Page images

At p. 8. 1. 24. In the first place, I own that I have ufed my beft endeavours to the finishing thefe picces. That I made what advantage I could of the judgment of authors dead and living; and that I omitted no means in my power to be informed of my errors by my friends and my enemies. And that I expect no favour on account of my youth, business, want of health, or any fuch idle excufes. But the true reafon they

are not yet more correct is owing to the confideration how short a time they, and I, have to live. A man that can expect but fixty years, may be ashamed to employ thirty in meafuring fyllables, and bringing fenfe and rhyme together. We spend our youth in purfuit of riches or fame, in hopes to enjoy them when we are old; and when we are old, we find it too late to enjoy any thing. I therefore hope the Wits will pardon me, if I reserve some of my time to fave my foul; and that fome wife men will be of my opinion, even if I should think a part of it better spent in the enjoyments of life, than in pleafing the critics.






Written in the Year MDCCIV.

"Rura mihi et rigui placeant in vallibus amnes, Flumina amem, fylvafque, inglorius !"


Letter to

THE Paftorals were written at the age of fixteen, and then paffed through the hands of Mr. Walsh, Mr. Wycherley, G. Granville, afterwards Lord Lanfdown, Sir William Trumbal, Dr. Garth, Lord Halifax, Lord Somers, Mr. Maynwaring, and others. All thefe gave our Author the greatest encouragement, and particularly Mr. Walsh, whom Mr. Dryden, in his Poftfcript to Virgil, calls the best Critic of his age. "The Author (fays he) feems 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 inferior to what he has "taken from them. It is not flattery at all to fay, that Virgil had written nothing fo good at his Age. His "Preface is very judicious and learned." Mr. Wycherley, Apr. 1705. The Lord Lanfdown about the fame time, mentioning the youth of our Poet, fays (in a printed Letter of the Character of Mr. Wycherley), "that if he goes on as he has begun in "his Paftoral way, as Virgil first tried his ftrength, we "may hope to fee English Poetry vie with the Ro"man," &c. Notwithstanding the early time of their production, the Author esteemed these as the most correct in the verfification, and mufical in the numbers, of all his works. The reafon for his labouring them into fo much foftnefs, was, doubtlefs, that this fort of poetry derives almoft its whole beauty from a natural eafe of thought and smoothness of verfe; whereas that of moft other kinds confifts in the ftrength and fullness of both. In a letter of his to Mr. Walsh about this time, we find an enumeration of feveral niceties in Verfification, which perhaps have never been ftrictly obferved in any English poem, except in these Paftorals. They were not printed till 1709.






HERE are not, I believe, a greater number of any fort of verfes than of thofe which are called Paftorals; nor a smaller, than of those which are truly fo. It therefore seems neceffary to give fome account of this kind of Poem, and it is my defign to comprize in this fhort paper the substance of those numerous differtations the Critics have made on the subject, without omitting any of their rules in my own favour. You will also find fome points reconciled, about which they seem to differ, and a few remarks, which, I think, have escaped their obfervation.

The original of Poetry is ascribed to that Age which fucceeded the creation of the world: and as the keeping of flocks feems to have been the first employment of mankind, the most ancient fort of Poetry was probably Pastoral †. It is natural to imagine, that the leifure of those ancient fhepherds admitting and inviting fome diverfion, none was fo proper to that folitary

*Written at fixteen years of age.

+ Fontenelle's Difc. on Paftorals.




« PreviousContinue »