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such, that to attempt to serve it (any way) one must have the constancy of a martyr, and a resolution to suffer for its sake. I could wish people would believe what I am pretty certain they will not, that I have been much less concerned about fame than I durst declare till this occasion, when methinks I should find more credit than I could heretofore : since my writings have had their fate already, and it is too late to think of prepossessing the reader in their favour. I would plead it as some merit in me, that the world has never been prepared for these trifles by prefaces, biassed by recommendations, dazzled with the names of great patrons, wheedled with fine reasons and pretences, or troubled with excuses. I confess it was want of consideration that made me an author; I writ because it amused me; I corrected because it was as pleasant to me to correct as to write; and I published because I was told I might please such as it was a credit to please. To what degree I have done this, I am really ignorant; I had too much fondness for my productions to judge of them at first, and too much judgment to be pleased with them at last. But I have reason to think they can have no reputation which will continue long, or which deserves to do so: for they have always fallen short not only of what I read of others, but even of my own ideas of poetry.
If any one should imagine I am not in earnest, I desire him to reflect, that the ancients (to say the least of them) had as much genius as we; and that to take more pains, and employ more time, cannot fail to produce more complete pieces. They constantly applied themselves not only to that art, but to that single branch of an art, to which their talent was most powerfully bent; and it was the business of their lives to correct and finish their works for posterity. If we can pretend to have used the same industry, let us expect the same immortality. Though if we took the same care, we should still lie under a farther misfortune; they writ in languages that became universal and everlasting, while ours are extremely limited both in extent and in duration. A mighty foundation for our pride! when the utmost we can hope, is þut to be read in one island, and to be thrown aside at the end of one age.
All that is left us is to recommend our productions by the imitation of the ancients: and it will be found true, that, in every age, the highest character for sense and learning has bron obtained by those who have been most indebted to them. For, to say truth, whatever is very good sense, must have been common sense in all times; and what we call learning is but the knowledge of the sense of our predecessors. Therefore they who say our thoughts are not our own, because they resemble the ancients, may as well say our faces are not our own, because they are like our fathers: and indeed it is very unreasonable, that people should expect us to be scholars, and yet be angry to find us so.
I fairly confess that I have served myself all I could by reading; that I made use of the judgment of authors dead and living; that I omitted no means in my power to be informed of my errors, both by my friends and enemies; but
the true reason these pieces are not more correct, is owing to the consideration how short a time they, and I, have to live. One may be ashamed to consume half one's days in bringing sense and rhyme together; and what critic can be so unreas. able as not to leave a man time enough for any more serious employment, or more agreeable amusement ?
The only plea I shall use for the favour of the public, is, · that I have as great a respect for it, as most authors have for themselves; and that I have sacrificed much of my own selflove for its sake, in preventing not only many mean things from seeing the light, but many which I thought tolerable. I would not be like those authors, who forgive themselves some particular lines for the sake of a whole poem, and vice versâ a whole poem for the sake of some particular lines. I believe no one qualification is so likely to make a good writer, as the power of rejecting his own thoughts; and it must be this (if anything) that can give me a chance to be one. For what I have published, I can only hope to be pardoned; but for what I have burned, I deserve to be praised. On this account the world is under some obligation to me, and owes me the justice in return, to look upon no verses as mine that are not inserted in this collection. And perhaps nothing could make it worth my while to own what are really so, but to avoid the imputation of so many dull and immoral things, as partly by malice, and partly by ignorance, have been ascribed to me. I must farther acquit myself of the presumption of having lent my name to recommend any miscellanies or works of other men; a thing I never thought becoming a person who has hardly credit enough to answer for his own.
In this office of collecting my pieces, I am altogether uncertain, whether to look upon myself as a man building a monument, or burying the dead.
If time shall make it the former, may these poems (as long as they last) remain as a testimony, that their author never made his talents subservient to the mean and unworthy ends of party or self-interest ; the gratification of public prejudices, or private passions; the flattery of the undeserving, or the insult of the unfortunate. If I have written wel, let it be considered that it is what no man can do without good sense, a quality that not only renders one capable of being a good writer, but a good man. And if I have made any acquisition in the opinion of any one under the notion of the former, let it be continued to me under no other title than that of the latter.
But if this publication be only a more solemn funeral of my remains, I desire that it may be known that I die in charity, and in my senses; without any murmurs against the justice of this age, or any mad appeals to posterity. I declare I shall think the world in the right, and quietly submit to every truth which time shail discover to the prejudice of these writings; not so much as wishing so irrational a thing as that everybody should be deceived merely for my credit. However, I desire it may then be considered, that there are very few things in this collection, which were not written under
the age of five and twenty: so that my youth may be made (as it never fails to be in executions) a case of compassion. That I was never so concerned about my works as to vindicate them in print, believing, if anything was good, it would defend itself, and what was bad could never be defended. That I used no artifice to raise or continue a reputation, depreciated no dead author I was obliged to, bribed no living one with unjust praise, insulted no adversary with ill language; or when I could not attack a rival's works, encouraged reports against his morals. To conclude, if this volume perish, let it serve as a warning to the critics, not to take too much pains for the future to destroy such things as will die of themselves; and a memento mori to some of my vain contemporaries the poets, to teach them that, when real merit is wanting, it avails nothing to have been encouraged by the great, commended by the eminent, and favoured by the public in general.
