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HARMONIEUX, IL DEVINT, ENFIN, LE POETE DE LA RAISON."
Our Englifh Poets may, I think, be difpofed in four different clafles and degrees. In the firft clafs I would place our only three fublime and pathetic poets; Spenser, ShakeSpeare, Milton. In the fecond clafs fhould be ranked fuch as poffeffed the true poetical genius, in a more moderate degree, but who had noble talents for moral, ethical, and panegyrical poefy. At the head of thefe are Dryden, Prior, Addison, Cowley, WalLer, Garth, Fenton, Gay, Denham, Parnell. In the third clafs may be placed men of wit, of elegant tafte, and lively fancy in defcribing familiar life, though not the higher fcenes of poetry. Here may be numbered, Butler, Swift, -rochester, Donne, Dorset, Oldham. In the fourth clafs, the mere verfifiers, however fmooth and mellifluous fome of them may be thought, fhould be difpofed. Such as Pitt, Sandys, Fairfax, Broome, Buckingham, Lansdown. This enumeration is not intended as a complete catalogue of writers, and in their proper order,
0 but only to mark out briefly the different fpecies of our celebrated authors. In which of thefe clafles Pope deferves to be placed, the following Work is intended to determine.
-''GENIUS AND WRITINGS
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OF THE PASTORALS, AND THE MESSIAH,
PRINCES and Authors are seldom spoken of, during their lives, with justice and impartiality. Admiration and Envy, their constant attendants, like two unskilful artists, are apt to overcharge their pieces with too great a quantity of light or of shade; and are disqualified happily to hit upon that middle colour, that mixture of error and Vol. i. B excellence,
Harvard College Library.
excellence, which alone renders every representation of man just and natural. This, perhaps, may be one reason, among others, why we have never yet seen a fair and candid criticism on the character and merits of our last great poet, Mr. Pope. I have therefore thought, that it would be no unpleasing amusement, or uninstructive employment, to examine at large, Avithout blind panegyric, or petulant invective, the writings of this English Classic, in the order in which they are arranged in the nine volumes of the elegant edition of Dr. Warburton. As I shall neither censure nor commend, without alleging the reason on which my opinion is founded, I shall be entirely unmoved at the imputation of malignity, or .the clamours of popular prejudice.
"\It is somewhat strange, that in the pastorals of a young poet, there should not be found a single rural image that is new;s but this, I am afraid, is the case in the Pastorals before us. The ideas of Theocritus, Virgil, and Spenser, are, indeed, here exhibited in language equally mellifluous and pure; but the descriptions and sentiments are trite and common,
That the design of pastoral poesy is, to represent the undisturbed felicity of the golden age, is an empty notion, which, though supported by a Rapin and a Fontenelle,* I think, all rational critics have agreed to extirpate and explode. But I do not remember, that even these, or any critics, have remarked the circumstance that gave origin to the opinion, that any golden age was intended. Theocritus, the father and the model of this enchanting species of composition, lived and wrote in Sicily. The climate of Sicily was delicious, and the face of the country various and beautiful: its vallies and its precipices, its grottos and cascades, were Sweetly Interchanged, and its flowers and fruits were lavish and luscious. The poet described what he saw and felt; and had no need to have recourse to those artificial assemblages of pleasing objects, which are not to
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* In the dissertation annexed to his Pastorals, in which he made his first attempt to depreciate the ancients. Among his papers, after his death, was found a discourse on the Greek Tragedians; which Trublet, his relation, gave to Diderot, that he might insert it in the Encyclopedic; which, however, Diderot refused to do, because, he said, he could not possibly insert in that work, a treatise that tended to prove, that Eschylus was a madman.