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E LE GI E S,
WRIT TEN ON
MANY DIFFERENT OCCASIONS.
“ Tantùm inter densas, umbrosa cacumina, fagos " Affiduè veniebat; ibi hæc incondita, folus, “ Montibus et sylvis studio jactabat inani !"
A PREFATORY ESSAY
E L EGY.
IT is observable, that discourses prefixed to poetry are
contrived very frequently to inculcate such tenets as may exhibit the performance to the greatest advantage. The fabric is very commonly raised in the first place, and the measures, by which we are to judge of its merit, are afterwards adjusted.
There have been few rules given us by the critics concerning the structure of elegiac poetry; and far be it from the author of the following trifles to dignify his own opinions with that denomination. He would only intimate the great variety of subjects, and the different ftyles in which the writers of elegy have hitherto indulged themselves, and endeavour to shield the following ones by the latitude of their example.
If we consider the etymology of the word, the epithet which t Horace gives it, or the confession
6-Asysly, particulam dolendi. + " Miserabiles elegos.".
city of rural life to advantage : and that, in a way diftinct from paftoral, as much as the plain but judicious landlord may be imagined to surpass his tenant both in dignity and understanding. It should also tend to elevate the more tranquil virtues of humility, disinteriftedness, fimplicity, and innocence : but then there is a degree of elegance and refinement, no way inconsistent with these rural virtues; and that raises elegy above that merum rus, that unpolished rusticity, which has given our paftoral writers their highest reputation.
Wealth and splendor will never want their proper weight: the danger is, left they should too much preponderate. A kind of poetry therefore which throws its chief influence into the other scale, that magnifies the sweets of liberty and independence, that endeats the honest delights of love and friendship, that celebrates the glory of a good name after death, that ridicules the futile arrogance of birth, that recommends the innocent amusement of letters, and insensibly prepares the mind for that humanity it inculcates, such a kind of poetry may chance to please; and if it please, should feem to be of service.
As to the Ayle of elegy, it may be well enough determined from what has gone before. It should imitate the voice and language of grief, or if a metaphor of dress be more agreeable, it should be fimple and diffuse, and flowing as a mourner's veil. A versification therefore is desirable, which, by indulging a free and unconstrained expression, may admit of that simwhich elegy requires.