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It is impossible for description to be more lively, or more consistently proper. .
That there is still room for novelty in this walk has lately been agreeably shown in the pastorals of Mr. Smith, the Landscape painter, which, however unequal and deficient in harmony and correctness, have infinitely more merit than Pope's melodious echoes of echo. Mr. Smith's pieces will also illustrate my former remark, that the manners and sentiments of our rural vulgar cannot be rendered pleasing subjects for poetry ;, for where he paints them most naturally they are least agreeable.
This then appears to be the rule of taste for modern pastoral writers to be general in character and sentiment, but particular in description. The poetical shepherd and shepherdess are characters of great uniformity; for, the originals having been long extinct, all have copied after the same models. The passion of love is the eternal source of pastoral sentiment, and however various it may be
in its nature, all its changes and intricacies must surely be at length explored, after it has in so many ages and countries exercised the utmost abilities of human genius.
Nothing therefore remains to produce novelty, but a variation of circumstances, whether relating to the subjects of the passion, or the accompanying scenery. The pastoral song formed upon the Ballad model, is capable of being made the most pleasing piece of the pastoral kind. The simplicity of language gives it an air of nature and reality, though the fictitious character be entirely kept up; and throwing the subject into a little tale, gives an opportunity of novelty in description from the variety of incidents. When the story has a tender and mournful turn, the ballad simplicity has a peculiarly happy effect. Perhaps the English alone, of all the moderns, have known how to unite the most perfect simplicity with real elegance and poetical expression; and it is to be hoped we shall never want taste to
relish the beauties of this kind that we are possessed of. The little collection of Ballads and Pastoral Songs here offered, contains some of the sweetest flowers of English poetry.
It was a friar of orders gray,*
Walk'd forth to tell his beads;
Clad in a pilgrim's weeds.
* In the Reliques of ancient English Poetry, Dr. Percy gives us the following Ballad, as formed upon a number of detached fragments of ancient composition, which he has attempted to fill up and throw into a little connected tale. Though his modesty has induced him to place it among his antique remains, I think it but justice to him and to my own collection to place it here as a very judicious and beautiful imitation of the ancient Ballad ; for certainly he has the best right to it, since the merit of the story is all his own, and the difficulty of interweaving the few ancient stanzas into it, and suiting his own language to them with such judgment, was greater than that of producing an entirely new piece..