« ZurückWeiter »
I am inclined to think that both the writers of books, I wish we had the humanity to reflect, that even the and the readers of them, are generally not a little un-worst authors might, in their endeavour to please us, reasonable in their expectations. The first seem to deserve something at our hands. We have no cause fancy that the world must approve whatever they pro- to quarrel with them but for their obstinacy in perduce, and the latter to imagine that authors are obliged sisting to write; and this, too, may admit of aileviato please them at any rate. Methinks, as on the one ting circumstances. Their particular friends may be hand no single man is born with a right of controlling either ignorant or insincere; and the rest of the world the opinions of all the rest, so, on the other, the world in general is too well bred to shock them with a has no title to demand that the whole care and time of truth which generally their booksellers are the first any particular person should be sacrificed to its enter- that inform them of. This happens not till they have tainment; therefore I cannot but believe that writers spent too much of their time to apply to any profesand readers are under equal obligations, for as much sion which might better fit their talents, and till such fame or pleasure as each affords the other... talents as they have are so far discredited 'as to be of
Every one acknowledges it would be a wild notion but small service to them, For (what is the hardest to expect perfection in any work of man; and yet one case imaginable) the reputation of a man generally would think the contrary was taken for granted, by depends upon the first step he makes in the world. the judgment commonly passed upon poems. A critic and people will establish their opinion of us from supposes he has done his part, if he proves a writer to what we do at thật season when we have least judghave failed in an expression, orerred in any particular ment to direct us. point; and can it then be wondered at, if the poets in On the other hand, a good poet no sooner comgeneral seem resolved not to own themselves in any municates his works with the same desire of inforerror? For as long as one side will make no allow.mation, but it is imagined he is a vain young creature, ances, the other will be brought to no acknowledg- given up to the ambition of fame, when perhaps the ments.
poor man is all the while trembling with the fear of I am afraid this extreme zeal on both sides is ill-being ridiculous. If he is made to hope he may please placed; Poetry and Criticism being by no means the the world, he falls under very unlucky circumstances; universal concern of the world, but only the affair for, from the moment he prints, he must expect to of idle men who write in their closets, and of idle hear no more truth than if he were a prince or a men who read there.
beauty. If he has not very good sense, (and indeed Yet sure, upon the whole, a bad author deserves there are twenty men of wit for one man of sense,) better usage than a bad critic; for a writer's endea-his living thus in a course of flattery may put him vour, for the most part, is to please his readers, and in no small danger of becoming a coxcomb; if he he fails merely through the misfortune of an in- has, he will, consequently, have so much diffidence judgment; but such a critic's is to put them out of as not to reap any great satisfaction from his praise ; humour: a design he could never go upon without since, if it be given to his face, it can scarce be disboth that and an ill-temper.
tinguished from flattery; and if in his absence, it is I think a good deal may be said to extenuate the hard to be certain of it. Were he sure to be comfaults of bad poets. What we call a Genius is hard mended by the best and most knowing, he is as sure to be distinguished by a man himself from a strong of being envied by the worst and most ignorant, inclination; and if his genius be ever so great, he which are the majority; for it is with a fine genius as cannot at first discover it in any other way, thani byl with a fine fashion; all those are displeased at it who giving way to that prevalent propensity which renders are not able to follow it; and it is to be feared that him the more liable to be mistaken. The only me- esteem will seldom do any man so much good as illthod he has, is to make the experiment by writing, will does him harm. Then there is a third class of and appealing to the judgment of others. Now, if people, who make the largest part of mankind, those he happens to write ill (which is certainly no sin in of ordinary or indifferent capacities, and these, to a 'tself,) he is immediately made an object of ridicule.lman, will hate or suspect him; a hundred honest
gentlemen will dread him as a wit, and a hundred (is but the knowledge of the sense of our predecese innocent women as a satirist. In a word, whatever sors. Therefore they who say our thoughts are not be his fate in poetry, it is ten to one but he must give our own, because they resemble the Ancients, may up all the reasonable aims of life for it. There are, as well say our faces are not our own, because they indeed, some advantages accruing from a genius to are like our fathers; and indeed it is very unreasonpoetry, and they are all I can think of; the agreeable able that people should expect us to be scholars, and power of self-amusement when a man is idle or alone; yet be angry to find us so. the privilege of being admitted into the best company; I fairly confess that I have served myself all I and the freedom of saying as many careless things could by reading; that I made use of the judgment as other people, without being so severely remarked of authors dead and living ; that I omitted no means upon.
