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writings have had their fate already, and it is too late to think of prepossessmg the reader in their favour. I would plead it as some merit in me, that the world has never been prepared for these trifles by prefaces, biassed by recommendations, dazzled with the names of great patrons, wheedled with fine reasons and pretences, or troubled with excuses. I confess it was want of consideration that made me an author; I writ because it amused me; I corrected because it was as pleasant to me to correct as to write; and I published because I was told I might please such as it was a credit to please. To what degree I have done this, I am really ignorant; I had too much fondness for my productions to judge of them at first, and too much judgment to be pleased with them at last. But I have reason to think they can have no reputation which will continue long, or which deserves to do so: for they have always fallen short, not only of what I read of others, but even of my own ideas of poetry.
If any one should imagine I am not in earnest, I desire him to reflect that the ancients (to say the least of them) had as much genius as we: and that to take more pains, and employ more time, cannot fail to produce more complete pieces. They constantly applied themselves not only to that art, but to that single branch of an art, to which their talent was most powerfully bent; and it was the business of their lives to correct and finish their works for posterity. If we can pretend to have used the same industry, let us expect the same immortality: though if we took the same care, we should still lie under a further misfortune: they writ in languages that became universal and everlasting, while ours are extremely limited both in extent and in duration. A mighty foundation for our pride! when the utmost we can hope is but to be read in one island, and to be thrown aside at the end of one age.
All that is left us is to recommend our productions by the imitation of the ancients; and it will be found true, that, in every age, the highest character for sense and learning has been obtained by those who have been most indebted to them. For, to say truth, whatever is very good sense must have been common sense in all times; and what we call learning is but the knowledge of the sense of our predecessors. Therefore they who say our thoughts are not our own, because they resemble the ancients, may as well say our faces are not our own, because they are like our fathers: and indeed it is very unreasonable that people should expect us to be scholars, and yet be angry to find us so.
I fairly confess that I have served myself all I could by reading; that I made use of the judgment of authors dead and living; that I omitted no means in my power to be informed of my errors, both by my friends and enemies: but the true reason these pieces are not more correct, is owing to the consider ation how short a time they and I have to live: one may be ashamed to consume half one's days in bringing sense and rhyme together; and what critic can be so unreasonable as not to leave a man time enough for any more serious employment, or more agreeable amusement?
The only plea I shall use for the favour of the public is, that I have as great a respect for it as most authors have for themselves; and that I have sacrificed much of my own self-love for its sake, in preventing not only many mean things from seeing the light, but many which I thought tolerable. I would not be like those authors who forgive themselves some particular lines
for the sake of a whole poem, and vice versâ a whole poem for the sake of some particular lines. I believe no one qualification is so likely to make a good writer as the power of rejecting his own thoughts; and it must be this (if anything) that can give me a chance to be one. For what I have published, 1 can only hope to be pardoned; but for what I have burned, I deserve to be praised. On this account the world is under some obligation to me, and owes me the justice in return to look upon no verses as mine that are not inserted in this collection. And perhaps nothing could make it worth my while to own what are really so, but to avoid the imputation of so many dull and immoral things as, partly by malice, and partly by ignorance, have been ascribed to me. I must farther acquit myself of the presumption of having lent my name to recommend any miscellanies or works of other men; a thing I never thought becoming a person who has hardly credit enough to answer for his own.
In this office of collecting my pieces, I am altogether uncertain whether to look upon myself as a man building a monument, or burying the dead. If time shall make it the former, may these poems (as long as they last) remain as a testimony that their author never made his talents subservient to the mean and unworthy ends of party or self-interest; the gratification of public prejudices or private passions; the flattery of the undeserving or the insult of the unfortunate. If I have written well, let it be considered that 'tis what no man can do without good sense,-a quality that not only renders one capable of being a good writer, but a good man. And if I have made any acquisition in the opinion of any one under the notion of the former, let it be continued to me under no other title than that of the latter.
