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om

THE

Portical cuorks

OF

A L E XANDER POP E.

THE AUTHOR'S PREFACE.

I

books, and the readers of them, are generally out of humour: a design he could never go upon not a little unreasonable in their expectations. without both that and an ill temper. The first seem to fancy the world must approve whatever they produce, and the latter to imagine I think a good deal may be said to extenuate the that authors are obliged to please them at any fault of bad poets. What we call a genius, is hard rate. Methinks, as on the one hand, no single man to be distinguished, by a man himself, from a strong is born with a right of controlling the opinions of inclination, and if his genius be ever so great, all the rest; so, on the other, the world has no he cannot at first discover it any other way, than title to demand, that the whole care and time of by giving way to that prevalent propensity which any particular person should be sacrificed to its renders him the more liable to be mistaken. The entertainment. Therefore I cannot but believe only method he has is to make the experiment that writers and readers are under equal obliga- by writing, and appealing to the judgment of tions for as much fame, or pleasure, as each af others : now if he happens to write ill (which is fords the other.

certainly no sin in itself) he is immediately made

an object of ridicule. I wish we had the humanity Every one acknowledges, it would be a wild no- to reflect that even the worst authors might, in tion to expect perfection in any work of man: and their endeavour to please us, deserve something yet one would think the contrary was taken for at our hands. We have no cause to quarrel with granted, by the judgment commonly passed upon them but for their obstinacy in persisting to poems. A critic supposes he has done his part, write; and this too may admit of alleviating if he proves a writer to have failed in an expres- circumstances. Their particular friends may be sion, or erred in any particular point : and can it either ignorant or insincere ; and the rest of the then be wondered at, if the poets in general seem world in general is too well-bred to shock them resolved not to own themselves in any error ? with a truth, which generally their booksellers For as long as one side will make no allowances, are the first that inform them of. This happens the other will be brought to no acknowledge- not till they have spent too much of their time to

apply to any profession which might better fit

their talents; and till such talents as they have I am afraid this extreme zeal on both sides are so far discredited as to be but of small service is ill placed ; poetry and criticism being by no to them. For (what is the hardest case imaginable) means the universal concern of the world, but the reputation of a man generally depends upon only the affair of idle men who write in their clo- the first steps he makes in the world ; and people sets, and of idle men who read there.

will establish their opinion of us, from what we

do at that season when we have least judgment to Yet sure, upon the whole, a bad author deserves direct us. better usage than a bad critic; for a writer's endeavour, for the most part, is to please his readers, On the other hand, a good poet no sooner comand he fails merely through the misfortune of an municates his works with the same desire of in

ments.

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formation, but it is imagined he is a vain young they can have no reputation which will continue creature given up to the ambition of fame ; when long, or which deserves to do so ; for they have perhaps the poor man is all the while trembling always fallen short not only of what I read of with the fear of being ridiculous. If he is made others, but even of my own ideas of poetry. to liope he may please the world, he falls under very unlucky circumstances ; for, from the mo- If any one should imagine I am not in earnest, inent he prints, he must expect to hear no more desire him to reflect that the ancients (to say truth, than if he were a prince or a beauty. If the least of them) had as much genius as we; and he has not very good sense (and indeed there are that to take more pains, and employ more tiine, twenty men of wit for one man of sense), his liv- cannot fail to produce more complete pieces. ing thus in a course of fattery may put him in They constantly applied themselves not only to no small danger of becoming a coxcomb: if he that art, but to that single branch of an art, to has, he will consequently have so much diffidence which their talent was most powerfully bent; and as not to reap any great satisfaction from his it was the business of their lives to correct and praise ; since, if it be given to his face, it can finish their works for posterity. If we can pretend scarce be distinguished from flattery, and if in to have used the same industry, let us expect the his absence, it is hard to be certain of it. Were same immortality ; though if we took the same he sure to be commended by the best and most care, we should still lie under a further misforknowing, he is as sure of being envied by the worst tune : they writ in languages that became universal and most ignorant, which are the majority ; for and everlasting, while ours are extremely limited it is with a fine genius as with a fine fashion, both in extent and in duration. A mighty foundaall those are displeased at it who are not able tion for our pride! when the utmost we can hope, to follow it: and it is to be feared that esteem is but to be read in one island, and to be thrown will seldom do any man so much good, as ill-will aside at the end of one age. does him harm. Then there is a third class of people, who make the largest part of mankind, All that is left us is to recommend our producthose of ordinary or indifferent capacities; and tions by the imitation of the ancients : and it will these (to a man) will hate, or suspect him : a be found true, that in every age, the highest chahundred honest gentlemen will dread him as a racter for sense and learning has been obtained wit, and a hundred innocent women as a satirist. by those who have been most indebted to them. In a word, whatever be his fate in poetry, it is ten For, to say truth, whatever is very good sense, to one but he must give up all the reasonable aims must have been common sense in all times ; and of life for it. There are indeed some advantages what we call learning, is but the knowledge of the accruing from a genius to poetry, and they are all I sense of our predecessors. Therefore they who can think of : the agreeable power of self-amuse- say our thoughts are not our own, because they ment when a man is idle or alone; the privilege resemble the ancients, may as well say our faces of being admitted into the best company ; and are not our own because they are like our fathers : the freedom of saying as many careless things as and indeed it is very unreasonable, that people other people, without being so severely remarked should expect us to be scholars, and yet be angry upon.

