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Oft kiss, with lips devout, fome mould'ring stone,
40 Those hallow'd ruins better pleas’d to see Then all the pomp of modern luxury.
As late on Virgil's tomb fresh flow’rs I strow'd,
“ Great Bard, whose numbers I myself inspire,
66 Of thee more worthy were the task to raise A lasting column to thy country's praise; To fing the land which yet alone can boast That liberty corrupted Rome has left; Where Science in the arms of Peace is laid, And plants her palm beneath the olive's fhrade. Such was the theme for which my lyre I strung, Such was the people whose exploits I sung; Brave yet refin'd, for arms and arts renown'd, With diff'rent bays by Mars and Phcebus crown'd, Dauntlets oppoters of tyrannic fway,
71 But pleas’d a mild Auguftus to obey.
If these commands submissive thou receive,
D George Lyttleton,
DISCOURSE ON PASTORAL POETRY.*
[WRITTEN IN THE YEAR 1704.]
Rura mihi et rigui placeant in vallibus amnes,
Flumina amern, lylvalyue, inglorius! Virg THERE are not, I believe, a greater number of any
fort of verses than of those which are called Pattoa rals, nor a smaller, than of those which are truly io. It therefore feems necefiary to give fome account of this kind of Poem; and it is my design to comprise, in this short paper, the substance of those numerous dissertations the critics have made on the subject, without omitting any of their rules in my own favour: you will also find some points reconciled about which they seem to differ, and a few remarks which, I think, have escaped their obfervation.
The original of poetry is ascribed to that age which succeeded the creation of the world; and as the keeping of flocks seems to have been the firit employment of mankird, the most ancient fort of poetry was probably Pastoral t. It is natural to imagine, that the leiture of those ancient shepherds admitting and inviting some diversion, none was so proper to that folitary and selentary life as singing; and that in their songs they took occafion to celebrate their own felicity. From hence a poem was invented, and afterwards improved to a perfeet image of that happy time; which, by giving us an esteem for the virtues of a former age, might recommend thein to the present. And fince the life of shepherds was attended with more tranquillity than any other rural employment, the poets chose to introducetheir persons, from whom it received the name of Pattoral.
A Pastoral is an imitation of the action of a thepperd, or one considered under that character. The form of this imitation is dramatic, or narrative, or mixed of both; the fable is simple, the manners not too polite nor too ruitic: the thoughts are plain, yet
* Written at fixteen years of age. P.
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 expreilions, are full of the greatest fimplicity in nature.
The complete character of this poem consists in fimplicity t, brevity, and delicacy; the two first of which render an eclogue natural, and the last delightful. If we would copy Nature, it
be useful to take this idta 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 fhepherds 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 astronomy, as far as it may be uieful to that sort of life: and and an air of piety to the gods should shine through the poem, which so 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 I, 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 fume knowledge in rural affairs is discovered f. This may be made to appear rather done by chance than on design, and sometimes is best shewn by inference; left, by too much ftudy to seem natural, we deitroy that ealy fimplicity from whence ariles 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 paftoral delightful; and this consists in exposing the belt
fide + Rapin de Carin. Pait. p. 2. P. I Rapin, Reflex. sur l'Art Poet, d'Arist. p. 2. Refl. xxvii. P.
Pret to Virg. Palt. in Dryd. Virg. P.
fde only of a shepherd's life, and in concealing its mi. series*. Nor is it enough to introduce shepherds difcourting 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 scene or prospect is to be presented to our view, which should likewise have its variety t. 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 circumitances; and, lattly, by elegant turns on the words, which render the numbers extremely sweet and pleasing. As for the numbers themselves, tho? they are properly of the heroic measure, they should be the smoothest, the inoft ealy and flowing imaginable.
It is by rules like there 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 must of necessity be derived from those in whom it is acknowledged to be. It is therefore from
practice of Theocritus and Virgil (the only undisputed authors of Pastoral) that the critics have drawn the foregoing notions concerning it.
Theocritus excels all others in nature and fimplicity. 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 thepherdis. 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 it is enough that all others learned their excellencies from him, and that his dialect alone has a secret charm in it, which no other could ever attain.
* Fontenelle's Difc. of Paltorals. P.
OEPIETAI, Idyl. x. and AALEIE, Idyl. xxi. P.
Virgil, who copies Theocritus, refines upon his original; and, in all points where judgment is principally concerned, he is much fuperior to his maiter. Though some of his subjects are not pastoral in them. selves, but only seem to be such, they have a wonderful variety in them, which the Greek was a stranger to t. He exceeds him in regularity and brevity, and falls fort 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 Taíso and our Spencer. Taffo, 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 fort of poem, the Pastoral Comedy, in Italy, it cannot so well be considered as a copy of the Ancients. Spencer'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 Virgili. Not but that he may be thought imperfect in some few points. His ecloguies are fomewhat too long, if we compare them with the Ancients: he is sometimes too allegorical, and treats of matters of religion in a paitoral ityle, 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 still the same, nor always well chofen. This last may be the reason his expression is sometimes not concise enough; for the Tetrastic has obliged him to extend his fense 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 + Rapin Ref. on Arist. part. ii. Ref. xxvii---Pref, to the Eci. in Dryden's
I Dedication to Virg. Ecl. P.