1772 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

George Smith

John Aikin, in "On Ballads and Pastoral Songs" Essays on Song-Writing (1772) 38-39.



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 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.