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several times of the day are observ'd the rural employments in each season or time of day, and the the rural scenes or places proper to such employments ; not without some regard to the several ages of man, and the different passons proper to each 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.
this piece there is perhaps more poetry than sorrow. But let us read it for its poetry. It is true, that passion plucks no berries from the myrtle and ivy, no calls upon Arethuse and Mincius, nor tells of rough satyrs with cloven heel. But poetry does this ; and, in the hands of Milton, does it with a peculiar and irresistible charm. Subordinate poets exercise no invention, when they tell how a shepherd has lost his companion, and must feed his flocks alone, without any judge of his skill in piping: but Milton dignifies and adorns these common artificial incidents with unexpected touches of picturesque beauty, with the graces of sentiment, and with the novelties of original genius. It is said, • here is no art, for there is nothing new.' But this objection will vanish, if we consider the imagery which Milton has raised from local circumstances. Not to repeat the use he has made of the mountains of Wales, the Isle of Man, and the river Dee, near which Lycidas was shipwrecked ; let us recollect the introduction of the romantic superstition of Saint Michael's Mount, in Cornwall, which overlooks the Irish seas, the fatal scene of his friend's disaster.
“ But the poetry is not always unconnected with passion. The poet lavishly describes an ancient sepulchral rite, but it is made preparatory to a stroke of tenderness. He calls for a variety of flowers to decorate his friend's hearse, supposing that his body was present, and forgetting for a while he was drowned; it was some consolation that he was to receive the decencies of burial. This is a pleasing deception : it is natural and pathetic. But the real catastrophe recurs.
And this circumstance again opens a new vein of imagination."
Poems of Milton, second edition, Robinson, 1791, p. 35.
THE FIRST PASTORAL.
TO SIR WILLIAM TRUMBAL.
First 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 sixteen, and then passed through the hands of Mr. Walsh, Mr. Wycherley, G. Granville, afterward Lord Lansdown, Sir William Trumbal, Dr. Garth, Lord Halifax, 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 inferior to what he has taken from them. It is not flattery at all to say, that Virgil had written nothing so good at his Age. His preface is very judicious 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 hath begun in the Pastoral way, as Virgil first tried his strength, we may hope to see English poetry vie with the Let vernal airs through trembling osiers play, 5 And Albion's cliffs resound the rural lay.
You, that too wise for pride, too good for pow'r, Enjoy the glory to be great no more, And carrying with you all the world can boast, To all the world illustriously are lost!
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 1709. P.
Sir William Trumbal.] Our Author's friendship with this gentleman commenced at very unequal years ; he was under sixteen, but Sir William above sixty, and had lately resigned his employment of Secretary of State to King William. P.
Ver. 7. You, that too wise.] This amiable old man, who had been a fellow of All Souls' College, Oxford, and Doctor of Civil Law, was sent, by Charles II., Judge-Advocate to Tangier, and afterward in a public character to Florence, to Turin, to Paris ; and by James II., Ambassador to Constantinople; to which city he went through the continent on foot. He was afterward a Lord of the Treasury, and Secretary of State with the Duke of Shrewsbury, which office he resigned 1697, and retiring to East Hampstead, died there in December 1716, aged seventy-seven. Nothing of his writing remains but an elegant character of Archbishop Dolben.
Nostra, 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 expressly
O let my Muse her slender reed inspire,
Ver. 12. In your native shades] Sir W. Trumbal was born in Windsor-Forest, to which he retreated, after he had resigned the post of Secretary of State of King William III. P.
Ver. 13. So when the Nightingale] This is surely a mistake, for the nightingale does not sing till other birds are at rest.
IMITATIONS. those which now stand first * of the three chief Poets in this kind, Spenser, Virgil, Theocritus.
A Shepherd's Boy (he seeks no better name)-
Thyrsis, the Music of that murm’ring Spring, are manifestly imitations of
"-A Shepherd's Boy (no better do him call)"
« –Αδύ τι το ψιθύρισμα και 4 πίτυς, αιπόλε, τήνα.” Ρ. Ver. 9. And carrying, &c.]
Happy is he that from the world retires,
Waller. Maid's Tragedy altered.
* The learned and accurate Heyne, after much investigation, is of opinion, that the following is the order in which the Eclogues of Virgil were written : what is now usually called the second was first ; the third, second; the fifth, third; the first, fourth; the ninth, fifth; the sixth, as it was called, to be the sixth still; the fourth, seventh ; the eighth still the eighth; the seventh the ninth; the tenth and last, as it was called, still the tenth. Vol. I. 205.
The collection of passages imitated from the Classics, marked in the margin with the letter P, was made by the accurate and learned Mr. Bowyer the Printer, and given to Pope at his desire, as appears from MSS. notes of Bowyer now before me. VOL. I.
But charm’d to silence, listens while she sings, 15 And all th' aërial audience clap their wings.
Soon as the flocks shook off the nightly dews, Two swains whom Love kept wakeful, and the Muse, Pour'd o'er the whit’ning vale their fleecy care, Fresh as the morn, and as the season fair:
20 The dawn now blushing on the mountain's side, Thus Daphnis spoke, and Strephon thus reply'd.
Hear how the birds, on ev'ry blooming spray, With joyous music wake the dawning day! Why sit we mute, when early linnets sing, 25 When warbling Philomel salutes the spring? Why sit we sad, when Phosphor shines so clear, And lavish Nature paints the purple year?
Ver. 17, &c.] The Scene of this Pastoral a Valley, the time the Morning. It stood originally thus,
Daphnis and Strephon to the shades retir'd,
Thus Daphnis spoke, and Strephon thus reply'd.
Purple year?] Gray has adopted the expression of the purple year, in the first stanza of his exquisite Ode on Spring.