of thy school,
As soft as eyening in his favourite May,
* See, The Old Woman of Berkley, a Ballad by Mr. SOUTHEY, wherein an aged gentlewoman is carried away by Beelzebub, on a “ high trotting horse."
+ The last line, “God help thee,” is an evident plagiarism from the Anti-jacobin to Mr. SOUTHEY, on his Dactylics :
“God help thee silly one.”—Poetry of the Anti-jacobin, page 23.
Who warns his friend “ to shake off toil and trou
And quit his books for fear of growing double*;"
Who, both by precept and example, shows
That prose is verse, and verse is merely prose,
Convincing all by demonstration plain,
Thus when he tells the tale of Betty Foy,
The idiot mother of “ an idiot Boy;"
A moon-struck silly lad who lost his way,
Shall gentle COLERIDGE pass unnoticed here, To turgid ode, and tumid stanza dear?
Though themes of innocence amuse him best,
Yet still obscurity's a welcome guest.
* Mr. W. in his preface labours hard to prove that prose and verse are much the same, and certainly his precepts and practice are strictly conformable.
“ And thus to Betty's question he
Lyrical Ballads, page 129.