Like the eclogues by Ambrose Philips opening of this volume of Poetical Miscellanies, the concluding eclogue by Alexander Pope imitate the Shepheardes Calender. The rustic pastorals by Philips take up Spenser's diction and locality, while the Arcadian by Pope adopt the structure of the Shepheardes Calender, substituting four seasons twelve months and elaborating the scheme by developing a much-imitated times of day format. The reduction of twelve months to four seasons is typical of the compression Pope strove to achieve in his finely wrought couplets where every word was meant to tell. Pope had spent several years on this, his first published production, circulating the poems in manuscript and making refinements in conjunction with an elite group of coadjutors.
In the first pastoral the singers compete for an emblematic bowl representing the four seasons. The poem is inscribed to Sir William Trumbull. On verbal borrowings from The Shepheardes Calender, see Cory, "Spenser, Thomson, and romanticism" PMLA 26 (1911) 54-55n.
Jacob Tonson to Alexander Pope: "I have lately seen a pastoral of yours in Mr. Walsh's and Mr. Congreve's hands, which is extremely fine, and is generally approved of by the best judges in poetry. I remember I have formerly seen you at my shop, and am sorry I did not improve my acquaintance with you. If you design your poem for the press, no person shall be more careful in printing it, nor no one can give [a] greater encouragement to it, sir, your &c" 20 April 1706; Works of Pope, ed. Elwin and Courthope (1871-1889) 9:545.
William Walsh to Alexander Pope: "At my return from the North I received the favour of your letter, which had lain there till then. Having been absent about six weeks, I read over your Pastorals again, with a great deal of pleasure, and to judge the better read Virgil's Eclogues, and Spenser's Calendar, at the same time; and, I assure you, I continue the same opinion I had always of them. By the little hints you take upon all occasions to improve them, it is probable you will make them better against winter, though there is a mean to be kept in that too, and a man may correct his verses till he takes away the spirit of them" 9 September 1706; in Works of Pope, ed. Warton (1797) 7:63.
Alexander Pope to William Walsh: "I would beg your opinion, too, as to another point: it is, how far the liberty of borrowing may extend? I have defended it sometimes by saying, that it seems not so much the perfection of sense to say things that had never been said before, as to express those best that have been said oftenest; and that writers, in the case of borrowing from others, are like trees, which of themselves would produce only one sort of fruit, but by being grafted upon others may yield variety. A mutual commerce makes poetry flourish; but then poets, like merchants, should repay with something of their own what they take from others; not, like pirates, make prize of all they meet. I desire you to tell me sincerely, if I have not stretched this licence too far in these pastorals? I hope to become a critic by your precepts, and a poet by your example. Since I have seen your Eclogues, I cannot be much pleased with my own; however, you have not taken away all my vanity, so long as you give me leave to profess myself yours, &c." 2 July 1706; Works, ed. Warton (1796-97) 7:569.
Giles Jacob: "These Pastorals are four in Number, alluding to the four Seasons of the Year; And they are extremely well done, especially for a Poet of so youthful an Age" in Historical Account of the Lives and Writings of our most considerable English Poets (1720) 146.
Universal Magazine: "in his 14th year, he translated the first book of Statius's Thebaid, with so much accuracy and beauty, that it raised the attention of the greatest poets of the age; which was much more increased at the sight of his Pastorals, about two years after,when Sir William Trumbul, who had taken him under his protection, introduced him to Dr. Garth, Mr. Wycherly, Mr. Walsh, Mr. Gay, the lords Halifax and Lansdown, and to Sir Richard Steele, Mr. Addison, and Mr. Congreve: Tho' that performance, being set in competition with what the ingenious Mr. Philips had exhibited in that difficult art of poetry, became the foundation of a mutual and never reconciled dislike between them" 1 (October 1747) 217.
Edward Burnaby Greene: "Pope has been so assiduous to refine his periods, that his spirit is greatly evaporated; and his Pastorals, excepting the Messiah, only merit our attention as the marks of early genius. Sweetness of versification, and purity of expression, may constitute the character of a poet; but courtliness is not the whole that is expected in a writer of Eclogues" Essay on Pastoral Poetry in Idylliums of Theocritus (1767) p. lv.
