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nothing but simplicity and propriety of style ; the first of which perhaps was the fault of his age, and the last of his language.
Among the moderns, their success has been greatest who have most endeavoured to make these ancients their pattern. The most considerable Genius appears in the famous Tafso, and our Spenser. Tasso in his Aminta has as far excelled all the Pastoral writers, as in his Gierusalemme he has out-done the Epic poets of his country. this piece seems to have been the original of a new sort of poem, the Pastoral Comedy, in Italy, it cannot so well be considered as a copy of the ancients. Spenser's Calendar, in Mr. Dryden's opinion, is the most complete work of this kind which any nation has produced ever since the time of Virgil“. Not but that he may be thought imperfect in some few points. His Eclogues are somewhat too long, if we compare them with the ancients. He is sometimes too allegorical, and treats of matters of religion in a pastoral style, 'as Mantuan had done before him. He has employed the Lyric measure, which is contrary to the practice of the old Poets. His Stanza is not still the same, nor always well chosen. This last may be the reason his expression is sometimes not concise enough: for the Tetrastic has obliged him to extend his sense to the length of four lines, which
- Dedication to Virg. Ecl. P.
would have been more closely confined in the Couplet.
In the manners, thoughts, and characters, he comes near to Theocritus himself; tho', notwithstanding all the care he has taken, he is certainly inferior in his Dialect: For the Doric had its beauty and propriety in the time of Theocritus; it was used in part of Greece, and frequent in the mouths of
many of the greatest persons: whereas the old English and country phrases of Spenser were either entirely obsolete, or spoken only by people of the lowest condition. As there is a difference betwixt fimplicity and rufticity, so the expression of fimple thoughts should be plain, but not clownish. The addition he has made of a Calendar to his Eclogueș, is very beautiful; since by this, besides the general moral of innocence and simplicity, which is common to other authors of Pastoral, he has one peculiar to himself; he compares human Life to the several Seasons, and at once exposes to his readers a view of the great and little worlds, in their various changes and aspects. Yet the scrupulous division of his Pastorals into Months, has obliged him either to repeat the same description, in other words, for three months together; or, when it was exhausted before, entirely to omit it: whence it comes to pass that some of his Eclogues (as the fixth, eighth, and tenth for example) have nothing but their Titles to distinguish them. The reason is evident, because the year has not that va
riety in it to furnish every month with a particular description, as it may every season. .
Of the following Eclogues I shall only say, that these four comprehend all the subjects which the Critics
upon Theocritus and Virgil will allow to be fit for pastoral: That they have as much variety of description, in respect of the several seafons, as Spenser's: that in order to add to this variety, the several times of the day are observ’d, the rural employments in each season or time of day, and the rural scenes or places proper to such employments; not without some regard to the several ages of man,
and the different passions pro
age. But after all, if they have any merit, it is to be attributed to some good old Authors, whose works as I had leisure to study, so I hope I have not wanted care to imitate.
per to each
IRST in these fields I try the sylvan strains,
Nor blush to sport on Windsor's blissful plains: Fair Thames, flow gently from thy sacred spring, While on thy banks Sicilian Muses sing;
REMARKS. These Pastorals were written at the age of fixteen, and then past thro’ the hands of Mr. Walsh, Mr. Wycherley, G. Granville afterwards Lord Lansdown, Sir William Trumbal, Dr. Garth, Lord Hallifax, Lord Somers, Mr. Mainwaring, and others. All these gave our Author the greatest encouragement, and particularly Mr.Walsh, whom Mr. Dryden, in his Poftcript to Virgil, calls the best Critic of his age.
“The Author (fays he) “ seems to have a particular genius for this kind of Poetry, and
a judgment that much exceeds his years. He has taken very
Let vernal airs thro' trembling osiers play, 5 And Albion’s cliffs resound the rural lay.
You, that too wise for pride, too good for pow's, Enjoy the glory to be great no more,
REMARKS. « freely from the Ancients. But what he has mixed of his “ own with theirs is no way inferior to what he has taken from “ them. It is not Aattery at all to say that Virgil had written “ nothing so good at his Age. His Preface is very judicious 6 and learned.” Letter to Mr. Wycherley, Ap. 1705. The Lord Lansdown about the same time, mentioning the youth of our Poet, says (in a printed Letter of the Character 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 the numbers, of all his works. The reason for his labouring them into so much softness, 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 were not printed till
Sir William Trumbal.] Our Author's friendship with this gentleman commenced at very unequal years; he was under fixteen, But Sir William above sixty, and had lately resign'd his employment of Secretary of State to King William. P.
Noftra nec erubuit sylvas habitare Thalia. This is the general exordium and opening of the Pastorals, in imitation of the sixth of Virgil, which some have therefore not improbably thought to have been the first originally. In the beginnings of the other three Pastorals, he imitates expresly those