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language that may fall in his way. · They have no business here; they do not accord with that string of the soul which is here to be struck.
As it is absolutely effential to all imitations of the antient ballad, that the story on which they are founded, with all its circumstances and manners, should be perfectly natural, and appropriated to our own soil, I cannot include several pieces of the pastoral kind under the title of ballads, though very nearly resembling them in point of simplicity and style of composition. Pastoral poetry is a native of happier climates, where the face of nature, and the manners of the people are widely different from those of our northern regions. What is reality on the soft Arcadian and Sicilian plains, is all fiction here; and though by reading we may be fo familiarized to these imaginary scenes as to ac
quire a sort of natural taste for them, yet, like the fine fruits of the south, they will never be so far naturalized to the soil as to flourish without borrowed warmth and forced culture. The justice of this observation is sufficiently proved, by the ill success of those attempts in the mixed pastoral, where the rude speech and rough manners of our English hinds have been engrafted upon the foreign poetical character of the shepherd swain. This gave occasion to Pope's well known ridicule of Phillips; and it is this incongruity of character which is the foundation of the burlesque in Gay's shepherd's week, in which some natural strokes of beautiful simplicity and the real pathetic are designedly paired in so odd a manner with humour and parody, that one is at a loss whether to take it as jest or earnest—whether to laugh or cry. Indeed this effect is also produced in his two dramatic burlesques, the Beg
gar's Opera, and What d'ye call it; for how ludicrous foever the general character of the piece may be, when he comes fo near to hanging and shooting in good earnest, the joke ceases; and I have observed the tolling of St. Pulcre's bell received by an audience with as much tragical attention and sympathetic terrror as that in Venice preserved.
No attempt to naturalize pastoral poetry appears to have succeeded better than Ramsay's Gentle Shepherd: it has a considerable air of reality, and the descriptive parts, in general, are in the genuine taste of beautiful simplicity. Yet the fentiments and manners are far from being entirely proper to the characters, and while some descend fo low as to be difguftful, others are elevated far beyond
The real character of a Scottish or English shepherd is by much too coarse С
for poetry. I suspect Ramsay gains a great advantage among us by writing in the Scotch dialect: this not being familiar to us, and scarcely understood, softens the harsher parts, and gives a kind of foreign air that eludes the critic's severity. Some writers, in aiming at a natural simplicity of sentiment, have funk into filliness, and have given their characters not only the innocence, but the weakness of a child. In that admirable piece of burlesque criticism, the Bathos of Scriblerus, are some ludicrous instances of puerility of sentiment and expression from Phillips's pastorals, and, I confess, this fault, to me, appears palpable in a piece which, by being introduced to notice in the Spectator, is universally known and admired-I mean the pastoral song of Colin and Phoebe.
There is one point in which a pastoral writer of any country may venture to fol
low nature exactly and with a minute nicety: this is in the scenery and description. Natural objects are scarcely ever disgusting, and there is no country fo unbleffed as to be unprovided with an ample store of beauties, which must ever please in an accurate representation, independently on all fashion or peculiarity of taste. It is unpardonable in a poet to borrow these from any fountain but nature herself, and hereby he will most certainly avoid the mistakes and incongruity of imagery, which they are so apt to fall into who describe from ideas gained by reading rather than observation. The preservation of propriety in this respect is of capital importance in description, since nothing so effectually ruins the beauty of picturesque scenery, as the introduction of any circumstance which tends to falsify it. It awakens the mind from her dream of fancy, and the “ baseless fabric of the vision” instantly va