1710 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ambrose Philips

Alexander Pope to Henry Cromwell, 28 October 1710; Works, ed. Warton (1796-97) 7:130-31.



As to Mr. Philips's Pastorals, I take the first to be infinitely the best, and the second the worst; the third is for the greatest part a translation from Virgil's Daphnis. I will not forestal your judgment of the rest, only observe in that of the Nightingale these lines (speaking of the musician's playing on the harp):

Now lightly skimming o'er the strings they pass,
Like winds that gently brush the plying grass,
And melting airs arise at their command;
And now, laborious, with a weighty hand,
He sinks into the cords with solemn pace,
And give the swelling tones a manly grace.

To which nothing can be objected, but that they are too lofty for pastoral, especially being put into the mouth of a shepherd, as they are here; in the poet's own person they had been (I believe) more proper. They are more after Virgil's manner than that of Theocritus, whom yet in the character of pastoral he rather seems to imitate. In the whole, I agree with the Tatler, that we have no better Eclogues in our language. There is a small copy of the same author published in the Tatler No. 12. on the Danish winter: 'Tis poetical painting, and I recommend it to your perusal.