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promifes plenty, fecurity, and happiness: fhe is great and beautiful whenever the excites admiration and love.
She is lovely and cheerful in space that is bounded but fertile, in a valley where the verdure is fresh and intermingled. with flowers, in a hill covered with herbage of different hues, in a garden which luxury has not overloaded with ornament, and in every scene by which the excites agreeable sensations, and promifes delight.
Nature is mournful and melancholy when the excites few fenfations and ideas; when the tires the ear with an unvaried monotony of found, and the eye with an unbroken uniformity; when the leaves us too much to ourselves; when he is lefs a retirement than a folitude; when the neither promifes pleasure nor riches.
The poet who attends to thefe obfervations may know how to give his defcriptions force, and what emotions they will
< He fhould however rather paint than defcribe, and his pictures fhould have one character: he fhould give one fentiment the fole poffeffion of his breast, and all the parts and colours of his picture fhould concur to excite this fentiment. If his fubject is the pleafing concert of the 'grove in fpring, he should mention neither the jay nor the pie; and he fhould forget the coarfe quarrels of peasants, when his fubject is the pleasures of a harvest-home.
He must do for that corporeal nature which is the object of fenfe, what Homer, Taffo, and our beft dramatic poets have done for moral nature: he muft exalt and embellish her, and make her interefting.
He will exalt nature if he displays her from time to time at the moment when fhe is fublime; and if his plan does not often permit him to feize thefe moments, he muft occafionally display her beauties and bounty, and interfperfe in his landscape ideas of extended but bounded fpace: this has been done by Ovid in his description of the Valley of Tempé, by Homer in the Gardens of Alcinoüs, by Ariofto in the land of Alcina, by Taffo in the Island of Armida, and by Milton, ftill better, in his defcription of the Garden of Eden.
Nature will become interefting if fhe is painted in her relations to fenfitive beings; the will become in.erefting, if defcriptions are interfperfed with natural and moral truths, with ideas that enlighten the mind, with rules of caduct and principles of virtue: fhe will become in erefting whenever the is painted under the influence of the fentiments the should intpire, whether fublime, great, mournful, poor, rich, agreeable or beautiful.
A particular attention fhould be given to contrasts, which produce the greateft pleasure, if judicioufly managed: after pictures of exceffive heat, the poet fhould exhibit ftreams of water, and the refreshing fhades of a foreft. The reader will follow with pleasure, and be delighted to take shelter with him in the coolness and gloom, from the thirty plains and the burning fun. A contraft will always please when it gives the reader a new idea, or a new fenfation, at the moment when he requires it.
Contrafts of the gay with the beautiful, of the great with the agreeable, or of the agreeable with the melancholy, do not produce lively emotions; but they please notwithstanding, becaufe they produce variety, of which the author muft by no means be fparing.
The contrast that makes the moft forcible impreffion is that of the fublime and terrible, with the beautiful and the gay; this however must be rarely ufed by the poet, because it is rarely found in nature, and becaufe whatever is rendered familiar, lofes the effect of fublimity.
This power must be only occafionally exerted, to rouse the fenfibility of the reader; after having been impreffed with fear, aftonishment, or any other painful fenfation, his fenfibility will be more quick, and agreeable impreffions will be more strongly felt.
Perhaps a croud both of voluptuous and terrible images may fometimes be introduced with advantage, becaufe they will impell the foul with oppofite powers, and hurry it from pleasure to pin, and pain to pleasure, by fudden and rapid tranfitions. Such an efect might be produced by the reprefentation of a battle fought on a delightful plain, enriched and adorned with all the beauty and luxuriance of the fpring.
A defcription of the country, in an uninterrupted series, will tire a reader who is most enamoured of the fubject: after having gone through your gallery of landfcapes, he will ask for hiftory; he will be weary of following you in your folitudes, he will be defirous to fee men, and fometimes to fee them bufy.
The poet of rural nature, therefore, muft introduce into his landfcapes, rural characters, and exhibit their manners and employments, their pains and pleafures. But his peasants muft never be wretched. In a wretched peafant there is nothing that can produce an intereft but mere mifery: he has no more fentiments than ideas; his manners are corrupt; neceffity makes him difhoneft, and he practifes all the little tricks and frauds which nature teaches to weak animals which he has weakly armed. The poet may fometimes fpeak of fuch pealants, but then he thould alfo fpeak for them, and very feldom put them into action.
There are fcattered about the country, rich husbandmen, peasants that live in eafe and plenty; these peasants have fentiment and manners. Thefe, fays Cicero, are philofophers who want nothing but theory. Reprefentations of their condition and fentiments, cannot but give pleasure to every man of taste, that is, to every man who has fenfe, virtue, and knowledge.
There is one clafs of men of whom paftoral poets have hitherto faid nothing: the nobles and country gentlemen, fome of whom live in their paternal feats, and manage their own eftates, and others live in a little convenient country-houfe, and cultivate only a few neighbouring fields. It feems ftrange to me that these have not been fubftituted for the fhepherds of Arcadia and Sicily, imaginary beings, as different from mankind as fylphs and falamanders. If Fontenelle had chofen the characters of his Eclogues from among this clafs, he might have given them their delicacy and wit without violence to probability: they might have been gallant without being ridiculous, and they would have interested the readers more, as they would have been beings more like themfelves, and nearer their condition.