in my power to be informed of my errors, both by my I believe if any one, early in his life, should con- friends and enemies: but the true reason these pieces template the dangerous fate of authors, he would are not more correct, is owing to the consideration scarce be of their number on any consideration. how short a time they and I have to live: one may The life of a wit is a warfare 'upon earth; and the be ashamed to consume half one's days in bringing present spirit of the learned world is such, that to sense and rhyme together; and what critic can be so attempt to serve it, any way, one must have the con- funreasonable, as not to leave a man time enough for stancy of a martyr, and a resolution to suffer for its any more serious employment, or more agreeable sake. I could wish people would believe, what I am amusement ? pretty certain they will not, that I have been much! The only plea I shall use for the favour of the publess concerned about fame than I durst declare till lic is, that I have as great a respect for it as most this occasion, when, methinks, I should find more authors have for themselves; and that I have sacricredit than I could heretofore, since my writings ficed much of my own self-love for its sake, in prehave had their fate already, and it is too late to think venting not only many mean things from seeing the of prepossessing the reader in their favour. I would light, but many which I thought tolerable. I would plead it as some merit in me, that the world has never not be like those authors who forgive themselves been prepared for these trifles by prefaces, biassed by some particular lines for the sake of a whole poem, recommendation, dazzled with the names of great and, vice versa, a whole poem for the sake of some patrons, wheedled with fine reasons and pretences, particular lines. I believe no one qualification is so or troubled with excuses. I confess it was want' of likely to make a good writer as the power of rejectconsideration that made me an author; I writ, being his own thoughts; and it must be this, if any thing, cause it amused me; I corrected, because it was as that can give me a chance to be one. For what I pleasant to me to correct as to write; and I publish-have published, I can only hope to be pardoned; but ed, because I was told I might please such as it was for what I have burned, I deserve to be praised. On a credit to please. To what degree I have done this this account the world is under some obligation to I am really ignorant: I had too much fondness for me, and owes me the justice, in return, to look upon my productions to judge of them at first, and too no verses as mine that are not inserted in this Colmuch judgment to be pleased with them at last; but lection. And perhaps nothing could make it worth I have reason to think they can have no reputation' my while to own what are really so, but to avoid the which will continue long, or which deserves to do imputation of so many dull and immoral things as, 80; for they have always fallen short, not only of partly by malice, and partly by ignorance, have been what I read of others, but even of my own ideas of ascribed to me. I must further acquit myself of the poetry.
I presumption of having lent my name to recommend If any one should imagine I am not in earnest, I any miscellanies or works of other men; a thing I desire him to reflect, that the Ancients (to say the never thought becoming a person who has hardly least of them) had as much genius as we; and that to credit enough to answer for his own. take more pains, and employ more time, cannot fail In this office of collecting my pieces, I am altoto produce more complete pieces. They constantly gether uncertain whether to look upon myself as a applied themselves not only to that art, but to that man building a monument, or burying the dead. single branch of an art to which their talent was most If time shall make it the former, may these poems, powerfully bent; and it was the business of their lives as long as they last, remain as a testimony that their to correct and finish their works for posterity. If we author never made his talents subservient to the mean can pretend to have used the same industry, let us, and unworthy ends of party or self-interest; the expect the same immortality; though, if we took the gratification of public prejudices or private passions ; same care, we should still lie under a further mis- the flattery of the undeserving, or the insult of the fortune; they writ in languages that became univer- unfortunate. If I have written well, let it be considersal and everlasting, while ours are extremely limited ed, that it is what no man can do without good sense, both in extent and in duration. A mighty foundation a quality that not only renders one capable of being for our pride! when the utmost we can hope is but a good writer, but a good man. And if I have made to be read in one island, and to be thrown aside at any acquisition in the opinion of any one under the the end of one age.
