Page:Poetical sketches reprint (1868).djvu/13
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HE period between 1768 and 1783 may be described as one of utter stagnation in poetry—the low-water mark of the eighteenth century, in no part of it very fruitful in verse of a high order. With Mason, Hayley, and Darwin installed as the high priests of the Muses, and a host of satellites of the Charlotte Smith and Jerningham order, pouring forth volumes of mediocre verses, tolerable now neither to gods nor men nor columns—feeble echoes of a school which, at its best, drew but little of its inspiration from Nature, how welcome to the ear are the fresh notes of William Blake, recalling here the grand Elizabethan melodies, anticipating now the pathos and simplicity of Wordsworth, now the subtlety and daring of Shelley.
The "Poetical Sketches," though not printed till 1783, a year after Cowper's first volume made its ap-