Samuel Johnson: "From the age of sixteen the life of Pope as an author may be properly computed. He now wrote his Pastorals, which were shewn to the poets and criticks of that time; as they well deserved they were read with admiration, and many praises were bestowed upon them and upon the Preface, which is both elegant and learned in a high degree: they were, however, not published till five years afterwards" "Life of Pope" in Lives of the English Poets (1779-81); ed. Hill (1905) 3:90-91.
Joseph Warton: "A mixture of British and Grecian ideas may justly be deemed a blemish in these Pastorals: and propriety is certainly violated, when he couples Pactolus and Thames, and Windsor with Hybla. Complaints of immoderate heat, and wishes to be conveyed to cooling caverns, when uttered by the inhabitants of Greece, have a decorum and consistency, which they totally lose in the character of a British shepherd: and Theocritus, during the ardors of Sirius, must have heard the murmurings of a brook, and the whispers of a pine, with more home-felt pleasure, than Pope could possibly experience upon the same occasion. We can never completely relish, or adequately understand any author, especially any ancient, except we keep in our eye, his climate, his country, and his age.... In the passages which Pope has imitated from Theocritus, and from his Latin Translator Virgil, he has merited but little applause. It may not be unentertaining to see how coldly and unpoetically Pope has copied the subsequent appeal to the Nymphs on the death of Daphnis, in comparison of Milton on Lycidas, one of his juvenile, but one of his most exquisite pieces.... The mention of places remarkably romantic, the supposed habitations of Druids, Bards, and Wizards, is far more pleasing to the imagination, than the obvious introduction of Cam and Isis, as seats of the Muses" Works of Pope (1797) 1:67-68.
George Taylor: "Of the Pastorals it is unnecessary to say much — they are seldom read for any positive pleasure which they afford; but to the critic they have a relative value for the beautiful specimen of versification which they afforded at a period, when the English ear was not yet brought to that degree of nicety, which it was the successful labour of Pope's whole poetical life to produce: He himself seems to have valued pastoral poetry in general at its true worth, and he had the good sense not only to reject the advice, which Walsh gave him, to write a pastoral comedy, but to abandon altogether a field where the most successful cultivation could be comparatively fruitless. He saw that, in a highly civilized state of society, men fix their eyes on pastoral rather to relieve them from painful scenes, than in expectation of pleasure, and that finding persons, sentiments and occupations entirely alien from their sympathies, they end in admiring the art of the poet rather than his poem; and of course turn away to find the same art employed on more congenial subjects" Quarterly Review 32 (October 1825) 291-92.
Edmund Gosse: "In 1704 — so Pope asserted — in 1705 at latest, he had written his Pastorals, four eclogues on the seasons, in the manner of Virgil. In 1706 Tonson offered to publish them, but from some unknown cause they did not appear until May 1709, when they closed Tonson's Sixth Miscellany, Ambrose Philips' Pastorals opening it. It is strange that these bucolic performances attracted the notice which they undoubtedly did attract. Walsh deliberately preferred them to Virgil's earlier eclogues. They are singularly sweet in versification, it is true, but tame, artificial, and without a single spark of Theocritean nature.... What was praiseworthy in the Pastorals was the evidence of painstaking, the strenuous attention to artistic effect, the determination to be what Walsh called 'correct.' It was not until four years later that the famous pastoral quarrel with Philips took place" History of Eighteenth-Century Literature (1889) 110-11.
Pope spent several years revising his pastorals, which as a result became something of collaborative effort (hence the commendatory verses); for a discussion of who read Pope's pastorals when, see the appendix in Spence, Observations, ed. Osburne (1966) 2:616-81.
Pope is burlesqued in "A Paraphrase of Spring, the first of Pope's Pastorals" Universal Magazine NS 4 (October 1805) 350-51.
