This critique of "The White Doe of Rylstone"

clyde's picture

The Sun : "But we wish to observe, that one of the chief errors of this School is, in aiming at nature and simplicity, to employ low, ambiguous, and vulgar language, which is more apt to debase the sentiment than to be exalted by the sentiment.... Our objections are equally strong to the jargon about 'presences,' 'influences,' 'mortal,' and other words of the same class, which are so largely employed without definite meaning, and seem rather the type of some mystical confusion in the mind of the writer, than the sign of any rational and embodied idea. Yet with all these defects, there is a charm in this species of poetry, as we think our extracts will prove, which leads us to admire while we lament, and to love while we reprove. We wish sincerely there were more of the genuine gold, and less of the dross; more of true feeling, and less waste of morbid affections; and that we might prolong these remarks by further specimens of the beauties of the White Doe, even though we seem rather to have transgressed our limits" (16 August 1815).

let-off-studios's picture


I looked-up the poem after reading your excerpt of its reviews. Here's a link, for those interested:

I'm only very recently attempting deliberate reading (and sometimes, writing) of poetry. I'm a novice, but I enjoy reflecting on previous works, and I think there's value to the practice. To see poetry critique from the time of its writing is interesting. It reminds me of the media reviewers of today, whether in magazines or online, and considering that maybe these will be the only way the world at large will ever know of their thoughts or efforts in making stuff: critiquing the works of others.

So Clyde: do you think (or is it known for certain) that the reviewers weren't fond of historical allegory? Weren't fond of Wordsworth? Weren't fond of "the state of poetry writers today," perhaps hinted in their "wish" detailed in the latter part?

Also Clyde: do you mean to apply this kind of assessment to the media (and maybe in specific, video games) of today? What are your thoughts?

clyde's picture

I definitely see some

I definitely see some similarity in the way games are reviewed and how these reviews of poetry come off. I think it is neat to think of poetry just being a popular mass-medium art like games can be now.
I found the review I posted originally just so pleasurable to read. I get the impression that they liked the poem, but they agree with the more broad critiques of this School at the time. But I just really enjoy reading it and seeing how they come to terms with their own opinion.
I get the impression that Wordsworth was popular, just not with the critics. I don't really know, but when I was looking for the original source of the one I posted I came across this one; it's a burn written at the time about the same poem that seems to be written in order to entertain the reader in a murdered-by-words kind of way:

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