Page images

by giving us an esteem for the virtues of a former age, might recommend them to the present. And since the life of thepherds 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 thep. sherd, or one considered under that character. The form of this imitation is dramatic, or narrative, or mixed of both; the fable fimple, the manners not too polite nor too ruftic: the thoughts are plain, yet admit a little quickness and paffion, but that short and flow. ing: the expreffion humble, yet'as pure as the language will afford; neat, but not Horid; 'easy,' and yet lively. In short, the fable, manners, thoughts, and expreffionis are full of the greatest simplicity in nature.

The complete character of this Poem confifts in fimplicity d, brevity, and delicacy; the two first of which render an Eclogue natural, and the last delightful.

If we would copy Nature, it may be useful to take this Idea along with us, that Pastoral is an image of 'what they call the Golden Age. So that we are not to describe our shepherds as shepherds at this day really fare, båt as they may be conceived then to have been ; 'when the best of men followed the employment. To *carry this resemblance "yet further, it would not be amiss to give these shepherds some skill in astronomy, as far as it may be ofeful to that sort of life.

And an air of piety to the Gods thould thine through the Poem, which fo vilbly appears in all the works of antiquity: and it ought to preserve some relish of the old way of writing; the connection should be loose, the narrations and descriptions Morte, and the periods concise. Yet it is not sufficient, that the sentences only be brief, the whole Eclogue should be so too. For we cannot fuppofe Poetry in those days to have been the business of men, but their recreation at vacant hours.

c Heinsius in Theocr. d Rapin, de Carm. Past. p. 2. e Rapin, Reflex, sur l'Art Poet. d'Arift. p. 2. Reflex, xxvii.

But with respect to the present age, nothing more conduces to make these composures natural, than when fome Knowledge in rural affairs is discovered f. This may be made rather to appear done by chance than on design, and sometimes is beft hewn by inference; left by too much ftudy to seem natural, we destroy that easy fimplicity from whence arises the delight. For what is inviting in this fort of poetry proceeds not fo much from the Idea of that business, as the tranquillity of a country life.

We must therefore use some illusion to render a Paso toral delightful; and this confifts in exposing the best fide only of a shepherd's life, and in concealing its miseries %. Nor is it enough to introduce thepherds discourfing together in a natural way; but a regard must be had to the subject; that it contain some particular beauty in itself, and that it be different in every Eclogue. Besides, in each of them a designed fcene or prospect is to be presented to our view, which fhould likewise have its variety b. This.variety is obtained in a great degree by frequent comparifons, drawn from the most agreeable objects of the country; by interrogations to things inanimate; by beautiful digressions, but those short; sometimes by infifting a little on circumstances; and, lastly, by elegant turns on the words, which render the numbers extremely sweet and pleasing. As for the numbers themselves, though they are properly of the heroic measure, they

[ocr errors]

f Pref, to Virg. Past, in Dryd, Virg.
& Fontenelle's Disc. of Pastorals.
b See the forementioned Preface,

' le

fhould be the smoothest, the most easy and flowing imaginable.

It is by rules like these that we ought to judge of Pastoral. And since the instructions given for any art are to be delivered as that art is in perfection, they mult of necessity be derived from those in whom it is acknowledged fo to be. It is therefore from the practice of Theocritus and Virgil (the only undisputed authors of Paftoral) that the Critics have drawn the foregoing notions concerning it.

Theocritus excels all others in nature and fimplici. ty. The subjects of his Idyllia are purely pastoral ; but he is not so exact in his persons, having introduced reapers i and fishermen as well as shepherds. He is apt to be too long in his descripcions, of which that of the Cup in the first Pastoral is a remarkable instance. In the manners he seems a little defective, for his Swains are sometimes abusive and immodest, and perhaps too much inclining to rufticity; for instance, in his fourth and fifth Idyllia. But it is enough that all others learned their excellence from bim, and that his Dialect alone has a secret charm in it, which no other could ever attain.

Virgil, who copies Theocritus, refines upon his ori. ginal: and in all points, where judgment is priocipally concerned, he is much fuperior to his master. Though fome of his subjects are not pastoral in themselves, but only seem to be such; they have a wonderful variety in them, which the Greek was a stranger tok. He exceeds him in regularity and brevity, and falls short of him in nothing but fimplicity and propriety of style ; the first of which perhaps was the fault of his age, and the last of his language.

i @EPIZTAI, Idyl. X, and AALEIL, Idyl. xxi.

k Rapin, Refl. on Arift. part ii. Rer. xxvii.- Pref, to the Tel. in Dryden's Virg.

Among the moderns, their success has been greatest who have most endeavoured to make these ancients their pattern. The most confiderable Genius

appears in the famous Tafso, and our Spenser. Tasso in his Aminta has as far excelled all the Pastoral writers, as in his Gierusalemme he has outdone the Epic poets

of his country.

But as this piece seems to have been the original of a new sort of poem, the Pastoral Comedy, in Italy, it cannot so well be considered as a copy of the ancients. Spenser's Calendar, in Mr. Dryden's opinion, is the most complete work of this kind which any nation has produced ever since the time of Virgil'. Not but that he may be thought imperfect in some few points. His Eclogues are somewhat too long, if we compare them with the ancients. He is sometimes too allegorical, and treats of matters of religion in a partoral style, as the Mantuan had done before him. He has employed the Lyric measure, which is contrary to the practice of the old Poets. His ftanza is not ftill the same, nor always well chosen. This last


be the reafon his expression is sometimes not concise enough: for the Tetrastic has obliged him to extend his sense to the length of four lines, which would have been more closely confined in the Couplet.

In the manners, thoughts, and characters, he comes near to Theocritus himself; though, notwithstanding all the care he has taken, he is certainly inferior in his Dialect : For the Doric had its beauty and propriety in the time of Theocritus; it was used in part of Greece, and frequent in the mouths of many of the greatest persons : whereas the old English and country phrases of Spenser were either entirely obsolete, or spoken only by people of the lowest condition. As there is a difference betwixt fimplicity and rufticity, so I Dedication to Virg. Ecl.

the expreffion of fimple thoughts-should be plain, but not clownish. The addition he has made of a Calendar to'bis Eclogues, is very beautiful; since by this, besides the general moral of innocence and simplicitys which is common to other authors of Paftoral, he has one peculiar to himself; he compares humant Life to the several Seasons, and at once exposes to his readers a view of the great and little worlds, in their various changes and aspects. Yet the scrupulous division of his Paftorals into Months, has obliged him either to repeat the fame defcription, in other words, for three months together; or, when it was exhausted before, entirely, to omit it: whence it comes to pass that some of his Eclogues (as the fixth, eighth, and tenth, for example) have nothing but their Titles to distinguish them. The reafon is evident, because the year has not that variety in it to furnish every month with a particular description, as it may every seafon.

Of the following Eclogues I shall only fay, that these four comprehend all the subjects which the Critics upon Theocritus and Virgil will allow to be fit for paftoral: That they have as much variety of description, in respect of the several seasons, as Spenser's : That in order to add to this variety, the several times of the day are observed, the rural employments in each feason or time of day, and the rural scenes or places proper to such employments ; not without some regard to the several ages of man, and the different passions proper to each age.

But after all, if they have any merit, it is to be attributed to some good old. Authors, whose works as I had leisure to study, fo, I hope, I have not wanted care to imitate.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »