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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 addition 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 several 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 at
tributed to some good old Authors, whose works as I had leisure to study, so I hope I have not wanted care to imitate".
By this ingenuous and judicious confession he precludes the cavil of his adversaries, who would be ready to exclaim, that these pastorals were mere translations from Theocritus and Virgil. This is true; for the original thoughts are by no means numerous; but these imitations are transfused with such a classical spirit, and not unfrequently with such elegant improvement, as none but Pope, young as he was, could have compassed. The truth is, nature, in her form and operations, is the same in all ages. The first observers anticipate all their successors, in a faithful delineation of her features, and thus pre-occupy the praise of originality, by leaving but few discoveries even for unwearied and accurate inspection. And this remark, without recurring to the erroneous and injurious supposition of the superiority of ancient genius, will sufficiently apologize for modern poetry; not to mention that the habit of attending to the ancients from early initiation, not only inspires a reverence for their works, but renders it difficult for new adventurers to deviate with success from the paths already made, and which they themselves have so long trodden with rapture and animation.-Wakefield
THE FIRST PASTORAL',
TO SIR WILLIAM TRUMBAL.
FIRST in these fields I try the sylvan strains,
These Pastorals were written at the age of sixteen, and then passed through the hands of Mr. Walsh, 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 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 Roman." Notwithstanding the early time of their production, the Author esteemed these as the most correct in the versification, and
Ver. 1. "Prima Syracosio dignata est ludere versu,
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 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)—
are manifestly imitations of
A Shepherd's Boy (no better do him call)"
“ — ̔Αδύ τι τὸ ψιθύρισμα καὶ ἁ πίτυς, αἰπόλε, τήνα.”—Ρ.
Fair Thames, flow gently from thy sacred spring,
You, that too wise for pride, too good for pow'r,
Soon as the flocks shook off the nightly dews, Two Swains, whom Love kept wakeful, and the Muse,
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 afterwards 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 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 seventy-seven. Nothing of his writing remains but an elegant character of Archbishop Dolben.-Warton.
Ver. 12. in your native shades] Sir W. Trumbal was born in Windsorforest, to which he retreated after he had resigned the post of Secretary of State of King William III.-P.
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,
Both warm'd by Love, and by the Muse inspir'd,
Pour'd o'er the whit'ning vale their fleecy care,
Hear how the birds, on ev'ry blooming spray, With joyous music wake the dawning day! Why sit we mute, when early linnets sing, When warbling Philomel salutes the spring? Why sit we sad, when Phosphor shines so clear, And lavish nature paints the purple year?
Sing then, and Damon shall attend the strain,
Fresh as the morn, and as the season fair,
Ver. 32. Here western winds, &c.] The slow oxen, the bright crocus, and the blue violet, are images of Spring, the season of this Pastoral: the introduction of roses at the same time is not so appropriate.Bowles.
Ver. 34. The first reading was,
And his own image from the bank surveys.-Warburton.
Ver. 28. Purple year?] Dryden has "purple spring.”
Purple is used in the Latin sense, of the brightest, most vivid colouring in general, not of that peculiar tint so called.-Warburton.
Gray has adopted the expression of the purple year, in the first stanza of his exquisite Ode on Spring.-Warton.
Dr. Warton observes this verse is from Spenser's Muiopotmos. The words, "lavish nature," are, but there is nothing of "painting the purple year."
Spenser's words are,
There lavish nature, in her best attire,
Pours forth sweet odors, and alluring sights.-Bowles,