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THERE are not, I believe, a greater number of any fort of verses than of those which are called Pastorals; nor a smaller than of those which are truly fo. It therefore feems neceffary to give fome account of this kind of Poem, and it is my defign to comprize in this fhort paper the fubftance of those numerous differtations that Critics have made on the fubject, without omitting any of their rules in my
a Written at fixteen years of age.
This fenfible and judicious Difcourfe, written at fo early an age, is a more extraordinary production, than the Paftorals that follow it in which, I hope, it will not be deemed an injurious criticism to say, there is scarcely a fingle rural image to be found that is new. The ideas of Theocritus, Virgil, and Spenfer, are indeed here exhibited in language equally mellifluous and pure; but the descriptions and fentiments are trite and common. To this affertion, formerly made, Dr. Johnfon answered; "That no invention was intended:" he therefore allows the fact, and the charge. Our author has chiefly drawn his obfervations from Rapin, Fontenelle, and the preface to Dryden's Virgil. A translation of Rapin's Difcourfe had been fome years before prefixed to Creech's Tranflation of Theocritus, and is no extraordinary piece of criticifm. And though Hume highly praises the Difcourfe of Fontenelle, yet Dr. Hurd thinks it only rather more tolerable than
my own favour. You will also find fome points reconciled, about which they féem to differ, and a few remarks, which, I think, have escaped their obfervation.
The original of Poetry is ascribed to that Age which fucceeded the creation of the world: and as the keeping of flocks feems to have been the first employment of mankind, the most ancient fort of poetry was probably paftoral. It is natural to imagine, that the leisure of those ancient shepherds admitting and inviting some diverfion, none was so
his Paftorals I much wonder our Author did not allude to the elegant lines on Paftoral Poetry at the beginning of the second canto of Boileau's Art of Poetry. The best differtations on this fubject, feem to be thofe in the IId and Vth volumes of the Memoirs of the French Academy, that which is prefixed to Heyne's excellent edition of Virgil's Eclogues, and that which is prefixed to the Oxford edition of Theocritus, in two volumes 4to, 1776; in which the reader will find a particular account of the three diftinct characters and perfonages introduced by Theocritus, namely, the Keepers of Oxen, the Keepers of Sheep, and of Goats; to which diftinction even Virgil did not attend: and in which he alfo will find fuch reafons for preferring the pastorals of Theocritus to thofe of Virgil, as will ferve for a complete confutation of Dr. Johnfon's opinion on this fubject.
The truly learned Heyne goes fo far as to say, that if Virgil had written only his Bucolics, vix eum in cenfum principum poetarum venturum fuiffe arbitror. So competent and able a judge as the sweet and pathetic Racine, affured M. de Longepierre, that he thought the fecond Idyllium of Theocritus was one of the most exquifite pieces that antiquity had left us, and that it contained the most striking and forcible descriptions of the paffion of love he had ever seen. WARTON.
b Fontenelle's Difc. on Paftorals.
Edition of Theocritus by Th. Warton.