notion of the former, let it be continued to me under All that is left us is to recommend our productions no other title than that of the latter. by the imitation of the Ancients: and it will be found But if this publication be only a more solemn funetrue, that, in every age, the highest character for sense ral of my remains, I desire it may be known that I and learning has been obtained by those who have die in charity, and in my senses; without any murmurs been most indebted to them. For, to say truth, against the justice of this age, or any mad appeals to whatever is very good sense, must have been com- posterity. I declare, I shall think the world in the mon sense in all times; and what we call Learning, Iright, and quietly submit to every truth which time shall discover to the prejudice of these writings; not|putation, depreciated no dead author I was obliged to, so much as wishing so irrational a thing, as that every bribed no living one with unjust praise, insulted no body should be deceived merely for my credit. How- adversary with ill language; or, when I could not atever, I desire it may therein be considered, that there tack a rival's works, encouraged reports against his are very few things in this Collection which were morals. To conclude, if this volume perish, let it not written under the age of five and twenty; so that serve as a warning to the critics not to take too much my youth may be made (as it never fails to be in exe- pains for the future to destroy such things as will die cutions) a case of compassion; that I never was so of themselves; and a memento mori to some of my concerned about my works as to vindicate them in vain contemporaries the poets, to teach them, that, print, believing, if any thing was good, it would de- when real merit is wanting, it avails nothing to have fend itself, and what was bad could never be defend- been encouraged by the great, commended by the ed; that I used no artifice to raise or continue a re-eminent, and favoured by the public in general.
Nov. 10, 1716.
A DISCOURSE ON PASTORAL. (sertations the critics have made on the subject, with! WRITTEN IN THE YEAR 1704.
out 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, Rura mibi, et rigui, placeant in vallibus amnes; I think, have escaped their observation. Flumina amem, sylvasque, inglorius! VIRGIL.
The original of poetry is ascribed to that age which
succeeded the creation of the world ; and as the The Pastorals were written at the age of sixteen, and then keeping of flocks seems to have been the first em
passed through the hands of Mr. Walsh, Mr. Wycherley, la G. Granville, (afterwards lord Lansdowne) Sir William
ployment of mankind, the most ancient sort of poetry Trumbal, Dr. Garth, lord Halifax, lord Somers, Mr. was probably pastoral..!
x. lord Somere Mr. was probably pastoral. It is natural to imagine, that Maynwaring, and others. All these gave our author the the leisure of those ancient shepherds admitting and greatest encouragement, and particularly Mr. Walsh, inviting some diversion, none was so proper to that whom Mr. Dryden, in his Postscript to Virgil, calls the solitary and sedentary life as singing ; and that in their best critic of his age. “The author, (says he) seems to songs they took occasion to celebrate their own have a particular genius for this kind of poetry, and a felicity. From hence a poem was invented, and afterjudgment which much exceeds his years. He has taken
wards improved to a perfect image of that happy very freely from the ancients; but what he has mixed of his own with theirs, is no way inferior to what he has time; which, by giving us an esteem for the virtues taken from them. It is not fattery at all to say, that of a former age, might recommend them to the preVirgil had written nothing so good at his age. His Pre- sent. And since the life of shepherds was attended face is very judicious and learned." Letter to Mr. Wycher with more tranquillity than any other rural employ. ley, April, 1705. The lord Lansdowne about the same ment, the poets chose to introduce their persons, time, mentioning the youth of our Poet, says,(in a printed from whom it received the name of Pastoral. Letter of the Character of Mr. Wycherley) “that if he A pastoral is an imitation of the action of a shepgoes on as he has begun in his Pastoral way, as Virgil first tried his strength, we may hope to see English poetry
gil herd, or one considered under that character. The
form of this imitation is dramatic, or narrative, or vie with the Roman," &c.Notwithstanding the early time of their production, the author esteemed these as the mixed of both; the fable simple, the manners not too most correct in the versification, and musical in the num-polite, nor too rustic: the thoughts are plain, yet ad. bers, of all his works. The reason for his labouring them mit a little quickness and passion, but that short and into so much sofiness, was, doubtless, that this sort of flowing: the expression humble, yet as pure as the poetry derives almost its whole beauty from a natural language will afford; neat, but not florid; easy, and ease of thought, and smoothness of verse; whereas that yet lively. In short, the fable, manners, thoughts, of most other kinds consists in the strength and fulness
and expressions, are full of the greatest simplicity in of both. In a letter of his to Mr. Walsh about this time, we find an enumeration of several niceties in versification,
nature. which perhaps have never been strictly observed in any
| The complete character of this poem consists in English poem except in these Pastorals. They were not simplicity, brevity, and delicacy; the two first of printed till 1709.
which render an eclogue natural, and the last de
lightful. A DISCOURSE ON PASTORAL POETRY.* If we could copy nature, it may be useful to take
THERE are not, I believe, a greater number of any, this idea along with us, that pastoral is an image of sort of verses, than of those which are called Pasto- what they call the Golden Age. So that we are not rals, nor a smaller than those which are truly so. It to describe our shepherds as shepherds at this day therefore seems necessary to give some account of really are, but as they may be conceived then to have this kind of poem; and it is my design to comprise in been, when the best of men followed the employ. this short paper the substance of those numerous dis. ment. 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 * Written at sixteen years of age.