to find us so. I believe, if any one, early in his life, should I fairly confess that I have served myself all I contemplate the dangerous fate of authors, he could by reading ; that I made use of the judgwould scarce be of their number on any consider- ment of authors dead and living ; that I omitted ation. The life of a wit is a warfare upon earth ; no means in my power to be informed of my errors, and the present spirit of the learned world is such, both by my friends and enemies : but the true that to attempt to serve it (any way) one must reason these pieces are not more correct, is owing have the constancy of a martyr, and a resolution to the consideration how short a time they, and I, to suffer for its sake. I could wish people would have to live : one may be ashamed to consume believe, what I am pretty certain they will not, half one's days in bringing sense and rhyme tothat I have been much less concerned about fame gether : and what critic can be so unreasonable, than I durst declare till this occasion, when me- as not to leave a man time enough for any more thinks I should find more credit than I could serious employment, or more agreeable amuseheretofore : since my writings have had their fate ment ! already, and it is too late to think of prepossessing the reader in their favour. I would plead it as The only plea I shall use for the favour of the some merit in me, that the world has never been public, is, that I have as great a respect for it, as prepared for these trifles by prefaces, biassed by most authors have for themselves; and that I recommendation, dazzled with the names of great have sacrificed much of my own self-love for its patrons, wheedled with fine reasons and pretences, sake, in preventing not only many mean things or troubled with excuses. I confess it was want from seeing the light, but many which I thought of consideration that made me an author ; I writ tolerable. I would not be like those authors, who because it amused me; I corrected because it was forgive themselves some particular lines for the as pleasant to me to correct as to write ; and I sake of a whole poem, and vice versů a whole published because I was told, I might please such poem for the sake of some particular lines. I as it was a credit to please. To what degree I believe no one qualification is so likely to make a have done this, I am really ignorant; I had too good writer, as the power of rejecting his own much fondness for my productions to judge of thoughts ; and it must be this (if any thing) that them at first, and too much judgment to be pleased can give me a chance to be one. For what I have with thein at last. But I have reason to think published, I can only hope to be pardoned ; but

WITH

WRITTEN IN THE YRAR MDCCIV.

for what I have burned, I deserve to be praised. On this account the world is under some obli

PASTORALS, gation 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 A DISCOURSE ON PASTORAL POETRY I. 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

Rura mihi et rigui placeant in vallibus amnes,

Flumina amem, sylvasque, inglorius:-Ving. partly by ignorance, have been ascribed to me. I must further acquit myself of the presumption

THERE are not, I believe, a greater number of having lent my name to recommend any miscellanies, or works of other men ; a thing I never

of any sort of verses than of those which are called thought becoming a person who has hardly credit

Pastorals ; nor a smaller than of those which are enough to answer for his own.

truly so. It therefore seems necessary to give

some account of this kind of poem, and it is my In this office of collecting my pieces, I am alto

design to comprise in this short paper the subgether uncertain, whether to look upon myself as

stance of those numerous dissertations that critics a man building a monument, or burying the dead.

