« السابقةمتابعة »
which time shall discover to the prejudice of these writings; not so much as wishing so irrational a thing, as that every body should be deceived merely for my credit. However, I desire it may be them 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 eminent, and favoured by the public in general.
Nov. 10, 1716.
VARIATIONS IN THE AUTHOR'S MANUSCRIPT PREFACE.
AFTER page, 138 1. 44. it followed thus: For my part, I confess had I seen things in this view, at first, the public had never been troubled either with my writings, or with this apology for them. I am sensible how difficult it is to speak of one's self with decency: but when a man must speak of himself, the best way is to speak truth of himself, or, he may depend upon it, others will do it for him. I'll therefore make this preface a general confession of all my thoughts of my own poetry, resolving with the same freedom to expose myself, as it is in the power of any other to expose them. In the first place, I thank God and nature, that I was born with a love to poetry; for nothing more conduces to fill up all the intervals of our time, or, if rightly used, to make the whole course of life entertaining : Cantantes licet usque (minus via lædet). It is a vast happiness to possess the pleasures of the head, the only pleasures in which a man is sufficient to himself, and the only part of him which, to his satisfaction, he can employ all day long. The Muses are amicæ omnium horarum; and, like our gay acquaintance, the best company, in the world as long as one expects no real service from them. I confess there was a time when I was in love with myself, and my first productions were the children of self-love upon innocence. I had made an Epic Poem, and Panegyrics on all the princes in Europe, and thought myself the greatest genius that ever was. I cannot but regret those delightful visions of my childhood, which, like the fine colours we see when our eyes are shut, are vanished for ever. Many trials, and sad experience, have so undeceived me by degrees, that I am utterly at a loss at what rate to value myself. As for fame, I shall be glad of any I can get, and not repine at any I miss; and as for vanity, I have enough to keep me from hanging myself, or even from wishing those hanged who would take it away. It was this that made me write. The sense of my faults made me correct; besides, that it was as pleasant to me to correct as to write.
At p. 139. 1. 25. In the first place, I own, that I have used my best endeavours to the finishing these pieces: 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 errours by my friends and ny enemies: and that I expect no favour on account of my youth, business, want of health, or any such idle excuses, But the true reason they are not yet more correct, is owning to the consideration how short a time they, and I, have to live. A man that can expect but sixty years, may be ashamed to employ thirty in measuring syllables, and bringing sense and rhyme together. We spend our youth in pursuit of riches or fame, in hopes to enjoy them when we are odd; 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 save my soul; and that some wise men will be of my opinion, even if I should think a part of it better spent in the enjoyments of life, than in pleasing the critics.
THE Pastorals were written at the age of sixteen, and then passed through the hands of Mr. Walsh, Mr. Wycherley, G. Granville, afterwards lord Lansdowne, sir William Trumbull, Dr. Garth, lord Halifax, lord Somers, Mr. Maynwaring, 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 which 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, April, 1705. The lord Lansdowne 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 his 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 1709.
A DISCOURSE ON PASTORAL POETRY'.
THERE are not, I believe, a greater number of any sort of verses than of those which are called Fastorals. nor a smaller than those which are truly so. It therefore seems necessary to give some account of this kind of poem; and it is my design to comprize in this short paper the substance of those numerous dissertations the critics have made on the subject, without omitting any of their rules in my own favour. You will also find some points reconciled, about which they seem to differ; and a few remarks, which, I think, 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 natural to imagine, that the leisure of those ancient shepherds admitting
• Written at sixteen years of age.
2 Fontenelle's Discourse on Pastorals
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 vir tues 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 choose to introduce their persons, from whom it received the name 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 narrative, or mixed of both; 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, brevity, and delicacy; the two first of which render an eclogue natural, and the last delightful.
If we could 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 conceived then 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 connection 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 ecjogue 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 composures natural, 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 too 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 the tranquility 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 shepherds discoursing together in a natural way; but a regard must be had to the subject, that it contain some particular beauty in itself, and that it be different in every eclogue. Besides, in each of them a designed scene or prospect is to be presented to our view, which should likewise have its variety. This variety is obtained in a great degree by frequent comparisons, drawn from the most agreeable objects of the country; by interrogations to things inanimate; by beautiful digressions, but those short; sometimes by insisting a little on circumstances; and, lastly, by elegant turns on the words, which render the numbers extremely sweet and pleasing. As for the numbers themselves, though they are properly of the heroic measure, they should be the smoothest, the most easy and flowing imaginable.
It is by rules like these that we ought to judge of pastoral. And since the instructions given for any art are to be delivered as that art is in perfection, they must of necessity be derived from those in whom it is acknowledged so to be. It is therefore from the practice of Theocritus and Virgil (the only undisputed authors of pastoral) that the critics have drawn the foregoing notions concerning it.
Theocritus excels all others in nature and simplicity. The subjects of his Idyllia are purely pastoral; but he is not so exact in his persons, having introduced reapers and fishermen as well as shepherds. He is apt to be too long in his descriptions, of which that of the cup in the first pastoral is a remarkable instance. In the manners he seems a little defective, for his swains are sometimes abusive and immodest, and perhaps too much inclining to rusticity; for instance, in his fourth and fifth Idyllia. But it is enough that all others learned their excellence from him, and that his dialect alone has a secret charm in it, which no other could ever attain.
3 Heinsius in 'l'heocr.
Rapin, de Carm. Past. p. 2.
› Rapin, Reflex. sur l'Art Poet. d'Arist. p. 2. Reflex. 27.
Pref. to Virg. Past. in Dryd. Virg.
"Fontenelle's Disc. of Pastorals, ? OEPISTAI, Idyl. x, and AAIEI, Idyl. xxi,
Virgil, who copies Theocritus, refines upon his original: and in all points, where judgment is principally concerned, he is much superior to his master. Though some of his subjects are not pastoral in themselves, but only seem to be such; they have a wonderful variety in them, which the Greek was a stranger to1. He exceeds him in regularity and brevity, and falls short of him in 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 Tasso, and our Spenser. Tasso In his Aminta has as far excelled all the pastoral writers, as in his Gierusalemme he has outdone the epic poets of his country. But as his 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 the 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 would have been more closely confined in the couplet.
In the manners, thoughts, and characters, he comes near to Theocritus himself; though, 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 simplicity and rusticity, so the expression of simple thoughts should be plain, but not clownish. The addi tion he has made of a calendar to his eclogues, 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 sixth, eighth, and tenth, for example) have nothing but their titles to distinguish them. The reason is evident, because the year has not that variety 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 seasons, as Spenser's: that, in order to add to this variety, the seferal times of the day are observed, 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 proper to each age.
But after all, if they have any merit, it is to be attributed to some good old authors, whose works I had leisure to study, so, hope, I have not wanted care to imitate.
• Rapin. Refl. on Arist. part. 2. Refl. 27.Pref. to the Ecl. in Dryden's Virg.
2 Dedication to Virg. Ecl.