1709 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Alexander Pope

William Wycherley, "To my Friend, Mr. Pope, on his Pastorals" Poetical Miscellanies: the Sixth Part (1709) 253-56.



In these more dull as more censorious Days,
When few dare give, and fewer merit Praise;
A Muse sincere, that never Flatt'ry knew,
Pays what to Friendship and Desert is due.
Young, yet Judicious; in your Verse are found
Art strengthning Nature, Sense improv'd by Sound:
Unlike those Wits, whose Numbers glide along
So smooth, no Thought e'er interrupts the Song;
Laboriously enervate they appear,
And write not to the Head, but to the Ear:
Our Minds unmov'd and unconcern'd, they lull,
And are, at best, most Musically dull.
So purling Streams with even Murmurs creep,
And hush the heavy Hearers into Sleep.
As smoothest Speech is most deceitful found,
The smoothest Numbers oft are empty Sound,
And leave our lab'ring Fancy quite a-ground.
But Wit and Judgment join at once in you,
Sprightly as Youth, as Age consummate too:
Your Strains are Regularly Bold, and please
With unforc'd Care, and unaffected Ease,
With proper Thoughts, and lively Images:
Such, as by Nature to the Ancients shown,
Fancy improves, and Judgment makes your own;
For great Men's Fashions to be follow'd are,
Altho' disgraceful 'tis their Clothes to wear.
Some in a polish'd Stile write Pastoral,
Arcadia speaks the Language of the Mall,
Like some fair Shepherdess, the Sylvan Muse,
Deck'd in those Flow'rs her native Fields produce,
With modest Charms wou'd in a plain Neatness please,
But seems a Dowdy in the Courtly Dress,
Whose aukward Finery allures us less.
But the true Measure of the Shepherd's Wit
Shou'd, like his Garb, be for the Country fit;
Yet must his pure and unaffected Thought
More nicely than the common Swain's be wrought.
So, with becoming Art, the Players dress
In Silks, the Shepherd, and the Shepherdess;
Yet still unchang'd the Form and Mode remain,
Shap'd like the homely Russet of the Swain.
Your rural Muse appears, to Justify
The long-lost Graces of Simplicity;
So Rural Beauties captivate our Sense,
With Virgin Charms, and Native Excellence.
Yet long her Modesty those Charms conceal'd,
'Till by Men's Envy to the World reveal'd;
For Wits industrious to their Trouble seem,
And needs will Envy what they must Esteem.

Live, and enjoy their Spite! nor mourn that Fate,
Which wou'd, if Virgil liv'd, on Virgil wait;
Whose Muse did once, like thine, in Plains delight;
Thine shall, like his, soon take a higher Flight;
So Larks which first from lowly Fields arise,
Mount by degrees, and reach at last the Skies.