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qualification is so likely to make a good writer as the power of rejecting his own thoughts; and it must be this, if any thing, that can give me a chance to be one. For what I have published, I can only hope to be pardoned; but for what I have burned, I deserve to be praised. On this account the world is under some obligation to me, and owes me the justice, in return, to look upon no verses as mine that are not inserted in this collection. And perhaps nothing could make it worth my while to own what are really so, but to avoid the imputation of so many dull and immoral things as, partly by malice, and partly by ignorance, have been ascribed to me. I must further acquit myself of the presumption of baving lent my name to recommend any miscellanies or works. of other mep ; a thing I never thought becoming a person who has hardly credit enough to answer for his own.
In this office of collecting my pieces, I am altogether uncertain whether to look upon myself as a man building a monument, or burying the dead. If time sball make it the former, may these poems, as long as they last, remain as a testimony that their author never made his talents subservient to the mean and unworthy ends of party or self-interest; the gratification of public prejudices or private passions; the flattery of the undeserving, or the insult of the unfortunate. If I have written well, let it be considered that it is what no man can do without good sense ; a quality that not only renders one capable of being a good writer, but a good man; and if I have made any acqui. sition in the opinion of any one under the notion of the former, let it be continued to me under now other title than that of the latter.
But if this publication be only a more sdemo: funeral of any remains, I desire it may be known that I die in charity, and in my senses; without any murmurs against the justice of this age, or any mad appeals to posterity. I declare I shall think the world in the right, and quietly submit to every truth which time shall discover to the prejudice of these writings; not so much as wishing so irrational a thing, as that every hody should be deceived merely for my credit. However, I desire it may then be considered, that there are very few things in this collection which were not written under the age of five and twenty; so that my youth may be made (as it never fails to be in executions) a case of compassion: that I was never so concerned about my works as to vindicate them in print; believing, if any thing was good, it would defend itself, and what was bad could never be defended: that I used no artifice to raise or continue a reputation, depreciated no dead author I was obliged to, bribed no living one with unjust praise, insulted no adversary with ill language; or, when I could not attack a rival's works, encouraged reports against his morals. To conclude, if this volume perish, let it serve as a warning to the critics, not to take too much pains for the future to destroy such things as will die of themselves ; and a memento mori to some of my vain contemporaries the poets, to teach them that, when real merit is wanting, it avails nothing to have been encouraged by the great, commended by the emi. nent, and favoured by the public in general.
Nov. 10, 1716.
WRITTEN IN THE YEAR 1704.
Rura mihi et rigni placeant in vallibus amnes,
DISCOURSE ON PASTORAL POETRY'. THERE are not, I believe, a greater number of any sort of verses than of those which are called Pastorals; por a smaller, than of those which are truly so. It therefore seems necessary to give some account of this kind of poem; and it is my design to comprise in this sbort paper the substance of those numerous dissertations that critics have made on the subject, without omitting any of their rules in my own favonr: you will also find some, points reconciled, abont which they seem to differ, and a few remarks wbich, I thiok, have escaped . their observation.
The original of poetry is ascribed to that age which succeeded the creation of the world : and as the keeping of flocks seems to have been the first employment of mankind, the most ancient sort of poetry was probably pastoral?. It is na-, taral to imagine, that the leisure of those ancient,
| Written at sixteen years
age. 2 Fontenelle's Discourse on Pastorals.
shepherds admitting and inviting some diversion, none was so proper to that solitary and sedentary life as singing; and that in their songs they took occasion to celebrate their own felicity. From hence a poem was invented, and afterwards improved to a perfect image of that happy time; which, by giving us an esteem for the virtues of a former age, might recommend them to the present. And since the life of shepherds was attended with more tranquillity than any other rural employment, the poets chose to introduce their persons, from whom it received the panie of pastoral.
A pastoral is an imitation of the action of a shepherd, or one considered under that character. The form of this imitation is dramatic, or parrative, or mixed of both 3; the fable simple, the manners not too polite nor too rustic : the thoughts are plain, yet admit a little quickness and passion, but that short and flowing: the expression humble, yet as pure as the language will afford ; neat, but not florid ; easy, and yet lively. In short, the fable, manners, thoughts, and expressions, are full of the greatest simplicity in nature.
The complete character of this poem consists in simplicity 4, brevity, and delicacy; the two first of which render an eclogue natural, and the last delightful.
If we would copy nature, it may be useful to take this idea along with us, that pastoral is an image of what they call the golden age: so that we are not to describe our shepherds as shepherds at this day really are, but as they may be con
3 Heinsius in Theocr.
4 Rapin de Carm. Past. p. 2.
ceived them to have been, when the best of men followed the employment. To carry this resemblance yet further, it would not be amiss to give these shepherds some skill in astronomy, as far as it may be useful to that sort of life: and an air of piety to the gods should shine through the poem, which so visibly appears in all the works of antiquity; and it ought to preserve some relish of the old way of writing : the connexion should be loose, the narrations and descriptions short', and the periods concise. Yet it is not sufficient that the sentences only be brief; the whole eclogue should be so too: for we cannot suppose poetry in those days to have been the business of men, but their recreation at vacant hours.
But, with respect to the present age, nothing more conduces to make these coinposures patural, than when some knowledge in rural affairs is discovered. This may be made to appear rather done by chance than on design, and sometimes is best shown by inference; lest by two much study to seem natural, we destroy that easy simplicity from whence arises the delight. For what is inviting in this sort of poetry proceeds not so much from the idea of that business, as of the tranquillity of a country life.
We must therefore use some illusion to render a pastoral delightful; and this consists in exposing the best side only of a shepherd's life, and in concealing its miseries ?. Nor is it enough to introduce shepberds discoursing together in a natural
S Rapin, Reflex. sur l'Art Poet. d'Arist. p. 2. ref. xxvii.