Nov. 10, 1716.
WITH A DISCOURSE ON PASTORAL.
WRITTEN IN THE YEAR 1704. PUBLISHED 1709.
Rura mihi et rigui placeant in vallibus amnes,
A DISCOURSE ON PASTORAL POETRY.1 THERE are not, I believe, a greater number of any sort of verses than of those which are called pastorals; nor a smaller, than of those which are truly so. It therefore seems necessary to give some account of this kind of Poem, and it is my design to comprise in this short paper the substance of those numerous dissertations the critics have made on the subject, without omitting any of their rules in my own favour. You will also find some points reconciled, about which they seem to differ, and a few remarks, which, I think, have escaped their observation.
The original of poetry is ascribed to that age which succeeded the creation of the world: and as the keeping of flocks seems to have been the first employment of mankind,
1These Pastorals were written at the age of sixteen, and then passed through the hands of Mr. Walsh, Mr. Wycherley, G. Granville, afterwards Lord Lansdown, Sir William Trumbull, Dr. Garth, Lord Hali. fax, Lord Somers, Mr. Mainwaring, and others. All these gave our author the greatest encouragement, and particularly Mr. Walsh (whom Mr. Dryden in his postscript to Virgil calls the best critic of his age): "The author," says he, seems to have a particular genius for this kind of poetry, and a judgment that much exceeds his years. He has taken very freely from the ancients. But what he has mixed of his own with theirs is no way interior to what he has taken from them. It is not flattery at all to say that Virgil had written nothing 80 good at his age. His preface is very judicious and learned.”—Letter to Mr. Wycherley, Ap. 1705. The Lord Lansdown, about the same timei mentioning the youth of our poet, says (in a printed letter of the char. acter of Mr. Wycherley) that “if he goes on as he has begun in the pastoral way, as Virgil first tried his strength, we may hope to see English poetry vie with the Roman,' &c. Notwithstanding the early time of their production, the author esteemed these as the most correct in the versification, and musical in tlie numbers, of all his works. The reason for his labouring them into so much softuess was, doubtless, that this sort of poetry derives almost its whole beauty from a natural ease of thought and smoothness of verse: whereas that of most other kinds consists in the strength and fulness of both. In a letter of his to Mr. Walsh about this time, we find an enumeration of several niceties in versification, which perhaps have never been strictly observed in any English poem, except in these pastorals. They wero not printed till 1709.-Pope.
the most.ancient sort of poetry was probably pastoral.' It is natural to imagine, that the leisure of those ancient shepherds admitting and inviting some diversion, none was so proper to that solitary and sedentary life as singing; and that in their songs they took occasion to celebrate their own felicity. From hence a poem was invented, and afterwards improved to a perfect image of that happy time; which by giving us an esteem for the virtues of a former age, might recommend them to the present. And since the life of shepherds was attended with more tranquility than any other rural · employment, the poets chose to introduce their persons, from whom it received the name of pastoral.
A pastoral is an imitation of the action of a shepherd, or one considered under that character. The form of this imitation is dramatic, or narrative, or mixed of both;? the fable simple, the manners not too polite nor too rustic; the thoughts are plain, yet admit a little quickness and passion, but that short and flowing: the expression humble, yet as pure as the language will aiford; neat, but not florid; easy, and yet lively. In short, the fable, manners, thoughts, and expressions are full of the greatest simplicity in nature.
The complete character of this poem consists in simplicity,3 brevity, and delicacy; the two first of which render an eclogue natural, and the last delightful.
If we would copy nature, it may be useful to take this idea along with us, that pastoral is an image of what they call the golden age. So that we are not to describe our shepherds as shepherds at this day really are, but as they may be conceived then to have been; when the best of men followed the employment. To carry this resemblance yet farther, it would not be amiss to give these shepherds some skill in astronomy, as far as it may be useful to that sort of life. And an air of piety to the gods should shine through the poem, which so visibly appears in all the works of antiquity: and it ought to preserve some relish of the old way of writing; the connection should be loose, the narrations and descriptions short, 4 and the periods concise. Yet it is not sufficient, that the sentences only be brief, the whole eclogue should be so too. For we cannot suppose poetry in those days to have been the business of men, but their recreation at vacant hours.
But with respect to the present age, nothing more conduces to make these composures natural, than when some knowledge in rural affairs is discovered.5 This may be made to appear rather done by chance than on design, and sometimes is best shown by inference;. lest by too much study to seem natural, we destroy that easy simplicity from whence arises the delight. For what is inviting in this sort of poetry pro
1 Fontenelle's Discourse on Pastorals.- Pope.