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ET L'AUTRE, LABORIEUX, SEVERE, PRECIS, PUR, HARMONIEUX, IL DEVINT, ENFIN, LE POETE DE LA RAISON."
OUR English poets may, I think, be be difpofed in four different claffes and degrees. In the first class, I would place, first, our only three fublime and pathetic poets; SPENSER, SHAKESPEARE, MILTON; and then, at proper intervals, OTWAY and LEE. In the fecond class should be placed, fuch as poffeffed the true poetical genius, in a more moderate degree, but had noble talents for moral and ethical poefy. At the head of these are DRYDEN, DONNE, DENHAM, COWLEY, CONGREVE. In the third clafs may be placed, men of wit, of elegant tafte, and fome fancy in describing familiar Here may be numbered, PRIOR,
WALLER, PARNELL, SWIFT, FENTON. In the fourth clafs, the mere verfifiers, however finooth and mellifluous fome of them may be thought, fhould be ranked. Such as PITT, SANDYS, FAIRFAX, BROOME, BUCKINGHAM, LANSIn which of these claffes POPE deferves to be placed, the following work is intended to determine.
I am, DEAR SIR,
And faithful fervant.
WRITINGS and GENIUS
Of the PASTORALS, and the MESSIAH an Eclogue.
RINCES and Authors are feldom spoken of, during their lives, with juftice and impartiality. Admiration and envy, their conftant attendants, like two unfkilful artifts, are apt to overcharge their pieces with too great a quantity of light or of shade; and are difqualified happily to hit upon that middle colour, that mixture of
error and excellence, which alone renders every representation of man just and natural. This perhaps may be one reason, among others, why we have never yet feen a fair and candid criticifm on the character and merits of our laft great poet, Mr. POPE. I have therefore thought, that it would be no unpleafing amusement, or uninstructive employment to examine at large, without blind panegyric, or petulant invective, the writings of this English Claffic, in the order in which they are arranged in the elegant edition of Mr. Warburton. As I fhall neither cenfure nor commend, without alleging the reason on which my opinion is founded, I fhall be entirely unmoved at the imputation of malignity, or the clamours of popular prejudice.
It is fomething strange, that in the paftorals of a young poet there fhould not be found a fingle rural image that is new but this I am afraid is the cafe in the PASTORALS before us. The ideas of Theocritus, Vir
gil, and Spenfer, are indeed here exhibited in language equally mellifluous and pure; but the descriptions and fentiments are trite and common. That the defign of pastoral poefy is, to represent the undisturbed felicity of the golden age, is an empty notion, which, though fupported by a Rapin and a Fontenelle, I think, all rational critics have agreed to exftirpate and explode. But I do not remember, that even these laft-mentioned critics have remarked the circumftance that gave origin to the opinion that any golden age was intended. Theocritus, the father and the model of this enchanting fpecies of compofition, lived and wrote in Sicily. The climate of Sicily was delicious, and the face of the country various, and beautiful : it's vallies and it's precipices, it's grottos and cascades were swEETLY INTERCHANGED, and it's fruits and flowers were lavish and luscious. The poet defcribed what he faw and felt: and had no need to have recourse to thofe artificial affemblages of pleafing objects, which are not to be found