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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.
ing, aware that the description of that Cup contains touches of the most delightful and highly finished landscape? The old fisherman, and the broken rock, in one scene ; in another, the beautiful contrast of the little boy weaving his rush-work, and so intent on it, that he forgets the vineyard he was set to guard ; we see him in the fore-ground of the piece : then there is his scrip and the fox eyeing it askance; the ripe and purple vineyard, and the other fox treading down the grapes, whilit he continues at his work : and, as is beautifully express'd,
ετε τι Τηξης
Idyll. I. line 54 Add to these circumstances the wild and beautiful Sicilian scenery; and where can there be found more perfect landscapes in the works, which these pictures peculiarly resemble, of Vernet, or Gainsborough? Considered in this view, how rich, wild, and various, are the landscapes of the old Sicilian! and we cannot but wonder that so many striking and original traits should be passed over by a “ youthful bard,” who professed to select from, and to
copy, the ancients.
First in these fields I try the fylvan strains,
Nor blush to sport on Windfor'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 fixteen, and then passed through the hands of Mr. Wallh, Mr. Wycherley, G. Granville afterwards Lord Lansdown, Sir William Trumbal, Dr. Garth, Lord Hallifax, Lord Somers, Mr. Mainwaring, and others. All these gave our Author the greatest encouragement, and particu. larly Mr. Walth, 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
Let vernal airs through trembling ofiers play,
REMARKS. may hope to see English Poetry vie with the Roman,” &c. Notwith tanding the early time of their production, the Author esteemed these as the most correct in the verfification, and musical in the numbers, of all his works. The reason for his labouring them into fo 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 feveral niceties in Verlification, which perhaps have never been ftrictly observed in any English poem, except in these Pastorals. They were not printed till 1709.
Pope. Sir William Trumbal.] Our Author's friendship with this geritleman commenced at very unequal years ; he was under sixteen but Sir William above fixty, and had lately refign'd his employ. ment of Secretary of State to King William.
Pope. Line 1. First in these fields, &c.] It seems natural for a young Poet to initiate himself by Pallorals, which, not profeffing to imi. tate real life, require no experience, and exhibiting only the simple operation of unmingled passions, admit no subtle reasoning or deep enquiry. Pope's Paftorals, however, are not composed but with close thought.
JOHNSON. In this fentence, Dr. Johnson does not appear fufficiently attentive to the true character and nature of Pastoral Poetry. No doubt it is natural for a young Poet to initiate himself by Paftorals; for what youthful heart does not glow at the descriptions of rural nature, and scenes that accord with its own innocence and cheerfulness; but although Pastorals do not, in the fense of Dr. Johnson, imitate real life, nor require any great infight into human passions and characters, yet there are many things necessary in this species of composition, more than Dr. Johnson seems to require. The chief thing is an eye for picturesque and rural scenery, and an intimate acquaintance with those minute objects and particular appearances of nature, which alone can give a lively and original colour to the painting of
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!
So REMARKS. Pastoral Poetry. To copy the common defcriptions of Spring or Summer, Morning or Evening, or to iterate from Virgil the same complaints of the fame shepherds, is not surely to write Pastoral Poetry. It is also difficult to conceive where is the “ close thought,” with which Johnson says Pope's Pastorals are composed. They are pleafing as copies of "the Poems of Antiquity," although they exhibit no striking taste in the “ selection," and they certainly exhibit a series of musical verlification, which, till their appearance, had no precedent in English Poetry
VER. 7. You, that too wise] This amiable old man, who had been a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, and Dr. of Civil Law, was sent by Charles II. Judge Advocate to Tangier, and afterwards in a public character to Florence, to Turin, to Paris ; and by James II. Ambassador to Conftantinople ; to which city he went through the continent on foot. He was afterwards 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 feventy-seven. Nothing of his writing remains but an elegant character of Archbishop Dolben.
WARTON. Ver. 12. in your native lates) Sir W. Trunbal was born in Windsor-forest, to which he retreated, after he had resigned the poft of Secretary of State of King William III.
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