Notes from Works of Pope, ed. William Roscoe (1824):
These Pastorals were written at the age of sixteen, and then passed through the hands of Mr. Walsh, Mr. Wycherley, G. Granville afterwards Lord Lansdown, Sir William Trumbal, Dr. Garth, Lord Hallifax, Lord Somers, Mr. Mainwaring, and others. All these gave our Author the greatest encouragement, and particularly Mr. Walsh, whom Mr. Dryden, in his Postscript to Virgil, calls the best Critic of his age." The Author (says he) seems to have a particular genius for this kind of Poetry, and a judgment that much exceeds his years. He has taken very freely from the Ancients. But what he has mixed of his own with theirs is no way inferior to what he has taken from them. It is not flattery at all to say that Virgil had written nothing so good at his Age. His Preface is very judicious and learned." Letter to Mr. Wycherley, Ap. 1705. The Lord Lansdown, about the same time, mentioning the youth of our Poet, says (in a printed Letter of the Character of Mr. Wycherley), "that if he goes on as he hath begun in the Pastoral way, as Virgil first tried his strength, we may hope to see English Poetry vie with the Roman." Notwithstanding the early time of their production, the Author esteemed these as the most correct in the versification, and musical in the numbers, of all his works. The reason for his labouring them into so much softness, was, doubtless, that this sort of poetry derives almost its whole beauty from a natural ease of thought and smoothness of verse; whereas that of most other kinds consists in the strength and fulness of both. In a letter of his to Mr. Walsh about this time, we find an enumeration of several niceties in Versification, which perhaps have never been strictly observed in any English poem, except in these Pastorals. They were not printed till 1709. P.
Sir William Trumbal.] Our Author's friendship with this gentleman commenced at very unequal years; he was under sixteen, but Sir William above sixty, and had lately resigned, his employment of Secretary of State to King William. P.
Ver. 7. You, that too wise!] This amiable old man, who had been a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, and Dr. of Civil Law, was sent by Charles II. Judge Advocate to Tangier, and afterwards in a public character to Florence, to Turin, to Paris; and by James II. Ambassador to Constantinople; to which city he went through the continent on foot. He was afterwards a Lord of the Treasury, and Secretary of State with the Duke of Shrewsbury, which office he resigned 1697, and retiring to East Hampstead, died there in December 1716, aged seventy-seven. Nothing of his writing remains but an elegant character of Archbishop Dolben. Warton.
Ver. 12. in your native shades] Sir W. Trumbal was born in Windsor-forest, to which he retreated, after he had resigned the post of Secretary of State of King William III. P.
Ver 17, &c.] The Scene of this Pastoral a Valley, the Time the Morning. It stood originally thus, "Daphnis and Strephon to the shades retir'd, | Both warm'd by love, and by the Muse inspir'd, | Fresh as the morn, and as the season fair, | In flow'ry vales they fed their fleecy care; | And while Aurora gilds the mountain's side, | Thus Daphnis spoke, and Strephon thus reply'd." Warburton.
Ver. 32. Here western winds, &c.] The slow oxen, the bright crocus, and the blue violet, are images of Spring, the season of this Pastoral: the introduction of roses at the same time is not so appropriate. Bowles.
Ver. 38. The various seasons, &c.] The subject of these Pastorals engraven on the bowl is not without its propriety. Warburton.
My friend Mr. William Collins, author of the Persian Eclogues and Odes, assured me that Thomson informed him, that he took the first hint and idea of writing his Seasons, from the titles of Pope's four Pastorals. So that these Pastorals have not had only the merit of setting a pattern for correct and musical versification; but have given rise to some of the truest poetry in our language. Warton.
Ver. 41. sing by turns,] Amabaean verses, and the custom of vying in extempore verses, by turns, was derived from the old Sicilian shepherds, and spread over all Italy; and is, as Mr. Spence observes, exactly like the practice of the Improvisatori at present in Italy. Warton.
Ver. 46. Granville.] George Granville, afterwards Lord Lansdown, known for his Poems, most of which he composed very young, and propos'd Waller as his model. P.
Ver. 86. A wondrous Tree that sacred Monarchs bears;] An allusion to the Royal Oak, in which Charles II. had been hid from the pursuit after the battle at Worcester. P.
IMITATIONS AND VARIATIONS.
Ver. 1. "Prima Syracosio dignata est ludere versu, | Nostra nec erubuit sylvas habitare Thalia."
This is the general exordium and opening of the Pastorals, in imitation of the sixth of Virgil, which some have therefore not improbably thought to have been the first originally. In the beginnings of the other three Pastorals, he imitates expressly those which now stand first of the three chief Poets in this kind, Spenser, Virgil, Theocritus.
"A Shepherd's Boy (he seeks no better name)— | Beneath the shade a spreading beech displays,— | Thyrsis, the Music of that murm'ring Spring," — are manifestly imitations of
"— A Shepherd's Boy (no better do him call)"
"— Tityre, tu patulae recubans sub tegmine fagi."
"— [Greek Passage]." P.
