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'IRST in thefe fields I try the fylvan strains, Nor blush to sport on Windfor's blissful plains: Fair Thames, flow gently from thy facred spring, While on thy banks Sicilian Muses fing;
Thefe Paftorals were written at the age of fixteen, and then past thro' the hands of Mr. Walsh, Mr. Wycherley, G. Granville afterwards Lord Lanfdown, Sir William Trumbal, Dr. Garth, Lord Hallifax, Lord Somers, Mr. Mainwaring, and others. All these gave our Author the greatest encouragement, and particularly Mr. Walsh, whom Mr. Dryden, in his Poftcript to Virgil, calls the best Critic of his age. "The Author (fays he) "feems to have a particular genius for this kind of Poetry, and
Let vernal airs thro' trembling ofiers play,
"freely from the Ancients. But what he has mixed of his "own with theirs is no way inferior to what he has taken from "them. It is not flattery at all to say that Virgil had written "nothing fo good at his Age. His Preface is very judicious "and learned." Letter to Mr. Wycherley, Ap. 1705. The Lord Lanfdown about the fame time, mentioning the youth of our Poet, fays (in a printed Letter of the Character of Mr. Wycherley)" that if he goes on as he has begun in the Paftoral way, "as Virgil first tried his ftrength, we may hope to fee English CC Poetry vie with the Roman, &c. Notwithstanding the early time of their production, the Author efteemed these as the moft correct in the verfification, and musical in the numbers, of all his works. The reafon for his labouring them into fo much foftnefs, was, doubtless, that this fort of poetry derives almost its whole beauty from a natural ease of thought and fmoothness of verfe; whereas that of moft other kinds confists in the strength and fulness of both. In a letter of his to Mr. Walsh about this time we find an enumeration of feveral niceties in Verfification, which perhaps have never been strictly obferved in any English poem, except in these Paftorals. They were not printed till 1709. P.
Sir William Trumbal.] Our Author's friendship with this gentleman commenced at very unequal years; he was under fixteen, but Sir William above fixty, and had lately refign'd his employment of Secretary of State to King William. P.
VER. 1. Prima Syracofio dignata est ludere versu,
This is the general exordium and opening of the Paftorals, in imitation of the fixth of Virgil, which some have therefore not improbably thought to have been the firft originally. In the beginnings of the other three Paftorals, he imitates exprefly those
And carrying with you all the world can boast,
O let my Muse her slender reed inspire,
The Thrush may chant to the forfaken groves, But charm'd to filence, liftens while fhe fings, 15 And all th' aërial audience clap their wings.
Soon as the flocks fhook of the nightly dews, Two Swains, whom Love kept wakeful, and the Mufe,
VER. 12. in your native fhades.] Sir W. Trumbal was born. in Windfor foreft, to which he retreated, after he had refigned the poft of Secretary of State to King William III. P.
VER. 17, etc. The Scene of this Paftoral a Valley, the Time the Morning. It food originally thus,
Daphnis and Strephon to the fhades retir'd,
Both warm'd by Love, and by the Muse inspir'd,
In flow'ry vales they fed their fleecy care;
And while Aurora gilds the mountain's fide,
A Shepherd's Boy (no better do him call)
which now ftand firft of the three chief Poets in this kind, Spencer, Virgil, Theocritus.
A Shepherd's Boy (he feeks no better name)Beneath the fhade a spreading beach displays, Thyrfis, the Mufic of that murm'ring Spring,are manifeftly imitations of
Pour'd o'er the whitening vale their fleecy care,
Hear how the birds, on ev'ry bloomy spray, With joyous music wake the dawning day! Why fit we mute, when early linnets fing, When warbling Philomel falutes the spring? Why fit we fad, when Phosphor fhines fo clear, And lavish Nature paints the purple year
Sing then, and Damon fhall attend the ftrain, While yon' flow oxen turn the furrow'd plain. 30 Here the bright crocus and blue vi'let glow; Here western winds on breathing rofes blow. I'll stake yon' lamb, that near the fountain plays And from the brink his dancing fhade furveys.
VER. 28. purple year?] Purple here used in the Latin sense of the brightest most vivid colouring in general, not of that fpecific tint fo called,
VER. 34. The first reading was,
And his own image from the bank furveys.
And I this bowl, where wanton ivy twines, 35 And fwelling clusters bend the curling vines: Four figures rifing from the work appear, The various seasons of the rowling year; And what is that, which binds the radiant sky, Where twelve fair figns in beauteous order lie? 40 DAMON.
Then fing by turns, by turns the Muses fing, Now hawthorns bloffom, now the daifles fpring, Now leaves the trees, and flow'rs adorn the ground; Begin, the vales fhall ev'ry note rebound.
VER. 36. And clusters lurk beneath the curling vines. P.
VER. 41. Then fing by turns.] Literally from Virgil,
Et nunc omnes ager, nunc omnis parturit arbos,
Lenta quibus torno facili fuperaddita vitis,
Virg. P. VER. 38. The various feafons.] The subject of these Paftorals engraven on the bowl is not without its propriety. The Shepherd's hesitation at the name of the Zodiac, imitates that in Virgil,
Et quis fuit alter,
Defcripfit radio totum qui gentibus orbem? P.