have made on the subject, without omitting any

of their rules in my own favour. You will also If time shall make it the former, may these

find some points reconciled, about which they poems (as long as they last) remain as a testi

seem to differ, and a few remarks, which, I think, mony, that their author never made his talents

have escaped their observation. subservient to the mean and unworthy ends of

The original of poetry is ascribed to that age party or self-interest ; the gratification of public which succeeded the creation of the world : and prejudices, or private passions ; the flattery of the

as the keeping of flocks seems to have been the undeserving, or the insult of the unfortunate. If

first employment of mankind, the most ancient sort I have written well, let it be considered that 'tis

of poetry was probably pastoral?. It is natural what no man can do without good sense, a quality

to imagine, that the leisure of those ancient that not only renders one capable of being a good shepherds admitting and inviting some diversion, writer, but a good man. And if I have made any

none was so proper to that solitary and sedentary acquisition in the opinion of any one under the

life as singing ; and that in their songs they took notion of the former, let it be continued to me

occasion to celebrate their own felicity. From under no other title than that of the latter.

hence a poem was invented, and afterwards im

proved to a perfect image of that happy time ; But if this publication be only a more solemn

which, by giving us an esteem for the virtues of a funeral of my remains, I desire it may be known

former age, might recommend them to the present. that I die in charity, and in my senses; without

And since the life of shepherds was attended with any murmurs against the justice of this age, or

more tranquillity than any other rural employment, any mad appeals to posterity. I declare I shall

the poets chose to introduce their persons, from

whom it received the name of Pastoral. think the world in the right, and quietly submit to every truth which time shall discover to the pre- shepherd, or one considered under that character.

A pastoral is an imitation of the action of a judice of these writings ; not so much as wishing

The form of this imitation is dramatic, or narraso irrational a thing, as that every body should be deceived merely for my credit

. However, I desire tive, or mixed of both 3 ; the fable simple, the it may then be considered, that there are very few

manners not too polite nor too rustic ; the thoughts things in this collection which were not written

are plain, yet admit a little quickness and passion, under the age of five-and-twenty : so that my

but that short and flowing : the expression humble, youth may be made (as it never fails to be in

yet as pure as the language will afford ; neat, but executions) a case of compassion. That I was

not florid ; easy, and yet lively. In short, the never so concerned about my works as to vindi- fable, manners, thoughts, and expressions, are full cate them in print ; believing, if any thing was good,

of the greatest simplicity in nature. it would defend itself, and what was bad could

The complete character of this poem consists in never be defended. That I used no artifice to

simplicity“, brevity, and delicacy; the two first raise or continue a reputation, depreciated no dead

of which render an eclogue natural, and the last

delightful. author I was obliged to, bribed no living one with unjust praise, insulted no adversary with ill lan

If we would copy nature, it may be useful to guage ; or, when I could not attack a rival's

take this idea along with us, that pastoral is an works, encouraged reports against his morals.

image of what they call the golden age. So that To conclude, if this volume perish, let it serve as

we are not to describe our shepherds as shepherds & warning to the critics, not to take too much

at this day really are, but as they may be conpaits for the future to destroy such things as will

ceived then to have been ; when the best of men die of themselves; and a memento mori to some

followed the employment. To carry this resemof my vain contemporaries the poets, to teach

blance yet further, it would not be amiss to give them that, when real merit is wanting, it avails

these shepherds some skill in astronomy, as far as

it nothing to have been encouraged by the great,

may

be useful to that sort of life. And an air commended by the eminent, and favoured by the

of piety to the Gods should shine through the publie in general.

poem, which so visibly appears in all the works of

1 Written at sixteen years of age. Nov. 10, 1716.

2 Fontenelle's Disc. on Pastorals.
3 Heinsius in Theocr. 4 Rapin de Carm. Past. p. 2.

B 2

antiquity : and it ought to preserve some relish of original ; and in all points, where judgment is the old way of writing ; the connexion should be principally concerned, he is much superior to his loose, the narrations and descriptions short', and master. Though some of his subjects are not the periods concise. Yet it is not sufficient that pastoral in themselves, but only seem to be such ; the sentences only be brief, the whole eclogue they have a wonderful variety in them, which should be so too. For we cannot suppose poetry the Greek was a stranger to 6. He exceeds him in those days to have been the business of men, in regularity and brevity, and falls short of him in but their recreation at vacant hours.

nothing but simplicity and propriety of style ; the But with a respect to the present age, nothing first of which perhaps was the fault of his age, more conduces to make these composures natural,

and the last of his language. than when some knowledge in rural affairs is dis- Among the moderns, their success has been covered'. This may be made to appear rather greatest who have most endeavoured to make done by chance than on design, and sometimes is these ancients their pattern. The most considerbest shown by inference ; lest by too much study able genius appears in the famous Tasso and our to seem natural, we destroy that easy simplicity Spenser. Tasso in his Aminta has as far excelled from whence arises the delight. For what is in- all the pastoral writers, as in his Gierusalemme viting in this sort of poetry proceeds not so much he has outdone the epic poets, of his country. from the idea of that business, as of the tranquil- But as this piece seems to have been the original lity of a country life.