But if this publication be only a more solemn funeral of my remains, I desire it may be known that I die in charity and in my senses, without any murmurs against the justice of this age, or any mad appeals to posterity. I declare I shall think the world in the right, and quietly submit to every truth which time shall discover to the prejudice of these writings; not so much as wishing so irrational a thing, as that every body should be deceived merely for my credit. However, I desire it may then be considered that there are very few things in this collection which were not written under the age of five-andtwenty so that my youth may be made (as it never fails to be in executions) a case of compassion. That I was never so concerned about my works as to vindicate them in print; believing, if any thing was good, it would defend itself, and what was bad could never be defended. That I used no artifice to raise or continue a reputation, depreciated no dead author I was obliged to, bribed no living one with unjust praise, insulted no adversary with ill language; or, when I could not attack a rival's works, encouraged reports against his morals. To conclude, if this volume perish, let it serve as a warning to the critics, not to take too much pains for the future to destroy such things as will die of themselves; and a memento mori to some of my vain cotemporaries the poets, to teach them that, when real merit is wanting, it avails nothing to have been encouraged by the great, commended by the eminent, and favoured by the public in general.
November 10, 1716.
VARIATIONS IN THE AUTHOR'S MANUSCRIPT PREFACE.
AFTER the words 'severely remarked on,' p. 2, l. 41, it followed thus-For my part, I confess, had I seen things in this view at first, the public had never been troubled either with my writings, or with this apology for them. I am sensible how difficult it is to speak of one's self with decency: but when a man must speak of himself, the best way is to speak truth of himself, or, he may depend upon it, others will do it for him. I'll therefore make this preface a general confession of all my thoughts of my own poetry, resolving with the same freedom to expose myself, as it is in the power of any other to expose them. In the first place, I thank God and nature that I was born with a love to poetry; for nothing more conduces to fill up all the intervals of our time, or, if rightly used, to make the whole course of life entertaining: Cantantes licet usque (minus via lædet). 'Tis a vast happiness to possess the pleasures of the head, the only pleasures in which a man is sufficient to himself, and the only part of him which, to his satisfaction, he can employ all day long. The Muses are amica omnium horarum; and, like our gay acquaintance, the best company in the world as long as one expects no real service from them. I confess there was a time when I was in love with myself, and my first productions were the children of Self-Love upon Innocence. I had made an epic poem, and panegyrics on all the princes in Europe, and thought myself the greatest genius that ever was. I can't but regret those delightful visions of my childhood, which, like the fine colours we see when our eyes are shut, are vanished for ever. Many trials and sad experience have so undeceived me by degrees, that I am utterly at a loss at what rate to value myself. As for fame, I shall be glad of any I can get, and not repine at any I miss; and as for vanity, I have enough to keep me from hanging myself, or even from wishing those hanged who would take it away. It was this that made me write. The sense of my faults made me correct.
After the words 'angry to find us so,' p. 3, l. 36, occurred the following-In the first place I own that I have used my best endeavours to the finishing these pieces. That I made what advantage I could of the judgment of authors dead and living; and that I omitted no means in my power to be informed of my errors by my friends and by my enemies. And that I expect no favour on account of my youth, business, want of health, or any such idle excuses. But the true reason they are not yet more correct is owing to the consideration how short a time they and I have to live. A man that can expect but sixty years may be ashamed to employ thirty in measuring syllables and bringing sense and rhyme together. We spend our youth in pursuit of riches or fame, in hopes to enjoy them when we are old; and when we are old, we find it is too late to enjoy any thing. I therefore hope the wits will pardon me, if I reserve some of my time to save my soul; and that some wise men will be of my opinion, even if I should think a part of it better spent in the enjoyments of life than in pleasing the critics.
WITH A DISCOURSE ON PASTORAL POETRY.1
WRITTEN IN THE YEAR MDCCIV.
Kara mihi et rigui placeant in vailibus amnes,
THERE are not, I believe, a greater number of any sort of verses than of those which are called Pastorals; nor a smaller, than of those which are truly SO. It therefore seems necessary to give some account of this kind of poem; and it is my design to comprise in this short paper the substance of those numerous dissertations the critics have made on the subject, without 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, I think, have escaped their observation.
