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if not quite, as long as some of these, and have been listened to with delight by numerous audiences. Shorter than these, but, for sweetness of effect, worthy the attention of every lover of simple vocal music, Collins's Roman Veteran or Date Obolum Belisario, and Dibdin's Sailor's Journal, Tom Tackle, Labourer's Welcome Home, and Nongtongpaw, might be listened to without tædium were they twice or three times the length. The lower classes, I believe, have some long narrations amongst their popular songs. But I do not see why the simple recitation of such pieces might not be introduced with effect at festive meetings. On some public occasions I believe this has been tried and succeeded.
You have afterwards, Sir, (p. xxi.) called attention to some ballads, which, I think, had been better consigned to oblivion, than mentioned as they are by you : one receiving the engaging appellation of " sprightly ballad,” and another recommended by saying that the author “ gained great applause”, and that it is “ remarkable for the ease of its language and the liveliness of its imagery”. The stage has long since relinquished the former.* The
* While the managers of the theatres have very commendably purified the stage from much offensive matter, it is to
Ballad of Old Robin Gray of which you have said so much in commendation, has not found a place in your Volume.
But to proceed to the Pastoral Song :
In your Letters to your Son, the eighth and ninth of the first volume are On Nature and Art, and the Love of Novelty". You give your opinion, (p. 65.) that novelty is “ the great requisite in all endeavours to entertain”. And you support this opinion through these two Letters. Without conceding the justness of this opinion, and also without controverting it on the ground of general criticism, 1 will venture to affirm, in the way of moral criticism, that, were the opinion ever so correct, it could no way justify any thing immoral in Songs or other compositions. A principle of abstaining from every thing which may do harm, of suppressing resolutely every idea which tends to undermine or enfeeble our morals, whatever be its charms of originality, of humour, or the like, is the first and grand principle to be impressed upon the minds of those who write to entertain, or indeed who write for other purposes. I might also dwell upon the distinction between
be lamented that such stuff as The Farthing Rushligbt, William Taylor, Miss Bayley, Mr. Lobski and another of the Songs, sung by Servitz in the Exile, should be still suffered.
the merely entertaining, and the producing of those higher effects upon the mind, which a reader may experience from pathetic or instructive poetry. From which it would follow, that, though Novelty were allowed as the great requisite for entertaining, yet it would not therefore be the great requisite for poetry at large. Nor can I admit, even in Songs, that either the sole object or the sole effect is, to entertain. In sacred Songs, in many dramatic Songs, and in some which are used only in a private room, nay even in the solitary perusal of some, the attentive mind, duly prepared by habit and intellect, will find an impression which would be ill described by the word entertained.
But I avoid dwelling upon these points, that I may rest upon my main ground, the moral considerations which are to guide us. I maintain the indispensable necessity of keeping within the bounds of innocence; even though it should diminish our entertainment. Which, however, I deny that it will, in a continued course; although it may for a time, in instances of minds vitiated in taste, or unfurnished with moral principle. But it is the duty of authors, not to accommodate their compositions to such minds, but to offer that which (while it entertains, clevates, or otherwise innocently moves) may gradually correct the taste and instil good! principles; or, to say the least, will not make that worse which is already bad.
It may not be amiss, however, briefly to adduce your own authority ; in order to prevent the Readers of your two Letters before mentioned from taking what you have said, on Novelty and Art as requisites for pleasing or entertaining, more strongly than you yourself intended. Gay wrote some rural pieces, painting real manners, without fictitious softening; intending them as burlesque parody, and as a ridicule on vulgar pastoral. But what was the result? Of these pieces of Gay you say, in your Letters on Poetry (L. v. p. 57.), “ such is the charm of reality, and so grateful to the general feelings are the images drawn from rural scenes, that they afford amusement to all ranks of readers ; and they who did not comprehend the jest, enjoyed them as faithful copies of nature”. Also in the Letters on Poetry (L. ix. p. 125.), you admit that Dr. Johnson justly censured some poems in Milton's time (fictitious pastoral), “ for that want of reality which almost entirely destroys their interest”. And (L. xix. p. 268.) you commend Goldsmith's Deserted Village as a copy
of reality. Again, (p. 277.) you quote this stanza from Johnson,
Jo misery's darkest caverns known,
His useful care was ever nigh,
And lonely-want retir'd to die. And you subjoin these words : “ I confess, that much as I admire the flight of a poetical imagination, it is these sober serious strains to which at present I recur with most delight. Your taste may reasonably be different ; yet I trust in the solidity of your understanding to lead you to set a just value upon that verse, which, wbile it gratifies the ear, also touches and meliorates the heart”. Excuse me, Sir, if I express my surprise that the taste which could relish these lines, and the heart which could dictate these sentiments, could afterwards give to the world the Volume of Vocal Poetry. You raise my admiration of your taste, when, speaking of Cowper, (Letter xx. p. 294.) and of “the pathetic address” in the Tirocinium (l. 845.) “ to the father just on the point of sending his son to a public school", you say, " It is in such domestic pictures of the tender kind that Cowper is inimitable! If you wish to feel the full force of the simple pathetic, raised by no other art than the selection of little