Page images

country, and brought it there to bear as happily as the cherry trees which Lucullus brought from Pontus.

Our own nation has produced a third poet in this kind, not inferior to the two former: for the Shepherd's Kalendar of Spenser is not to be matched in any modern language, not even by Tasso's Aminta; which infinitely transcends Guarini's Pastor Fido, as having more of nature in it, and being almost wholly clear from the wretched affectation of learning. I will say nothing of the Piscatory Eclogues, because no modern Latin can bear criticism. It is no wonder, that, rolling down, through so many barbarous ages, from the spring of Virgil, it bears along with it the filth and ordures of the Goths and Vandals. Neither will I mention Monsieur Fontenelle, the living glory of the French. It is enough for him to have excelled his master Lucian, without attempting to compare our miserable age with that of Virgil or Theocritus. Let me only add, for his reputation,

Si Pergama dextrâ

Defendi possent, etiam hac defensa fuissent.

But Spenser, being master of our northern dialect, and skilled in Chaucer's English, has so exactly imitated the Doric of Theocritus, that his love is a perfect image of that passion which God infused into both sexes, before it was corrupted with the knowledge of arts, and the ceremonies of what we call good manners.

3 The Piscatoria of Sannazarius, which are facetiously censured by Tickell in No. 28 of the Guardian.

My lord, I know to whom I dedicate, and could not have been induced by any motive to put this part of Virgil, or any other, into unlearned hands. You have read him with pleasure, and, I dare say, with admiration, in the Latin, of which you are a master. You have added to your natural endowments (which without flattery are eminent), the superstructures of study, and the knowledge of good authors. Courage, probity, and humanity, are inherent in you. These virtues have ever been habitual to the ancient house of Cumberland, from whence you are descended, and of which our chronicles make so honourable mention in the long wars betwixt the rival families of York and Lancaster. Your forefathers have asserted the party which they chose, till death, and died for its defence in the fields of battle. You have, besides, the fresh remembrance of your noble father, from whom you never can degenerate.

Nec imbellem feroces

Progenerant aquila columbam,

It being almost morally impossible for you to be other than you are by kind, I need neither praise nor incite your virtue. You are acquainted with the Roman history, and know, without my information, that patronage and clientship always descended from the fathers to the sons; and that the same plebeian houses had recourse to the same patrician line which had formerly protected them, and followed their principles and fortunes to the last so that I am your lordship's by descent, and part of your inheritance. And the

[ocr errors]

natural inclination which I have to serve you adds to your paternal right; for I was wholly yours from the first moment when I had the happiness and honour of being known to you. Be pleased therefore to accept the rudiments of Virgil's poetry, coarsely translated, I confess; but which yet retain some beauties of the author, which neither the barbarity of our language, nor my unskilfulness, could so much sully, but that they appear sometimes in the dim mirror which I hold before you. The subject is not unsuitable to your youth, which allows you yet to love, and is proper to your present scene of life. Rural recreations abroad, and books at home, are the innocent pleasures of a man who is early wise, and gives Fortune no more hold of him than of necessity he must. It is good on some occasions to think beforehand as little as we can; to enjoy as much of the present as will not endanger our futurity; and to provide ourselves of the virtuoso's saddle, which will be sure to amble, when the world is upon the hardest trot. What I humbly offer to your lordship, is of this nature. I wish it pleasant, and am sure it is innocent. May you ever continue your esteem for Virgil, and not lessen it for the faults of his translator; who is, with all manner of respect and sense of gratitude,

my Lord,

Your lordship's most humble

and most obedient servant,








As the writings of greatest antiquity are in verse, so, of all sorts of poetry, pastorals seem the most ancient; being formed upon the model of the first innocence and simplicity, which the moderns (better to dispense themselves from imitating) have wisely thought fit to treat as fabulous and impracticable. And yet they, by obeying the unsophisticated dictates of nature, enjoyed the most valuable blessings of life; a vigorous health of body, with a constant serenity and freedom of mind; whilst we, with all our fanciful refinements, can scarcely pass an autumn without some access of a fever, or a whole day not ruffled by some unquiet passion. He was not then looked

Mr. Malone seems to think it probable, that Dr. Knightly Chetwood was the author of this Preface, though attributed to the early patron of Pope. See Dryden's Prose Works, vol. iii. p. 549.

upon as a very old man, who reached to a greater number of years than in these times an ancient family can reasonably pretend to; and we know the names of several, who saw and practised the world for a longer space of time, than we can read the account of, in any one entire body of history. In short, they invented the most useful arts, pasturage, tillage, geometry, writing, music, astronomy, &c.; whilst the moderns, like extravagant heirs made rich by their industry, ungratefully deride the good old gentlemen who left them the estate. It is not therefore to be wondered at, that pastorals are fallen into disesteem, together with that fashion of life upon which they were grounded. And methinks I see the reader already uneasy at this part of Virgil, counting the pages, and posting to the Eneis: so delightful an entertainment is the very relation of public mischief and slaughter now become to mankind. And yet Virgil passed a much different judgment on his own works: he valued most this part, and his Georgics, and depended upon them for his reputation with posterity; but censures himself in one of his letters to Augustus, for meddling with heroics, the invention of a degenerating age. This is the reason that the rules of pastoral are so little known or studied. Aristotle, Horace, and the Essay on Poetry, take no notice of it: and Monsieur Boileau (one of the most accurate of the moderns, because he never loses the ancients out of his sight) bestows scarce half a page on it.

It is the design therefore of the few following pages to clear this sort of writing from vulgar prejudices; to vindicate our author from some unjust imputations; to look into some of the rules of this sort of poetry, and inquire what sort of versification is most proper for it: in which point we are so much

« PreviousContinue »