by William Shenstone
Rev. George Gilfillan, in his introductory essay to the 1865 edition of The poetical works, describes Shenstone as "this true but self-stunted Poet" and as " …possessed of great accomplishments, much true talent, and a distinct although narrow vein of poetic genius." Certainly Shenstone's contemporaries, apart from a small circle of close friends, seemed to be more impressed by his work in landscaping his estate at the Leasowes than by his poetry. There was a great deal of poetry: his first published work, The judgement of Hercules, appeared in 1740, and this was followed throughout the poet's relatively short life by the publication of works as varied as odes, elegies, ballads, and Latin inscriptions.
One of the earliest poems in this selection, Ode to health, is dated 1730, when Shenstone was 16 or 17. Another, Love and music, he describes as "written at Oxford, when young". Others are dated in the 1740s and 50s.
The full text of Odes can be read online or downloaded free of charge. It is in XHTML format, like this page. Please note the file size is 65.1kb and it may take some time to open-up if you choose to read it online. Downloading for reading later may be the preferred option and this can be typically achieved by calling up an option box. If you have a mouse and it is configured for left click to select, right clicking the link may give you this option.
The Odes are polished if slight pieces, but did not meet with Rev. Gilfillan's approval. He felt that Shenstone "should have been contented with childlike simplicity." A modern reader may be more forgiving, and appreciate the period charm of an Ode to indolence, or an Ode to a young lady, somewhat too solicitous about her manner of expression. And who could resist an Ode to be performed by Dr. Brettle, and a chorus of Halesowen citizens. The instrumental part a viol d'amour?
Page created 13 December 2002 and last
updated 6 February 2003
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