Ver. 28. Purple year?] Dryden has "purple spring."
Purple is used in the Latin sense, of the brightest, most vivid colouring in general, not of that peculiar tint so called. Warburton.
Gray has adopted the expression of the purple year, in the first stanza of his exquisite Ode on Spring. Warton.
Dr. Warton observes this verse is from Spenser's Muiopotmos. The words, "lavish nature," are, but there is nothing of "painting the purple year."
Spenser's words are, "There lavish nature, in her best attire, | Pours forth sweet odors, and alluring sights." Bowles.
Ver. 34. The first reading was, "And his own image from the bank surveys." Warburton.
Ver 36. And clusters lurk beneath the curling vines. P.
This line was probably rejected from its resembling too nearly Dryden. The "Grapes in clusters lurk beneath the vines." Dryden's Translation of Virgil's Eclogues. Bowles.
Ver. 35, 36. "Lenta quibus torno facili superaddita vitis, | Diffusos edera vestit pallente corymbos." Virg.
The Shepherd's hesitation at the name of the Zodiac imitates that in Virgil, "Et quis fuit alter, | Descripsit radio totum qui gentibus orbem?" P.
Ver. 41. Then sing by turns,] Literally from Virgil, "Alternis dicetis, amant alterna Camoenae: | Et nunc omnis ager, nunc omnis parturit arbos, | Nunc frondent sylvae, nunc formosissimus annus." P.
Ver. 47. A Milk-white Bull] Virg. — "Pascite taurum, | Qui cornu petat, et pedibus jam spargat arenam." P.
Ver. 49. Originally thus in the MS. "Pan, Let my numbers equal Strephon's lays, | Of Parian stone thy statue will I raise; | But if I conquer and augment my fold, | Thy Parian statue shall be chang'd to gold." Warburton.
Ver. 58. She runs, but hopes] Imitation of Virgil, "Malo me Galatea petit, lasciva puella, | Et fugit ad salices, sed se cupit ante videri." P.
Ver. 61. It stood thus at first, "Let rich Iberia golden fleeces boast, | Her purple wool the proud Assyrian coast, | Blest Thames's shores, &c. P.
Ver. 61. Originally thus in the MS. "Go, flow'ry wreath, and let my Silvia know, | Compar'd to thine how bright her Beauties show; | Then die; and dying teach the lovely Maid | How soon the brightest beauties are decay'd. DAPHNIS. Go, tuneful bird, that pleas'd the woods so long, | Of Amaryllis learn a sweeter song; | To Heav'n arising then her notes convey, | For Heav'n alone is worthy such a lay." Warburton.
Ver. 69, &c. These verses were thus at first: "All nature mourns, the birds their songs deny, | Nor wasted brooks the thirsty flow'rs supply; | If Delia smile, the flow'rs begin to spring, | The brooks to murmur, and the birds to song." P.
Ver. 69. All nature mourns,] "Aret ager, vitio moriens sitit aeris herba," &c. "Phyllidis adventu nostrae nemus omne virebit." Virg. P.
Ver. 90. The Thistle springs, to which the Lily yields:] Alludes to the device of the Scots Monarchs, the Thistle, worn by Queen Anne; and to the arms of France, the Fleur de lys. The two riddles are in imitation of those in Virg. Ecl. iii. "Dic quibus in terris inscripti nomina Regum | Nascantur Flores, et Phyllida solus habeto." P.
Ver. 99. was originally, "The turf with country dainties shall be spread, | And trees with twining branches shade your head." P.
First in these Fields I try the Sylvan Strains,
Nor blush to sport on Windsor's blissful Plains:
Fair Thames flow gently from thy sacred Spring,
While on thy Banks Sicilian Muses sing;
Let Vernal Airs thro' trembling Osiers play,
And Albion's Cliffs resound the Rural Lay.
You, that too Wise for Pride, too Good for Pow'r,
Enjoy the Glory to be Great no more,
And carrying with you all the World can boast,
To all the World Illustriously are lost!
O let my Muse her slender Reed inspire,
'Till in your Native Shades You tune the Lyre:
So when the Nightingale to Rest removes,
The Thrush may chant to the forsaken Groves,
But charm'd to Silence, listens while She sings,
And all th' Aerial Audience clap their Wings.