of a new sort of poem, the Pastoral Comedy, in We must therefore use some illusion to render Italy, it cannot so well be considered as a copy of a pastoral delightful ; and this consists in expos- the ancients. Spenser's Calendar, in Mr. Dryden's ing the best side only of a shepherd's life, and in opinion, is the most complete work of this kind concealing its miseries3. Nor is it enough to in- which any nation has produced ever since the troduce shepherds discoursing together in a natural time of Virgil?. Not but that he may be thought way; but a regard must be had to the subject ; imperfect in some few points. His eclogues are that it contain some particular beauty in itself, somewhat too long, if we compare them with the and that it be different in every eclogue. Besides, ancients. He is sometimes too allegorical, and in each of them a designed scene or prospect is to

treats of matters of religion in a pastoral style, as be presented to our view, which should likewise

the Mantuan had done before him. He has emhave its variety". This variety is obtained in a ployed the lyric measure, which is contrary to the great degree by frequent comparisons, drawn practice of the old poets. His stanza is not still from the most agreeable objects of the country ; the same, nor always well chosen. This last may by interrogations to things inanimate ; by beauti- be the reason his expression is sometimes not conful digressions, but those short ; sometimes by cise enough ; for the Tetrastic has obliged him to insisting a little on circumstances ; and lastly, by extend his sense to the length of four lines, which elegant turns on the words, which render the would have been more closely confined in the numbers extremely sweet and pleasing. As for couplet. the numbers themselves, though they are properly In the manners, thoughts, and characters, he of the heroic measure, they should be the smoothest, comes near to Theocritus himself ; though, notthe most easy and flowing imaginable.

withstanding all the care he has taken, he is cerIt is by rules like these that we ought to judge tainly inferior in his dialect : for the Doric had of pastoral. And since the instructions given for its beauty and propriety in the time of Theocritus ; any art are to be delivered as that art is in per- it was used in part of Greece, and frequent in the fection, they must of necessity be derived from mouths of many of the greatest persons : whereas those in whom it is acknowledged so to be. It is the old English and country phrases of Spenser therefore from the practice of Theocritus and were either entirely obsolete, or spoken only by Virgil (the only undisputed authors of pastoral) people of the lowest condition. As there is a that the critics have drawn the foregoing notions difference betwixt simplicity and rusticity, so the concerning it.

expression of simple thoughts should be plain, but Theocritus excels all others in nature and sim- not clownish. The addition he has made of a plicity. The subjects of his Idyllia are purely Calendar to his eclogues, is very beautiful ; since pastoral ; but he is not so exact in his persons, by this, besides the general moral of innocence having introduced reapers and fishermen as well and simplicity, which is common to other authors as shepherds. He is apt to be too long in his of pastoral, he has one peculiar to himself; he descriptions, of which that of the cup in the first compares human life to the several seasons, and pastoral is a remarkable instance. In the manners at once exposes to his readers a view of the great he seems a little defective, for his swains are and little worlds, in their various changes and sometimes abusive and immodest, and perhaps aspects. Yet the scrupulous division of his pastoo much inclining to rusticity ; for instance, in

torals into months, has obliged him either to repeat his fourth and fifth Idyllia. But 'tis enough that the same description, in other words, for three all others learnt their excellencies from him, and months together; or, when it was exhausted that his dialect alone has a secret charm in it, before, entirely to omit it: whence it comes to which no other could ever attain.

pass that some of his eclogues (as the sixth, eighth, Virgil, who copies Theocritus, refines upon his and tenth, for example) have nothing but their

titles to distinguish them. The reason is evident, " Rapin, Reflex. sur l'Art Poet. d'Arist. p. 2. Ref.

because the year has not that variety in it to furxxvii.

2 Pref. to Virg. Past. in Dryd. Virg. 3 Fontenelle's Disc, of Pastorals.

6 Rapin, Refi. on Arist. part ii. refl. xxvii.-Pref. to the 4 See the forementioned Preface.

Ecl in Dryden's Virg. REPIXTAI, Idyl. x. and AAIEIE. Idyl. xxi.

* Dedication to Virg. Ecl.

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