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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 * styles in which the writers of elegy have hitherto indulged themselves, and endeavour to Abield the following ones by the latitude of their example.
If we consider the etymology of the t word, the epithet which I Horace gives it, or the confession which s Ovis makes concerning it, I think we may conclude thus much however, that elegy, in its true and genuine acceptation, includes a tender and ques rulous idea : that it looks upon this as its peculiar characteristic, and so long as this is thoroughly suftained, admits of a variety of subjects; whicb by its manner of treating them, it renders its own. It throws its melancholy stole over pretty different objeets; which, like the dresses at a funeral procession, gives them all a kind of folemn and uniform appear
It is probable that elegies were written at first upon the death of intimate friends and near relations ;
• This essay was written near twenty years ago.
Ovid. de Morte Tibulli.
celebrated beauties, or favourite mistresses ; beneficent governors and illustrious men: one may add perhaps, of all those, who are placed by Virgil in the laurel-grove of his Elysium, (Vide Hurd's Dissertation on Horace's Epiftle)
Quique fui memores alios fecere merendo.
After these subječts were sufficiently exhausted, and the severity of fate displayed in the most affecting inftances, the poets fought occafion to vary their complaints; and the next tender species of sorrow that presented itself, was the grief of absent or neglected lovers. And this indulgence might be indeed allowed them ; but with this they were not contented. They bad obtained a small corner in the province of love, and they took advantage, from thence, to over-run the whole territory. They sung its spoils, triumphs, ovations, and rejoicings *, as well as the captivity and cxequies that attended it. They gave the name of elegy to their pleasantries as well as lamentations ; 'till at laft, through their abundant fondness for the myrtle, they forgot that the cypress was their peculiar garland.
In this it is probable they deviated from the original design of elegy; and it should seem, that any kind of subjects, treated in such a manner as to diffuse a pleasing
* Dicite Io Pæan, & Io bis dicite Pæan.
melancholy, might far better deserve the name, than the facetious mirth and libertine festivity of the fuccessful votaries of love,
But not to dwell too long upon an opinion which may seem perhaps introduced to favour the following performance, it may not be improper to examine into the use and end of elegy. The most important end of all poetry is to encourage virtue. Epic and tragedy chiefly recommend the public virtues ; elegy is of a Species which illustrates and endears the private. There is a truly virtuous pleasure conneEted with many pensive contemplations, which it is the province and excellency of elegy to enforce. This, by presenting suitable ideas, has discovered sweets in melancholy which we could not find in mirth; and has led us with success to the dusty urn, when we could draw no pleasure from the sparkling bowl; as pastoral conveys an idea of fimplicity and innocence, it is in particular the task and merit of elegy to few the innocence and fimplicity of rural life to advantage ; and that, in a way distinct from pastoral, as much as the plain but judicious landlord may
be imagined to surpass bis tenant both in dignity and understanding. It should also tend to elevate the more tranquil virtues of humility, disinterestedness, simplicity, and innocence : but then there is a degree of elegance and refinement, no way inconsistent with these rural virtues; and that raises elegy alove
that merum rus, that unpolished rusticity, which bas given our pastoral writers their highest reputation.
Wealth and Splendor will never want their proper weight: the danger is, left they mould 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 endears 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, jould seem to be of service.
As to the style of elegy, it may be well enough determined from what has gone before. It mould imitate the voice and language of grief ; or if a metaphor of dress be more agreeable, it should be simple and diffuse, and fiowing as a mourner's veil. A vers fification therefore is desireable, which, by indulging a free and unconstrained expression, may admit of that fimplicity which elegy requires.
Heroic metre, with alternate rhime, seems coell enough adapted to this species of poetry; and, born ever exceptionable upon other occas1075, its inconteniences appear to lose their weight in shorter clegiis ;
and its advantages seem to acquire an additional iniportance. The world has an admirable example of its beauty in a collection of elegies * not long since published; the produet of a gentleinan of the most exact taste, and whose runtimely death merits all the tears that elegy can fhed.
It is not impossible that some may think this metre too lax and prosaic : others, that even a more disolute variety of numbers may have superior cdvantages. And, in favour of these last, might be produced the example of Milton in his Lycidas, together with one or two recent and beautiful iinitutions of his verJification in that monody. But this kind of argument, I am apt to think, must prove too much ; since the writers I have in view seeni capable enough of recommending any melre they fell chuse; though it 1714t be owned also, that the choice they make of any, is at the fome time the strongejl presumptiun in its favour.
Perhaps it may be no great dificuliy to compromise the dispute. There is 110 Cile kind of metre that is distinguished by rhimes, but is liable to some objection or other. Heroic verse, where every second line is terminated by a rbime, (with which the judgment ra quires that the sense should in some measure also terminate) is cpt to render the expresion either scanty or
* N. B. This preface was written near twenty years ago. it's aludes to the four. Elegier confireined. of Hammond