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TO HIS GRACE
THOMAS, DUKE OF NEWCASTLE.
THE honours of your ancient and illuftrious family, which that noble writer, Algernon Sidney, places among the firft in these kingdoms for prerogative of birth, the titles which you have long worn with diftinguished luftre, and the high ftation which you have many years filled, and now fill, in the government, give your Grace a juft preheminence 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 manifefted itself at the clofe of a late reign, when the worst of schemes were promoted against this nation by the worst of men, the affociation (of which I had the honour to be an humble member) into which you then entered, with fome others, eminent for their birth, fortune, and knowledge, for fecuring the fucceffion of the houfe of Hanover to the throne of thefe kingdoms, your tafte 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 univerfity which has been the nurfe of the greatest statefmen, heroes, philofophers, and poets, of English growth, and the open liberality of your heart on all
laudable occafions, muft give you a place in the affections of all Englishmen who know the intereft of their native country: and to thofe 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 fomething perhaps not unworthy your acceptance; and I have the honour to be,
"Noftra nec erubuit fylvas habitare Thalia."
VIRG. Ecl. 6.
Tis fomewhat strange to conceive, in an age fo addicted to the Mufes, how Paftoral Poetry comes to be never fo much as thought upon; confidering especially, that it is of the greatest antiquity, and hath ever been accounted the foremost, among the fmaller poems, in dignity. Virgil and Spenfer made ufe of it as a prelude to Epic Poetry: but, I fear, the innocency of the fubject makes it fo little inviting.
There is no kind of Poem, if happily executed, but gives delight; and herein may the Paftoral boaft after a peculiar manner for, as in Painting, fo in Poetry, the country affords not only the moft delightful fcenes and profpects, but likewife the moft pleafing images of life.
Gaffendus (I remember) obferves, that Peireskius was a great lover of mufic, especially the melody of birds becaufe their fimple ftrains have lefs of paffion,
and violence, but more of a sedate and quiet harmony; and, therefore, do they rather befriend contemplation. In like manner, the Paftoral Song gives a fweet and gentle compofure to the mind; whereas the Epic and Tragic Poems, by the vehemency of their emotions, raife the fpirits into a ferment.
To view a fair ftately palace, ftrikes us indeed with admiration, and fwells the foul with notions of grandeur: but when I fee a little country-dwelling, advantageously fituated amidst a beauteful variety of hills, meadows, fields, woods, and rivulets, I feel an unspeakable fort of fatisfaction, and cannot forbear wishing my kinder fortune would place me in such a sweet retirement.
Theocritus, Virgil, and Spenfer, are the only Poets who feem to have hit upon the true nature of Paftoral Compofitions: fo that it will be fufficient praise for me, if I have not altogether failed in my attempt.