Literary Criticism of Alexander Pope

By Bertrand A. Goldgar | Go to book overview

A Discourse on Pastoral Poetry (1704) 1.

There are not, I believe, a greater number of any sort of verses than of those which are called pastorals, nor a smaller than of those which are truly so. It therefore seems necessary to give some account of this kind of poem, and it is my design to comprise in this short paper the substance of those numerous dissertations the critics have made on the subject, without omitting any of their rules in my own favor. You will also find some points reconciled about which they seem to differ and a few remarks which I think have escaped their observation.

The original of poetry is ascribed to that age which succeeded the creation of the world; and as the keeping of flocks seems to have been the first employment of mankind, the most ancient sort of poetry was probably pastoral. 'Tis natural to imagine that, the leisure of those ancient shepherds admitting and inviting some diversion, none was so proper to that solitary and sedentary life as singing, and that in their songs they took occasion to celebrate their own felicity. From hence a poem was invented, and afterwards improved to a perfect image of that happy time, which by giving us an esteem for the virtues of a former age might recommend them to the present. And since the life of shepherds was attended with more tranquillity than any other rural employment, the poets chose to introduce their persons, from whom it received the name of pastoral.

A pastoral is an imitation of the action of a shepherd, or one considered under that character. The form of this imitation is dramatic, or narrative, or mixed of both; the fable simple, the manners not too polite nor too rustic. The thoughts are plain, yet admit a little quickness and passion, but that short and flowing ; the expression humble, yet as pure as the language will afford; neat, but not florid; easy, and yet lively. In short, the

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1.
Written at sixteen years of age [Pope].

-93-

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Literary Criticism of Alexander Pope
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Literary Criticism of Alexander Pope *
  • Regents Critics Series *
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction - The Occasion of Pope's Criticism ix
  • General Theory *
  • An Essay on Criticism (1711) 3
  • Preface to the Works of 1717 23
  • From Pope's Correspondence 29
  • Peri Bathous: of the Art of Sinking in Poetry (1728) 43
  • Criticism of Pastoral *
  • A Discourse on Pastoral Poetry (1704) 93
  • The Guardian No. 40 98
  • Criticism of Epic *
  • Preface to the Translation of the Iliad (1715) 107
  • From Pope's Observations on the Iliad (1715-1720) 131
  • Postscript to the Odyssey (1726) 147
  • Criticism of Drama *
  • Preface to the Works of Shakespeare (1725) 161
  • Index 177
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