Слике страница

proper to that folitary 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 fable, manners, thoughts, and expressions are full of the greatest simplicity in nature.

The complete character of this poem consists in fimplicity', brevity, and delicacy; the two first of which render an eclogue natural, and the last delightful.


Heinsius in Theocr.

« Rapin de Carm. Past. p 2. VOL. I.



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 are, but 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 fome skill in aitronomy, as far as it may be useful to that sort of life. And an air of piety to the Gods should shine through the poem, which fo visibly 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 short', 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 suppose Poetry in those days to have been the business of men, but their recreation at vacant hours.

But with a respect to the present age, nothing more conduces to make these composures natural, than when some Knowledge in rural affairs is discovered'. This

may be made to appear rather done by chance than on design, and sometimes is best shewn by inference; left by too much study to seem natural, we

destroy * Avoiding, what a fenfible writer calls, les sentimens quintessencies, les douceurs metaphysiques. Gesner's Pastorals are exquisite ; and abound in new situations, images, and sentiments.

WARTON. Rapin, Reflex. sur l’Art Poet. d'Arist. p. 2. Refl. xxvi. Pope * Pref. to Virg. Paft. in Dryd. Virg.


destroy that easy fimplicity from whence arises the delight. For what is inviting in this fort of poetry proceeds not so much from the Idea of that business, as of the tranquillity of a country life.

We must therefore use some illusion to render a Pastoral delightful; and this consists in exposing the best fide only of a shepherd's life, and in concealing its miseries 8. Nor is it enough to introduce fhepherds discoursing 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 design’d scene or prospect is to be presented to our view, which Ihould likewise have its variety". This variety is obtained in a great degree by frequent comparisons, drawn from the most agreeable objects of the country; by interrogations to things inanimate; by beautiful digressions, but those short; sometimes by insisting 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 should 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,

$ Fontenelle's Disc, of Pastorals.
n See the forementioned Preface.



E 2

they must of necessity be derived from those in whom it is acknowledged so to be. It is therefore from the practice of Theocritus and Virgil (the only undirputed authors of Pastoral) that the Critics have drawn the foregoing notions concerning it.

Theocritus * excels all others in nature and simplicity. The subjects of his Idyllia are purely paltoral; but he is not so exact in his persons, having introduced reapers' and fishermen as well as fhepherds t. He is apt to be too long in his descriptions, 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 rusticity; for instance, in his fourth and fifth Idyllia. But 'tis enough that all others learnt their excellencies from him, and that his Dialect alone has a secret charm in it, which no other could ever attain.

Virgil 1, who copies Theocritus, refines upon his original: and in all points, where judgment is princi


* Stefichorus, it is said, wrote paftorals also. WARTOR. EPIETAI, Idyl. x. and AAJEIE, Idyl. xxi.

Pope. + The toth and 21st Idyll. here alluded to, contain some of the most exquisite strokes of nature and true poetry any where to be met with, as does the beautiful description of the carving on the cup; which, indeed, is not a cup, but a very large pastoral vessel or cauldron. Vas paftoritium amplissimum.

WARTON. Dr Warton might have mentioned the 7th and 22d Idyll, as most highly picturesque, romantic, and beautiful. I He refines indeed so much as to make him, this

very seunt, much inferior to the beautiful fimplicity of his original.




pally concerned, he is much fuperior to his master. Though some of his subjects are not pastoral in themselves, but only seem to be fuch ; they have a wonderful variety in them*, which the Greek was a stranger to". 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.

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

The most considerable Genius appears in the famous Taffo, and our Spenser. Tassot


• It is difficult to conceive where is the “ wonderful variety" in Virgils Eclogues, which the “ Greek was a stranger to." Many of the more poetical parts of Virgil are copied literally from Theocritus, but are weakened by being made more general, and often lose much of their picturesque and poetical effect from that circumstance. Every thing in Theocritus is painted with the hand of a Poussin, a Salvator, or a Rubens. Witness the pines and broken waterfalls, the Bebrycian mountains, and the fa. vage Amycus, near the clear fount, and the rich glowing summer scene in the 7th Idyll. It is indeed the variety, the wildness, and the nature, which give such a charm to Theocritus.

* Rapin, Refl. on Arist. part ii. refl. xxvii.- Pref. to the Ecl. in Dryden's Virg.

Pope. + The Aminta of Taffo is here erroneously mentioned by Pope as the very first pastoral comedy that appeared in Italy : and Dr. Hurd also fell into the same mistake. But it is certain that Il Sacrificio of Agostino Beccari was the first, who boasts of it in his prologue, and who died very old in 1590; which drama was acted in the Palace of Francesco of Efte. Such a mistake is very pardonable in so young an authors, and very different from


E 3

« ПретходнаНастави »