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And to the sun were op'd.-In musing thought
The close imitation of Milton, too, in Eclogue the 2d, the description of the Hermit's Cell in Eclogue the 5th, and various other passages, of considerable merit for the age at which they are supposed to have been written, might, not without reason, lead to the attribution of these pieces to our author.
It must, indeed, be admitted, that the first acknowledged production of Mr. Warton, "The Pleasures of Melancholy," published in 1747, but composed in 1745, is in a strain superior to the Eclogues. This beautifully romantic poem, though executed at a period so early in life, betrays almost immediately the tract of reading, and the school of poetry, to which its author had, even then, sedulously addicted himself. Every page suggests to us the disciple of Spenser
and Milton, yet without servile imitation; for, though the language and style of imagery whisper whence they were drawn, many of the pictures in this poem are so bold and highly coloured, as justly to claim no small share of originality.
The year succeeding this effusion he wrote, on the recommendation of Dr. Huddesford, President of his college," The Triumph of Isis," in reply to Mr. Mason, who had published an Elegy, under the title of "Isis," reflecting, rather harshly, on some circumstances which had lately occurred, of a political nature, in the university of Oxford. The Triumph of Isis was printed in 1749, and received with a burst of applause, as a noble and spirited vindication of the honour and reputation of his Alma Mater. It has, moreover, the merit, though written upon a temporary subject, of containing imagery and sentiment which must always please and interest. That it is superior to the poem which gave rise to it, has been, not only the opinion of the public, but of Mr. Mason himself, who, writing to Mr.Warton in 1777, for the purpose of thanking him for a present of his poems, which he had then just published, but in which, out of delicacy to his former opponent, he had omitted the Triumph of Isis, says with much candour, "I am, however, sorry to find that the "Triumph of Isis" has not found a place near
the delicate "Complaint of Cherwell," to which it was a proper companion; and I fear that a punctilio of politeness to me was the occasion of its exclusion. Had I known of your intention of making this collection, most certainly I should have pleaded for the insertion of that poem,which I assure you I think greatly excels the Elegy which occasioned it, both in its poetical imagery, and the correct flow of its versification." *
The strong attachment of the Poet to Gothic architecture, though only in his 21st year, is very apparent in the Triumph of Isis, and has given origin, in the following striking apostrophe, to perhaps the best lines which it contains.
Ye fretted pinnacles, ye fanes sublime,
At once the pride of learning and defence;
* Mant's Warton, p. 18. That Mason thought much, however, of the impression which his poem had made upon the members of Oxford, is very evident from the annexed anecdote. "Several years after he had written his Elegy, he was coming into Oxford on horseback; and as he passed over Magdalen Bridge, (it was then evening,) he turned to his friend, and expressed his satisfaction, that, as it was getting dusk, they should enter the place unnoticed. His friend did not seem aware of the advantage. What!' rejoined the poet, do not you remember my Isis?" Mant's Warton, vol. 1, p. 22.
Ye cloisters pale, that length'ning to the sight,
Ye high-arch'd walks, where oft the whispers clear
Ye temples dim, where pious duty pays
This ardent love of feudal architecture and manners, and which never forsook him through life, has been ascribed by Dr. Huntingford, the present Bishop of Gloucester, to a circumstance which took place in his earliest years. Dr. Joseph Warton," he tells Mr. Mant, was accustomed to relate a circumstance, which, though in itself apparently unimportant, yet, with respect to the writings of Mr. Thomas Warton, was perhaps in its effects of considerable consequence. When they were both boys, their father took them to see Windsor Castle. The several objects presented to their view much engaged the attention, and excited the admiration, of the father and his son Joseph. As they were returning, the father with some concern said to Joseph, Thomas goes on, and takes no notice of any thing he has seen?? This remark was never forgotten by his son, who however, in mature years, made this reflection: 'I believe my brother was more struck with what he saw, and took more notice of every object,
than either of us.' And there is good reason to think, that the peculiar fondness for Castle Imagery which our author on many occasions strongly discovers, may be traced to this incident of his early days. That his imagination should afterwards be turned to the description of scenes, with which in his youth his fancy had been captivated, it is very natural to conceive, if we do but recollect how often the mind takes its complexion and bias through life, from a trivial circumstance happening before we arrive at manhood.
"To the same cause," adds his Lordship, we may perhaps refer that love of Spenser which our author every where professes. Ideas of Chivalry are intimately connected with Castle Imagery, and
The Fairy Queen' is a mine inexhaustible in lore of that nature."
From this period to the year of his death Mr. Warton continued occasionally to write and publish a variety of poetical pieces. These appeared either separately, or in editions published by himself, or in collections by others; thus, to "The Student," a periodical paper printed at Oxford in 1750; to" The Union, or select Scots and English Poems," 1753; to the Oxford Collections of 1751, 1761, and 1762; to the "Oxford Sausage, or Select Poetical Pieces, written by the most celebrated Wits of the University of Oxford;"