The original of poetry is ascribed to that age which succeeded the creation of the world and as the keeping of flocks seems to have been the first employment of mankind, the most ancient sort of poetry was probably pastoral. It is natural to imagine, that the leisure of those ancient shepherds admitting and inviting some diversion, none was so proper to that solitary and sedentary life as singing; and that in their songs they took occasion to celebrate their own felicity. From hence a poem was invented, and afterwards improved to a perfect image of that happy time; which, by giving us an esteem for the virtues of a former age, might recommend them to the present. And since the life of shepherds was attended with more tranquillity than any other rural employment, the poets chose to introduce their persons, from whom it received the name of "pastoral."
A pastoral is an imitation of the action of a shepherd, or one considered under that character. The form of this imitation is dramatic, or narrative, or mixed of both; the fable simple, the manners not too polite nor too rustic: the thoughts are plain, yet admit a little quickness and passion, but that short and flowing the expression humble, yet as pure as the language will afford; neat, but not florid; easy and yet lively. In short, the fable, manners, thoughts, and expressions are full of the greatest simplicity in nature.
The complete character of this poem consists in simplicity, brevity, and delicacy; the two first of which render an eclogue natural, and the last delightful.
If we would copy nature, it may be useful to take this idea along with us, that pastoral is an image of what they call the Golden Age. So that we are not to describe our shepherds as shepherds at this day really are, but as they may be conceived then to have been, when the best of men followed the employment. To carry this resemblance yet farther, it would not be amiss to give these shepherds some skill in astronomy, as far as it may be useful to that sort of life. And an air of piety to the gods should shine through the poem, which so visibly appears in all the works of antiquity and it ought to Written at sixteen years of age.
preserve some relish of the old way of writing; the connexion should be loose, the narrations and descriptions short, and the periods concise. Yet it is not sufficient, that the sentences only be brief, the whole eclogue should be so too. For we cannot suppose poetry in those days to have been the business of men, but their recreation at vacant hours.
But with respect to the present age, nothing more conduces to make these composures natural than when some knowledge in rural affairs is discovered. This may be made to appear rather done by chance than on design, and sometimes is best shown by inference; lest by too much study to seem natural, we destroy that easy simplicity from whence arises the delight. For what is invit ing in this sort of poetry, proceeds not so much from the idea of that business, as of the tranquillity of a country life.
We must therefore use some illusion to render a pastoral delightful; and this consists in exposing the best side only of a shepherd's life, and in concealing its miseries. Nor is it enough to introduce shepherds discoursing together in a natural way; but a regard must be had to the subject—that it contain some particular beauty in itself, and that it be different in every eclogue. Besides, in each of them a designed scene or prospect is to be presented to our view, which should likewise have its variety. This variety is obtained in a great degree by frequent comparisons, drawn from the most agreeable objects of the country; by interrogations to things inanimate; by beautiful digressions, but those short; sometimes by insisting a little on circumstances; and lastly, by elegant turns on the words, which render the numbers extremely sweet and pleasing. As for the numbers themselves, though they are properly of the heroic measure, they should be the smoothest, the most easy and flowing imaginable.
It is by rules like these that we ought to judge of pastorals. And since the instructions given for any art are to be delivered as that art is in perfection, they must of necessity be derived from those in whom it is acknowledged so to be. It is therefore from the practice of Theocritus and Virgil (the only undisputed authors of pastoral) that the critics have drawn the foregoing notions concerning it.
Theocritus excels all others in nature and simplicity. The subjects of his 'Idyllia' are purely pastoral; but he is not so exact in his persons, having introduced reapers and fishermen as well as shepherds. He is apt to be too long in his descriptions, of which that of the cup in the first pastoral is a remarkable instance. In the manners he seems a little defective, for his swains are sometimes abusive and immodest, and perhaps too much inclining to rusticity; for instance, in his fourth and fifth 'Idyllia.' But 'tis enough that all others learnt their excellencies from him, and that his dialect alone has a secret charm in it, which no other could ever attain.
Virgil, who copies Theocritus, refines upon his original and in all points where judgment is principally concerned, he is much superior to his master. Though some of his subjects are not pastoral in themselves, but only seem to be such, they have a wonderful variety in them, which the Greek was a stranger to. He exceeds him in regularity and brevity, and falls short of him in nothing but simplicity and propriety of style; the first of which perhaps was the fault of his age, and the last of his language.
Among the moderns, their success has been greatest who have most endea