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ver'd. The best of the modern Poets in all languages, are those that have the nearest copied the Ancients. Indeed in all the common subjects of Poetry, the thoughts are so obvious (at least if they are natural) that whoever writes last, must write things like what have been said before : But they may as well applaud the Ancients for the arts of eating and drinking, and accuse the Moderns of having stol'n those inventions from them; it being evident in all such cases, that whoever liv'd firft, must first find them out. 'Tis true, indeed, when
unus Egy alter Ajuitur pannus, when there are one or two bright thoughts stol'n, and all the rest is quite different from it, a poem makes a very foolish figure: But when 'tis all melted down together, and the Gold of the Ancients so mixt with that of the Moderns, that none can diftinguish the one from the other, I can never find fault with it. I cannot however but own to you, that there are others of a different opinion, and that I have shewn your verses to some who have made that objection to them. I have so much company round me while I write this, and luch a noise in my ears, that 'tis impossible I should write anything, but nonsense, so must break off abruptly. I am, Sir,
Your most affe&tionate
and most bumble Servant.
Sept, 9. 1706. A T ny return from the North I receiv'd the faH vour of your letter, which had lain there till then. Having been absent about six weeks, I read over your Pastorals again, with a great deal of pleasure, and to judge the better read Virgil's Eclogues, and Spenser's Calendar, at the fame time; and I assure you I continue the same opinion I had always of them. By the little hints you take upon all occasions to improve them, 'vis probable you will make them yet better again it winter; tho' there is a mean to be kept even in that too, and a man may correct his veries till he takes away the true spirit of them; esper cially if he fubmits to the correction of some who pafs for great Critics, by mechanical rules, and never enter into the true design and Genius of an author. I have seen some of these that would hardly allow any one gocd Ode in Horace, who cry Virgil wants fancy, and that Homer is very incorrect. While they talk at this rate, one would think them above the common rate of mortals : but generally they are great admiters of Ovid and Lucan; and when they write them. felves, we find out all the myftery. They fcan their verses upon their fingers; run after Conceits and glaring thoughts ; their poems are al made up of Couplets, of which the first may be laft, or the last first, without any sort of prejudice to their works; in which there is no design, or method, or any thing na furat or juft. For you are certainly is the right, Ez
that that in all writings what soever (not poetry only) nature is to be follow'd; and we shou'd be jealous of our selves for being fond of Similies, Conceits, and what they call saying fine Things. When we were in the North, my Lord Wharton shew'd me a letter he had receiv'd from a certain great General in Spain; I told him I wou'd by all means have that General recall'd, and set to writing here at home, for it was impossible that a man with so much Wit as he shew'd, cou'd be fit to command an Army, or do any other business. As for what you say of Expression : 'tis indeed the same thing to Wit, as Dress is to Beauty : I have seen many women over-drest, and several look better in a careless night.gown, with their hair about their ears, than Mademoiselle Spanheim drest for a ball. I do not design to be in London till towards the parliament: then I shall certainly be there ; and hope by that time you will have finisht your Pastorals as you would have them appear in the woríd, and particularly the third of Autumn which I have not yet seen. Your last Eclogue being upon the same subject as that of mine on Mrs. Tempest's Death, I shou'd take it very kindly in you to give it a little turn, as if it were to the Memory of the same Lady, if they were not written for some particular Woman whom you wou'd make immortal. You may take occasion to thew the difference between Poets Mistresses, and other men's. I only hint this, which you may either do, or let alone just as you think fit. I shall be very much pleas'd to see you again in Town, and to hear from you in the mean time. I am with very much esteem,
O£t. 22, 1706.. AFTER the thoughts I have already sent you A on the subject of English Versification, you defire my opinion as to some farther particulars. There are indeed certain Niceties, which tho' not much observed even by correct versifiers, I cannot but think deserve to be better regarded.
1. It is not enough that nothing offends the ear, but a good Poet will adapt the very Sounds, as well as Words, to the things he treats of. So that there is (if one may express it so) a Style of Sound. As in describing a gliding stream, the numbers shou'd run easy and flowing ; in describing a rough torrent or deluge, sonorous and swelling, and so of the rest. This is evident every where in Homer and Virgil, and no where else that I know of to any observable degree. The following examples will make this plain, which I have taken from Vida.
Molle viam tacito lapfu per levia radit.
This, I think, is what very few observe in practice, and is undoubtedly of wonderful force in imprinting the image on the reader : We have one excellent example of it in our language, Mr. Dryden's Ode on St. Cæcilia's day, entitled, Alexander's Feaft.
2. Every 2. Every nice ear, muft (I believe) have observ'd, that in any smooth English verse of ten fyllables, there is naturally a Pause at the fourth, fifth, or fixth syilable. It is upon these the ear rests, and upon the judicious change and management of which depends the variety of versification. For example,
At the fifth. Where-e'er. thy navy || Spreads her can
vass wings, At the fourth. Homage to thee I and peace to all
De brings. At the 6th. Like tracks of leverets || in morning
Now I fancy, that to preserve an exact Harmony and Variety, the Pauses of the 4th or 6th Mou'd not be continu'd above three lines together, without the interpofition of another; else it will be apt to weary the ear with one continu'd tone, at least it does mine: That at the 5th runs quicker, and carries not quite fo dead a weight, so tires not so much tho it be conti. nued longer.
3. Another nicęty is in relation to Expletives, whe. ther words or syllables, which are made use of purely to supply a vacancy : Do before verbs plural is abso. lutely such; and it is not improbable but future refiners may explode did and does in the same manner, which are almost always used for the sake of thime: The same cause has occasioned the promiscuous use of you and thou to the same person, which can never found so graceful as either one or the other.
4. I would also object to the irruption of Alexandrine verses, of twelve fyllables, which I think should never be allow'd but when some remarkable beaury