The modern country-gentlemen may be confidered as virtuous and enlightened characters without impropriety; they are advancing in knowledge every day, and are the happier for it. A representation of the happinefs which is enjoyed by perfons in this clafs, who have a mind well turned, would give great pleasure to thofe who are much hurt by the examples of fuccefsful vice, which are never wanting in great cities. There are many men, even of the first clafs, who feel themselves enflaved by the mere rituals of life, and drudge on in a round of dull formalities, which can gratify no pallion but vanity, at the expence of eafe and health, and virtue and there are many inhabitants of great cities, who, if they were to fee a lively and juft reprefentation of the happinefs enjoyed by the country gentleman, would fay to themfelves with a figh, I am not so happy as he, but why fhould I not become fo?
It seems alfo to be requifite in this fpecies of poetry, that the epifode fhould be fuited to the landscape. There is an analogy between our fituations, and the fate of our minds, and the fituations, the phænomena, and the ftate of nature.
If an unfortunate wretch is placed amidst naked and craggy rocks, in the depth of a gloomy forelt, or near a torrent or a cataract; the impreflion that is made by thefe fcenes of horror, will naturally coalefce with pity.
If the young and amorous are placed in a delightful grove, reclining on beds of flowers, in the midft of a happy country, and under a bright and ferene fky, thefe beauties of nature will
increase the pleafing fenfations that arise from representation: of love.
There are other analogies which are too manifeft to be ǹentioned it is fufficient juft to have pointed out this neglected fource of new beauties.
• Sometimes the fituation of the perfon, and the nature of the feene, may be contrafted; pleasure may be furrounded by objects of horror, and forrow with the beauties of a terreftrial paradife: thefe pictures will act upon the foul with oppofite powers, and produce at once fenfibility and reflection.
But defcriptive poetry fhould not only move, it should inftruct. It is not enough to interfperfe virtuous fentiments, and general maxims of life: the whole fhould be uniformly directed to fome end this will give the performance all the merit and beauty it can have, and produce a harmony among all its parts, and a unity in the whole.
My ultimate view has been to infpire our nobleffe and wealthy citizens with love for the country, and respect for its employments; and this may be traced in every part of my work.
I have written Georgics for those who are to protect the country, and not those who cultivate it: I speak not to hufbandmen, for they would not understand me. The Georgics of Virgil, and even those of Vanieres which defcend to more minure particulars, can be of no ufe to the peafant. To give him inftructions concerning his employment, in verfe, is to labour in vain; but it is of great ufe to apprise those whom the Jaws have fet over him, of the kindness and regard that is due to fo useful a member of the common wealth. It is particularly at this time of great use to inspire perfons of the higher claffes with a tafte for rural life; for luxury, the arts, and an infinite variety of employments, peculiar to great cities, are now making the country in fome fenfe a defart. The noble are
not fufficiently apprifed of the value of that free and blameless life which is to be found in the manfion that is furrounded by their paternal inheritance: they are fond of being bufy and in place; "We must be fomething" is an expreffion continually in the mouth of those who in themselves are nothing.
My work is naturally divided by my fubject; there are four feafons, and I have made four cantos. Nature in the beginning of the Spring is gloomy and majeftic; fhe foon becomes lovely and gay. She is great, beau iful and ftriking in Summer; mournful in Autumn, and tublime and awful in Winter.
I have endeavoured to give, to each of my cantos, the character of the feafon which it defcribes: I have confidered with
what fentiments the fucceffive phænomena of the various seasons would naturally infpire mankind, and thofe fentiments I have expreffed.
Thomfon has, in each of his books or cantos, represented Nature as fublime and great; he had more pleasure in the aftonishing than the lovely: and, perhaps, he found it more easy. All the words that defcribe great phænomena, and the sublime of Nature, are poetical, and no other can offer themselves on the fubject; fo that although the picture fhould be unfinished, it would still have an effect. It is much more difficult to en noble common objects, than to paint thofe which are great; it is more difficult to animate a landscape, than to describe awful beauty.
Thomson was not obliged perpetually to recal the attention. of his reader to the moral which I have propofed: he sung of Nature among a people by whom Nature was known and loved; but I fing of her to a nation who either knows her not, or regards her with indifference. Thomson spoke to lovers of their miftrefs, and he was fure to be heard with pleafure: I am endeavouring to excite a paffion for a fine woman, in the breast of one who has never feen her, by speaking her praise, and exhibiting her picture.
I have confined all my defcriptions to our own climate; if I had indulged myself in thofe of others, I must have engrafted description upon defcription, and I thought it more eligible to form episodes of manners and events, that were fufceptible of an intereft. I have fometimes melted down my defcriptions in these episodes, so that they form an effential part of them; and I have fometimes abridged them to make room for some of thofe fimple verfes, which we love to repeat in the different circumftances and fituations of life.
"I have regretted the want of power to transfufe into my work the beauties which Thomfon has fo lavishly feattered through his own but the defigns of our poems were not the fame; and the difference of the plan naturally produced a difference in the conduct: when we have painted the fame objects, we have not given them the fame proportions; and when our pictures have been the fame in the drawing, the colouring has been different.
This little work has been written five or fix years; and I would have publifhed it fooner if I had been fatisfied with it: fince I determined to publish it I have retouched it with great care; and would retouch it perhaps with fill more, if was more fure that it was worth the la' our. Whether it is or not, I muft learn from the public; from the public alo I muit 'ea n what further corrections must be made. I fhall be grateful for criticism: if my work, however, does not rife above medi cy,