In Restraint from "Preface To Poetry"

Wordsworth dismissed the passage as 'vague, bombastic, and senseless', and as showing 'to what a low state of knowledge of the most obvious and important phenomena' poetry had then sunk. Even if the lines justified this charge it is beside the point: Dryden is not trying to write naturalistic poetry. To what, in any case, does Wordsworth take exception? He does not say. He had a proprietary feeling for mountains: was he annoyed that they should be said to nod their drowsy heads? Or was it that birds do not dream, and flowers do not sweat? The passage was very properly admired by Rymer.

'Here', he said, in a passage of unusual insight, 'we have the most raging and watchful passions, Lust and Envy. And these, too, instead of the lustful and the envious, for the greater force and emphasis of the abstract.'

Those who complain of personifications in eighteenth-century poetry would do well to remember this testimony to their effect on at least one reader.

« LAST Note » « NEXT Note »