« EdellinenJatka »
guished. I believe too that sometimes our first thoughts are the best, as the first squeezing of the grapes makes the finest and richest wine.
I have not attempted any thing of a pastoral comedy, because I think, the taste of our age will not relish a poem of that sort. People seek for what they call wit, on all subjects, and in all places; not considering that nature loves truth so well, that it hardly ever admits of flourishing: Conceit is to nature what paint is to beauty; it is not only needless, but impairs what it would improve. There is a certain majesty in simplicity which is far above all the quaintness of wit; insomuch that the critics have excluded wit from the loftiest poetry, as well as the lowest, and forbid it to the Epic no less than the Pastoral. I should certainly displease all those who are charmed with Guarini and Bonarelli, and imitate Tasso not only in the simplicity5 of his Thoughts, but in that of the Fable too. If surprising discoveries should have place in the story of a pastoral comedy,. I believe it would be more agreeable to probability to make them the effects of chance than of design; intrigue not being very consistent with that innocence, which ought to constitute a shepherd's character. There is nothing in all the Aminta (as I remember) but happens by mere accident; unless it be the meeting of Aminta with Sylvia at the fountain, which
5 Dr. Blair has observed, that Bouhours, Fontenelle, Addison, and the last translators of Virgil's Eclogues, have injured and misrepresented Tasso as too much abounding in points and conceits, and seem to misunderstand what Sylvia says on viewing herself in a fountain with a garland of flowers on her head.
is the contrivance of Daphne; and even that is the most simple in the world: The contrary is observable in Pastor Fido, where Corisca is so perfect a mistress of intrigue, that the plot could not have been brought to pass without her. I am inclined to think the pastoral comedy has .another disadvantage as to the manners: Its general design is to make us in love with the innocence of rural life, so that to introduce shepherds of a vicious character must in some measure debase it: And hence it may come to pass, that even the virtuous characters will not shine so much, for want of being opposed to their contraries. These thoughts are purely my own, and therefore I have reason to doubt them: but I hope your judgment will set me right.
I would beg your opinion too as to another point: it is, how far the liberty of borrowing may extend; I have defended it sometimes by saying, that it seems not so much the perfection of sense6, to say things that had never been said before, as to express those best that have been said oftenest; and that writers, in the case of borrowing from others, are like trees, which of themselves would produce only one sort of fruit, but by being grafted upon others may yield variety. A mutual commerce makes poetry flourish; but then poets, like merchants, should repay with something of their own what they take from others; not, like pirates, make prize of all they meet. I desire you to tell me sincerely if I have not stretched this licence too far in these pastorals? I hope to be
• He should rather have sfiid, the perfection qf conception. W.
come a critic by your precepts, and a poet by your example. Since I have seen your Eclogues, I cannot be much pleased with my own; however, you have not taken away all my vanity, so long as you give me leave to profess myself yours, etc.
FROM MR. WALSH.
July 20, 1706.
I Had no sooner returned you thanks for the favour of your letter, but that I was in hopes of giving you an account at the same time of my journey to Windsor; but I am now forced to put that quite off, being engaged to go to my corporation at Richmond in Yorkshire. I think you are perfectly in the right in your notions of Pastoral; but I am of opinion, that the redundancy of wit you mention, though it is what pleases the common people, is not what ever pleases the best judges. ^ Pastor Fido indeed has had more admirers7 than Aminta; but I will venture to say, there is a great deal of difference between the admirers of one and the other. Corisca, which is a character generally admired by the ordinary judges, is intolerable in a Pastoral; and Bonarelli's fancy of making his shepherdess in love with two men equally, is not to be defended, whatever pains he has taken to do it. As for what you ask of the liberty of borrowing; it is very evident the best Latin Poets have extended this very far; and none so far as Virgil, who was the best of them. As for the Greek Poets, if we cannot trace them so plainly, it is perhaps because we have none before them; it is evident that most of them borrowed from Homer, and Homer has been accused of burning those that wrote before him, that his thefts might not be discovered. The best of the modern Poets in all languages are those that have the nearest copied the Ancients8. Indeed, in all the common subjects of Poetry, the thoughts are so obvious, (at least if they are natural,) that whoever writes last, must write things like what have been said before9: But they may as well applaud the Ancients for the arts of eating and drinking, and accuse the Moderns of having stolen those inventions from them: it being evident in all such cases, that whoever lived first, must first find them out. It is-true, indeed, when
7 Tasso, on seeing this Pastoral Comedy represented, is reported to have said; "If Guarini had not seen my Amintas, he had not excelled it." But this was not a true judgment. La Filli di Sciro, of Bonarelli, is also full of unnatural characters, and of distorted conceits. It was first published, says Fontanini, at Ferrari, in quarto, with cuts, 1607 ; afterward splendidly at Paris, in quarto; also by Cramoisy, 1621; and elegantly at London, in octavo, 1728.
6 The superiority of ancient writers over the modern, may perhaps not unjustly be ascribed, to a genial climate, that gave such a happy temperament of body as was most proper to produce fine sensations; to a language most harmonious, copious, clear, and forcible; to the many public encouragements and honours bestowed on the cultivators of literature ; to the emulation excited among the generous youth, by exhibitions of their various performances at the solemn games; to the freedom of their governments; to an inattention to the arts of lucre and commerce, which totally engross and debase the minds of the moderns; and above all, to an exemption from the necessity of overloading their natural faculties with learning and languages, with which we in these later times are obliged to qualify ourselves for writers, if we expect to be read.
9 This subject has been discussed at much length, and with much acuteness and ingenuity, by Dr. Kurd, in the Discourse on
unus et alter Assuitur pannus,
when there are one or two bright thoughts stolen, and all the rest is quite different from it, a poem makes a very foolish figure: But when it is all melted down together, and the gold of the Ancients so mixed with that of the Moderns, that none can distinguish the one from the other, I can never find fault with it. I cannot however but own to you, that there are others of a different opinion, and that I have shewn your verses to some who have made that objection to them. I have so much company round me while I write this, and such a noise in my ears, that it is impossible I should write any thing but nonsense, so must break off abruptly. I am, Sir, Your most affectionate,
And most humble Servant.
Poetical Imitation: in which the difficulty of distinguishing ReSemblances from Thefts, is endeavoured to be pointed out.