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ral comedy, in Italy, it cannot so well be considered as a copy of the ancients. Spenser's Calendar, in Mr. Dryden's opinion, is the most complete work of this kind which any nation has produced ever since the time of Virgil : not but that he may be thought imperfect in some few points : his eclogues are somewhat too long, if we compare them with the ancients : he is sometimes too allegorical, and treats of matters of religion in a pastoral style, as the Mantuan had done before him : he has employed the lyric measure, which is contrary to the practice of the old poets : his stanza is not still the same, nor always well chosen : this last may be the reason his expression is sometimes not concise enough; for the tetrastic has obliged him to extend his sense to the length of four lines, which would have been more closely confined in the couplet.
In the manners, thoughts, and characters, he comes near to Theocritus himself; though, notwithstanding all the care he has taken, he is certainly inferior in his dialect: for the Doric had its beauty and propriety in the time of Theocritus; it was used in part of Greece, and frequent in the mouths of many of the greatest persons: whereas the old English and country phrases of Spenser were either intirely obsolete, or spoken only by people of the lowest condition. As there is a difference betwixt simplicity and rusticity, so the expression of simple thoughts should be plain, but not clownish: the addition he has made of a calendar to his eclogues, is very beautiful; since by this, besides the general moral of innocence and simplicity, which is common to other authors of pastoral, he has one peculiar to himself; he compares human life to the several seasons, and at once exposes to his readers a view of the great and little worlds, in their various changes and aspects. Yet the scrupulous division of his pastorals into months, has obliged him either to repeat the same description, in other words, for three months together ; or, when it was exhausted before, intirely to omit it: whence it comes to pass, that some of his eclogues (as the sixth, eighth, and tenth, for example) have nothing but their titles to distinguish them. The reason is evident; because the year has not that variety in it to furnish every month with a particular description, as it may every season.
Of the following eclogues, I shall only say, that these four comprehend all the subjects which the critics on Theocritus and Virgil will allow to be fit for pastoral; that they have as much variety of description, in respect of the several seasons, as Spenser's; that, in order to add to this variety, the several times of the day are observed, the rural employments in each season or time of day, and the rural scenes or places proper to such employments ; not without some regard to the several ages of man, and the different passions proper to each age. But, after all, if they have any merit, it is to be attributed to some good old authors, whose works, as I had leisure to study, so I hope I have not wanted care to imitate.
THE FIRST PASTORAL,*
TO SIR WILLIAM TRUMBALL.t
First in these fields I try the sylvan strains,
You, that too wise for pride, too good for power, Enjoy the glory to be great no more,
* These Pastorals were written at the age of sixteen, and then passed through the hands of Mr. Walsh, Mr. Wycherley, G. Granville afterwards lord Lansdowne, sir William Trumball, Dr. Garth, lord Halifax, lord Somers, Mr. Mainwaring, and others. All these gave our author the greatest encourage. ment, and particularly Mr. Walsh, whom Mr. Dryden, in his Postscript to Virgil, calls the best critic of his age.-P.
+ Sir William Trumball. Our author's friendship with this gentleman commenced at very unequal years; he was under sixteen, but sir William above sixty, and had lately resigned his employment of secretary of state to king William.-P.
i First in these fields. • Prima Syracosio dignata est.'— Virg. And carrying with you all the world can boast, To all the world illustriously are lost!
10 0, let my Muse her slender reed inspire, Till in your native shades you tune the lyre: So, when the nightingale to rest removes, The thrush may chant to the forsaken groves; But, charm’d to silence, listens while she sings, And all the aerial audience clap their wings. 16
Soon as the flocks shook off the nightly dews, Two swains, whom love kept wakeful, and the
Muse, Pour'd o'er the whitening vale their fleecy care, Fresh as the morn, and as the season fair: 20 The dawn now blushing on the mountain's side, Thus Daphnis spoke, and Strephon thus replied :
DAPHNIS. Hear how the birds, on every blooming spray, With joyous music wake the dawning day! Why sit we mute, when early linnets sing, 25 When warbling Philomel salutes the spring ? Why sit we sad, when Phosphor shines so clear, And lavish Nature paints the purple year?
STREPHON. Sing then, and Damon shall attend the strain, While yon slow oxen turn the furrow'd plain. 30 Here the bright crocus and blue violet glow; Here western winds on breathing roses blow.
12 In your native shades. Sir W. Trumball was born in Windsor-forest, to which he retreated, after he bad resigned the post of secretary of state of King William II1.-P. 28 Lavish Nature. Spenser,
There lavish Nature, in her best attire,
I'll stake yon lamb that near the fountain plays,
36 And swelling clusters.
Lenta quibus torno facili superaddita vitis.-Virg. Warton gives it, on the authority of Collins, that Thomson had taken the first idea of writing the Seasons' from the titles of the four Pastorals.
46 Granville. George Granville, afterwards lord Lansdowne, known for his poems, most of which he composed very young; and proposed Waller as his model.-P.