Daphnis and Strephon to the Shades retir'd,
Both warm'd by Love, and by the Muse inspir'd;
Fresh as the Morn, and as the Season fair:
In flow'ry Vales they fed their fleecy care,
And while Aurora gilds the Mountain's Side,
Thus Daphnis spoke, and Strephon thus reply'd.
Hear how the Birds, on ev'ry blooming Spray,
With joyous Musick wake the dawning Day!
Why sit we mute, when early Linnets sing,
When warbling Philomel salutes the Spring?
Why sit we sad, when Phosphor shines so clear,
And lavish Nature paints the Purple Year?
Sing then, and Damon shall attend the Strain,
While yon slow Oxen turn the furrow'd Plain.
Here on green Banks the blushing vio'lets glow,
Here Western Winds on breathing Roses blow.
I'll stake my Lamb that near the Fountain plays,
And from the Brink his dancing Shade surveys.
And I this Bowl, where wanton Ivy twines,
And swelling Clusters bend the curling Vines:
Four Figures rising from the Work appear,
The various Seasons of the rowling Year;
And what is That, which binds the Radiant Sky,
Where twelve bright Signs in beauteous Order lye?
Then sing by turns, by turns the Muses sing,
Now Hawthorns blossom, now the Daisies spring,
Now Leaves the Trees, and Flow'rs adorn the Ground;
Begin, the Vales shall Echo to the Sound.
Inspire me Phoebus, in my Delia's Praise,
With Waller's Strains, or Granville's moving Lays!
A Milk-white Bull shall at your Altars stand,
That threats a Fight, and spurns the rising Sand.
O Love! for Sylvia let me gain the Prize,
And make my Tongue victorious as her Eyes:
No Lambs or Sheep for victims I'll impart,
Thy Victim, Love, shall be the Shepherd's Heart.
Me gentle Delia beckons from the Plain,
Then hid in Shades, eludes her eager Swain;
But feigns a Laugh, to see me search arounds
And by that Laugh the willing Fair is found.
The sprightly Sylvia trips along the Green,
She runs, but hopes she does not run unseen;
While a kind Glance at her Pursuer flies,
How much at variance are her Feet and Eyes!
O'er Golden Sands let rich Pactolus flow,
And Trees weep Amber on the Banks of Po;
Blest Thames's shores the brightest Beauties yield,
Feed here my Lambs, I'll seek no distant Field.
Celestial Venus haunts Idalia's Groves;
Diana Cynthus, Ceres Hybla loves;
If Windsor-Shades delight the matchless Maid,
Cynthus and Hybla yield to Windsor-Shade.
All Nature mourns, the Skies relent in Show'rs,
Hush'd are the Birds, and clos'd the drooping Flow'rs;
If Delia smile, the Flow'rs begin to spring,
The Skies to brighten, and the Birds to sing.
All Nature laughs, the Groves fresh Honours wear,
The Sun's mild Lustre warms the vital Air;
If Sylvia smiles, new Glories gild the Shore,
And vanquish'd Nature seems to charm no more.
In Spring the Fields, in Autumn Hills I love,
At Morn the Plains, at Noon the shady Grove,
But Delia always; forc'd from Delia's Sight,
Nor Plains at Morn, nor Groves at Noon delight.
Sylvia's like Autumn ripe, yet mild as May,
More bright than Noon, yet fresh as early Day;
Ev'n Spring displeases, when she shines not here,
But blest with her, 'tis Spring throughout the Year.
Say, Shepherd, say, in what glad Soil appears,
A wondrous Tree that Sacred Monarchs bears?
Tell me but this, and I'll disclaim the Prize,
And give the Conquest to thy Sylvia's Eyes.
Nay tell me first, in what more happy Fields
The Thistle springs, to which the Lily yields?
And then a nobler Prize I will resign,
For Sylvia, charming Sylvia shall be thine.
Cease to contend; for (Daphnis) I decree
The Bowl to Strephon, and the Lamb to thee:
Blest Swains, whose Nymphs in ev'ry Grace excel;
Blest Nymphs, whose Swains those Graces sing so well!
Now rise, and haste to yonder Woodbine Bow'rs,
A soft Retreat from sudden vernal Show'rs;
The Turf with rural Dainties shall be Crown'd,
While op'ning Blooms diffuse their Sweets around.
For see! the gath'ring Flocks to Shelter tend,
And from the Pleiads fruitful Show'rs descend.