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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

§ 18. Beattie’s Minstrel

There is little for us that is irresistible in James Beattie or in William Falconer. But men not yet decrepit, who in their youth were fond of haunting bookstalls, may remember that few poems were commoner in “elegant pocket editions,” as their own times would have said, than The Minstrel and The Shipwreck. We know that Byron was strongly influenced by Beattie in point of form; and it has been credibly asserted that his influence, at least in Scotland, on young readers of poetry, is not, or was not very recently, exhausted. It is difficult to think that this can have been the case with Falconer. The “exquisite harmony of numbers” which Chalmers could discover has now completely vanished from such things as

  • With joyful eyes th’ attentive master sees
  • Th’ auspicious omens of an eastern breeze;
  • and scarcely will any breeze, of east or west, extract that harmony again from such a lyre. The technicalities are not only unlikely to interest, but, to a great extent, are, unluckily, obsolete. The few personal touches are of the faintest; and even Falconer’s Greece is a Greece which, if it was ever living, has ceased to live now. His smaller poems are few and insignificant.