sort of life. And an air of piety to the gods should shine through the poem, which so visibly appears in priety of style; the first of which perhaps was the all the works of antiquity; and it ought to preserve fault of his age, and the last of his language. some relish of the old way of writing : the connection Among the moderns, their success has been greatshould be loose, the narrations and descriptions est who have most endeavoured to 'make these short, and the periods concise : yet it is not sufficient ancients their pattern. The most considerable genius that the sentences only be brief; the whole eclogue appears in the famous Tasso and our Spenser. Tasso should be so too': for we cannot suppose poetry in in his Aminta has as far excelled all the pastoral those days to have been the business of men, but writers, as in his Gierusalemme he has outdone the their recreation at vacant hours.
lepic poets of his country. But as his piece seems to But with respect to the present age, nothing more have been the original of a new sort of poem, the oonduces to make these composures natural, than pastoral comedy, in Italy, it cannot so well be conwhen some knowledge in rural affairs is discovered. sidered as a copy of the ancients. Spenser's CalenThis may be made to appear rather done by chance dar, in Mr. Dryden's opinion, is the most complete than on design, and sometimes is best shown by in- work of this kind which any nation has produced ference ; lest by too much study to seem natural, we ever since the time of Virgil; not but that he may be destroy that easy simplicity from whence arises the thought imperfect in some few points. His eclogues delight : for what is inviting in this sort of poetry are somewhat too long if we compare them with the proceeds not so much from the idea of that business, ancients. He is sometimes too allegorical, and treats as the tranquillity of a country life.
lof matters of religion in a pastoral style, as the We must therefore use some illusion to render a Mantuan had done before him. He has employed pastoral delightful; and this consists in exposing the the lyric measure, which is contrary to the practice best side only of a shepherd's life, and in concealing of the old poets. His stanza is not still the same, its miseries. Nor is it enough to introduce shepherds nor always well chosen. This last may be the readiscoursing together in a natural way ; but a regard son his expression is sometimes not concise enough; must be had to the subject, that it contain some par- for the tetrastic has obliged him to extend his sense to ticular beauty in itself, and that it be different in every the length of four lines, which would have been eclogue. Besides, in each of them a designed scene more closely confined in the couplet. . or prospect is to be presented to our view, which In the manners, thoughts, and characters, he comes should likewise have its variety. This variety is ob- near to Theocritus himself; though, notwithstanding tained in a great degree by frequent comparisons, all the care he has taken, he is certainly inferior in drawn from the most agreeable objects of the country; his dialect ; for the Doric had its beauty and proby interrogations to things inanimate ; by beautiful priety in the time of Theocritus ; it was used in part digressions, but those short ; sometimes by insisting of Greece, and frequent in the mouths of many of a little on circumstances; and, lastly, by elegant turns the greatest persons : whereas the old English and on the words, which render the numbers extremely country phrases of Spenser were either entirely obsosweet and pleasing. As for the numbers themselves, lete, or spoken only by people of the lowest conthough they are properly of the heroic measure, they dition. As there is a difference betwixt simplicity should be the smoothest, the most easy and flowing and rusticity, so the expression of simple thoughts imaginable.
