Reference > Cambridge History > The Age of Johnson > Young, Collins and Lesser Poets of the Age of Johnson > His treatment of the Spenserian Stanza
  Beattie’s Minstrel Falconer’s Shipwreck  

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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume X. The Age of Johnson.

VII. Young, Collins and Lesser Poets of the Age of Johnson.

§ 19. His treatment of the Spenserian Stanza.


Beattie, on the other hand, retains at least a historic interest as a pioneer of romanticism, and as the most serious and extensive handler, up to his own time, of the Spenserian stanza. He was hampered in general effect inasmuch as, if he was possessed of any strictly poetic faculty, it was of a singularly small and weak one; and he hampered himself in a special way by failing to observe that, to make a Spenserian stanza, you need a Spenserian line and Spenserian line-groupings. As it was (and he taught the fault to Byron), the great merit of the form—its complex and yet absolutely fluent harmony—is broken up by suggestions, now of the couplet, now of the old dramatic blank-verse line, now, again, of the Miltonic or pseudo-Miltonic paragraph arrangement. Nor, though the matter might more than compensate contemporaries and immediate posterity for a defect in manner which they would hardly notice, is it such as can give much enjoyment either now, or ever again. That it is not only plotless and characterless but, also, unfinished, need not be fatal. It has hills and vales and other properties of romanticism à la Rousseau; suggestions of knights and witches and so forth in the manner of romanticism à la Percy. But the drawing is all in wateredout sepia; the melody is a hurdy-gurdy strum.   30

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  Beattie’s Minstrel Falconer’s Shipwreck  
 
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