Home  »  Volume XII: English THE ROMANTIC REVIVAL The Nineteenth Century, I  »  § 31. Robert Stephen Hawker

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XII. The Romantic Revival.

V. Lesser Poets, 1790–1837

§ 31. Robert Stephen Hawker

There remain some dozen or half score of individual poets, who are, most of them, more definitely of the transitional character which pervades this chapter, and who, while illustrating, in different respects and degrees, the general characteristics which will be set forth at its close, neither exhibit any special community with each other nor possess power sufficient to entitle them to long separate notice. If any demur is made to this last sentence, it would probably be in the cases of the western poets, both of them in Anglican orders, Robert Stephen Hawker and William Barnes. Of these, Hawker, at least, would seem to have had fire enough in him to have made him a much greater poet than he was. He was old enough to belong to the days of literary mystification, and his best known poem, the Song of the Western Men, though quite original except its refrain, took in, as a genuine antique, not merely Dickens, which is not surprising, but Scott and Macaulay, which is. There is, however, nothing in the filling up of this poem which scores of other pens might not have written. The Silent Tower of Bottreau, sometimes called The Bells of Bottreaux, is very much more of a diploma piece, and, perhaps, Queen Gwennyvar’s Round (“Naiad for Grecian Waters”) would, if one word were altered, be the best of all. But Pater Vester Pascit illa, The Sea Bird’s Cry, all the special Morwenna poems (referring to the patron saint of his remote and beautiful parish Morwenstow) and not a few others of the shorter pieces have no common poetry in them. Hawker was old when he was “induced” (a rather ominous word) to commit to writing a long poem, which he had thought of for years, entitled The Quest of the Sangraal; and he only wrote one complete book or “chant” of it. But the fragment shows promise of original treatment; and its blank verse is full of vigour and independence.