should be plain but not clownish. The addition he It is by rules like these that we ought to judge of has made of a calendar to his eclogués, is very pastoral. And since the instructions given for any beautiful ; since by this, besides the general moral of art are to be delivered as that art is in perfection, they innocence and simplicity, which is common to other must of necessity be derived from those in whom it is authors of pastoral, he has one peculiar to himself: acknowledged so to be. It is therefore from the he compares human life to the several seasons, and practice of Theocritus and Virgil (the only undisputed at once exposes to his readers a view of the great and authors of pastoral,) that the critics have drawn the little worlds, in their various changes and aspects. foregoing notions concerning it. "
Yet the scrupulous division of his pastorals into Theocritus excels all others in nature and sim- months, has obliged him either to repeat the same plicity. The subjects of his Idyllia are purely pas- description in other words, for three months together; toral; but he is not so exact in his persons, having or, when it was exhausted before, entirely to omit it: introduced reapers and fishermen as well as shep- whence it comes to pass that some of hịs eclogues herds. He is apt to be too long in his descriptions, (as the sixth, eighth, and tenth, for example) have of which that of the cup in the first pastoral is a re- nothing but their titles to distinguish them. The reason markable instance. In the manners he seems a little is evident, because the year has not that variety in it defective, for his swains are sometimes abusive and to furnish every month with a particular description, immodest, and perhaps too much inclining to rus- as it may every season. . ticity; for instance, in his fourth and fifth Idyllia. But of the following eclogues I shall only say, that it is enough that all others learned their excellence these four comprehend all the subjects which the from him, and that his dialect alone has a secret critics upon Theocritus and Virgil will allow, to be charm in it, which no other could ever attain. fit for pastoral : that they have as much variety of
Virgil, who copies, Theocritus, refines upon his description, in respect of the several seasons, as original; and in all points, where judgment is princi- Spenser's: that, in order to add to this variety, the pally concernéd, he is much superior to his master. several times of the day are observed, the rural emThough some of his subjects are not pastoral in them- ployments in each season or time of day, and the selves, but only seem to be such, they have a wonder- rural scenes or places proper to such employments; ful variety in them, which the Greek was a stranger not without some regard to the several ages of man, to. He exceeds him in regularity and brevity, and and the different passions proper to each age. falls short of him in nothing but simplicity and pro-! But after all, they have any merit, it is to be at
tributed to some good old authors, whose works as I
And make my tongue victorious as her eyes ;
Thy victim, Love, shall be the shepherd's heart.
But feigns a laugh, to see me search around,
And by that laugh the willing fair is found.
| The sprightly Sylvia trips along the green; To Sir William Trumbal.
She runs, but hopes she does not run unseen: First in these fields I try the sylvan strains,
While a kind glance at her pursuer flies,
How much' at variance are her feet and eyes !
O'er golden sands let rich Pactolus flow, Let vernal airs through trembling osiers play,
And trees weep amber on the banks of Po; And Albion's cliffs resound the rural lay.
Blest Thames's shores the brightest beauties yield. You that, too wise for pride, too good for power,
Feed here, my lambs, I'll seek no distant field. Enjoy the glory to be great no more, .
DAPHNIS. And, carrying with you all the world can boast,
Celestial Venus haunts Idalia's groves; To all the world illustriously are lost;
Diana Cynthus, Ceres Hybla loves ; O let my muse her slender reed inspire,
If Windsor shades delight the matchless maid, Till in your native shades you tune the lyre.
Cynthus and Hybla yield to Windsor-shade. So when the nightingale to rest removes,
STREPHON.. The thrush may chant to the forsaken groves, All Nature mourns, the skies relent in showers, But charm'd to silence, listens while she sings, Hush'd are the birds, and closed the drooping flowers, And all the aerial audience clap their wings. If Delia smile, the flowers begin to spring,
Soon as the flocks shook off the nightly dews, The skies to brighten, and the birds to sing, Two swains, whom love kept wakeful, and the muse,
But Delia always ; absent from her sight, When warbling Philomel salutes the spring?. Nor 'plains at morn, nor groves at noon delight. Why sit we sad, when Phosphor shines so clear,
Sylvia's like autumn ripe, yet mild as May,
More bright than noon, yet fresh as early day: ' Sing then, and Damon shall attend the strain, E'en spring displeases when she shines not here; While yon slow oxen turn the furrow'd plain. But, bless'd with her, 'tis spring throughout the year Here the bright crocus and blue violet glow,
STREPHON. Here western winds on breathing roses blow, I Say, Daphnis, say, in what glad soil appears, I'll stake yon lamb, that near the fountain plays, A wondrous tree that sacred monarchs bears : And from the brink his dancing shade surveys.. Tell me but this, and I'll disclaim the prize, DAPHNIS.
And give the conquest to thy Sylvia's eyes.And I this bowl, where wanton ivy twipes,
DAPHNIS. . And swelling clusters bend the curling vines :
Nay, tell me first, in what more happy fields Four figures rising from the work appear,
The thistle springs, to which the lily yields : The various seasons of the rolling year; .
And then a nobler prize I will resign ;
For Sylvia, charming Sylvia, shall be thine.
Cease to contend; for, Daphnis, I decree,
Now rise and haste to yonder woodbine bowers, STREPHON.
A soft retreat from sudden vernal showers : Inspire me, Phæbus, in my Delia's praise, The turf with rural dainties shall be crown'd, With Waller’s strains, or Granville's moving lays! While opening blooms diffuse their sweets around. A milk-white bull shall at your altar stand,
For see! the gathering flocks to shelter tend, That threats a fight, and spums the rising sand. And from the Pleiads fruitful showers descend.