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TO HIS GRACE
THOMAS, DUKE OF NEWCASTLE.
MY LORD, The honours of your ancient and illustrious family, which that noble writer, Algernon Sidney, places among the first in these kingdoms for prerogative of birth, the titles which you have long worn with distinguished lustre, and the high station which you have many years filled, and now fill, in the government, give your grace a just preeminence in the community ; but they are excellencies of a more exalted kind to which this tribute of my respect is paid. Your early zeal in the cause of liberty, which manifested itself at the close of a late reign, when the worst of schemes were promoted against this nation by the worst of men, the association (of which I had the Ironour to be a humble member) into which you then entered, with some others, eminent for their birth, fortune, and knowledge, for securing the succession of the house of Hanover to the throne of these kingdoms, your taste of useful and polite literature, and the encouragement which you have been always ready to give to it, your friendly regard to, and connection with, that university which has been the nurse of the greatest statesmen, heroes, philosophers, and poets, of English growth, and the open liberality of your heart on all laudable occasions, must give you a place in the affections of all Englishmen who know the interest of their native country: and to those virtues, more than to the private friendship with which your grace has long honoured me, I make this offering of the few poetical pieces, which were the produce of my leisure, but some of my most pleasant, hours : your grace will be able to distinguish those which have been printed before from those which now make their first appearance; and I number among the felicities of my days this opportunity of approaching you with something perhaps not unworthy your acceptance; and I have the honour to be,
most devoted, obliged,
and most humble servant,
PREFACE TO THE PASTORAL POEMS.
It is somewhat strange to conceive, in an age so addicted to the Muses, how pastoral poetry comes to be never so much as thought upon ; considering, especially, that it is of the greatest antiquity, and hath ever been accounted the foremost, among the smaller poems, in dignity. Virgil and Spenser made use of it as a prelude to epic poetry: but, I fear, the innocency of the subject makes it so little inviting.
There is no kind of poem, if happily executed, but gives delight; and herein may the pastoral boast after a peculiar manner: for, as in painting, so in poetry, the country affords not only the most delightful scenes and prospects, but likewise the most pleasing images of life.
Gassendus (I remember) observes, that Peireskius was a great lover of music, especially the melody of birds; because their simple strains have less of passion and violence, but more of a sedate and quiet harmony; and, therefore, do they rather befriend contemplation. In like manner, the pastoral song gives a sweet and gentle composure to the mind; whereas the epic and tragic poems, by the vehemency of their emotions, raise the spirits into a ferment.
To view a fair stately palace, strikes us indeed with admiration, and swells the soul with notions of grandeur : but when I see a little country-dwelling, advantageously situated amidst a beautiful variety of hills, meadows, fields, woods, and rivulets, I feel an unspeakable sort of satisfaction, and cannot for. bear wishing my kinder fortune would place me in such a sweet retirement.
Theocritus, Virgil, and Spenser, are the only poets who seem to have hit upon the true nature of pastoral compositions: so that it will be sufficient praise for me, if I have not altogether failed in my attempt.