« AnteriorContinuar »
The Author seems to have à particular genius for that kind of poetry, and a Judgment ihat much exceeds the years you told me he was of. He has taken very freely from the ancients, but what he has mixt of his own with theirs, is not interior to what he has taken from them. 'Tis no fiattery at all to say, that Virgil had written nothing so good at his age *. I shall take is as a favour if you will bring me acquainted with him; and if he will give himselí the trouble any morning to call at my house, I thall be very glad to read the verses over with him, and give him my opinion of the particulars more largely than I can well do in this letter. · I am, Sir, &c.
: June 24, 1706.' T Receiv'd the favour of your letter, and Dhall be ve1 ry glad of the continuance of a correspondence by which I am like to be so great a gainer. I hope when I have the happiness of seeing you again in London, not only to read over the verfes I have now of yours, but more that you have written since; for I make no doubt but any one who writes so well, must write more. Not that I think the most voluminous poets always the best, I believe the contrary is rather true. I mention'd somewhat to you in London of a Pastoral Comedy, which I Mould be glad to hear you had thought upon since. I find Menage in his observations upon Taffo's Aminta, reckons up
fourfcore paftoral plays in Italian: and in looking over my old Italian books, I find a great many Pastorals and piscatory plays, which I suppose Menage reckons together. I find also by Menage, that Taffo is not the firit that writ in that kind, he mentioning another before him, which he himself had never seen, nor indeed have I. But as the Aminta, Pastor Fido and Filli di Sciro of Bonarelli are the three best, so I think there is no dispute but Aminta is the best of the three : not but that the discourses in Pastor Fido are more entertaining and copious in several peoples opinion, tho' not so proper for paftoral ; and the fable of Bonarelli more surprizing. I do not remember many in other languages, that have written in this kind with success. Racan's Bergeries are much inferior to his lyrick poems ; and the Spaniards are all too full of conceits. Rapin will have the design of paftoral plays to be taken from the Cyclops of Euripides. I am sure there is nothing of this kind in English warth mentioning, and therefore you have that field open to your self. You see I write to you without any sort of constraint or method, as things come into my head, and therefore use the same freedom with me, who am, &c.
L E T T E R III.
Windsor. Forest, July 2, 1706. I Cannot omit the first opportunity of making you I my acknowledgements for reviewing those papers of mine. You have no less right to correct me, than
the same hand that rais'd a tree has to prune it. I am convinc'd as well as you, that one may correct too much; for in poetry as in painting, a man may lay colours one upon another, till they stiffen and deaden the piece. Besides to beltow heightning on every part is monstrous: fome parts ought to be lower than the reft; and nothing looks mote ridiculous than a work, where the thoughts, however different in their own nature, seem all on a level: 'tis like a meadow newly mown, where weeds, grass, and flowers are all laid even, and appear undiftinguith'd. I believe too that sometimes our first thoughts are the best, as the first squeezing of the grapes makes the finest and richest wine.
I have not atttempted any thing of a Pastoral comedy, because I think the taste of our age will not relish a poem of that fort. People seek for what they call wit, on all subjects, and in all places; not considering that nature loves truth so well, that it hardly ever admits of flourishing : Conceit is to nature what paint is to beauty ; it is not only needless, but impairs what it wou'd improve. There is a certain majefty in fimplicity which is far above all the quaintness of wit: infómuch that the critics have excluded wit from the loftiest poetry, as well as the lowest, and forbid it to the Epic no less than the Pastoral. I Mou'd certainly displease all those who are charm'd with Guarini and Bonarelli, and imitate Taffo not only in the fimplicity of his Thoughts, but in that of the Fable too. If surprizing discoveries shou'd have place in the story of a pastoral comedy, I believe it wou'd be more agreeable to probability to make them the effects of chance than of defign; intrigue not being very confiftent with that innocence, which ought to constitute a fhepherd's character. There
is nothing in all the Aminta (as I remember) but happens by meer accident ; unless it be the meeting of Aminta with Sylvia at the Fountain, which is the cuntrivance of Daphne, and even that is the most fimple in the world : the contrary is observable in Pailor Fido, where Corisca is so perfect a mistress of intrigue, that the plot cou'd not have been brought to pass without her. I am inclin'd to think the pastoral comedy has another disadvantage, as to the manners : its general design is to make us in love with the innocence of a rural life, so that to introduce Thepherds of a vicious character must in some meafure debase it; and hence it may come to pass, that even the virtuous characters will not shine so much, for want of being oppos’d to their contraries. These thoughts are purely my own, and therefore I have reason to doubt them: but I hope your judgment will set me right.
I wou'd beg your opinion too as to another point : it is how far the liberty of borrowing may extend ? I have defer:ded it sometimes by saying, that it seems not so much the perfection of sense, to say things that had never been said before, as to express those beit that have been said oftenest; and that writers in the case of borrowing from others, are like trees which of themselves woud produce only one fort of fruit, but by being grafted upon others may yield variety. A mutual commerce makes poetry flourish; but then poets like merchants, shou'd repay with fomething of their own what they take from others, not like pirates, make prize of all they meet. I defire you to tell me sincerely, if I have not stretch'd this licence too far in these pastorals ? I hope to become a critic by your precepts, and a poet by your example. Since I have seen your Eclogues, I cannot be much pleas'd with my own ; however you have not taken away all my vanity, so long as you give me leave to profess my self Yours, &c.
much your letter, but that I was in hopes of giving you an account at the same time of my journey to Windsor ; but I am now forc'd to put that quite off, being engag'd to go to my corporation of Richmond in YorkThire. I think you are perfectly in the right in your norions of Paitoral, but I am of opinion, that the redundancy of Wit you mention, tho’ 'tis what pleases the common people, is not what ever pleases the best judges. Pastor Fido indeed has had more admirers ihan Aminta; but I will venture to say, there is a great deal of difference between the admirers of one and the other. Corisca, which is a character generally admir'd by the ordinary judges, is intolerable in a Pastoral; and Bonarelli's fancy of making his shepherders in love with two men equally, is not to be defended, whatever pains he has taken to do it. As for what you ask of the Liberty of Borrowing; 'tis very evident the best Latin Poets have extended this very far; and none so far as Virgil, who is the best of them. As for the Greek Pcets, if we cannot trace them so plainly, 'tis perhaps because we have none before them; 'tis evident that most of them borrowed from Homer, and Homer has been accus'd of burning those that wrote before him, that his thefts might not be disco