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vented, 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 thepherd, 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 Aorid; easy, and yet lively. In short, the fable, manners, thoughts, and expressions are full of the greatest fimplicity in nature.
The complete character of this poem consists in simplicity t, brevity, and delicacy; the two first of which render an eclogue natural, and the last des lightful.
If we would copy Nature, it may be useful to take this Idea along with us, that Paftoral is an image of what they call the golden age. So that we are not to describe our thepherds as shepherds at this day.. really are, but as they may be conceived then to have been; when the best of men followed the em ployment. To carry this resemblance yet farther, it would not be amiss to give these shepherds some skill in astronomy, as far as it may be useful to that sort of life. And an air of piety to the Gods should Thine through the Poem, which so visibly appears in all the works of antiquity : and it ought to preserve
- * Heinfius in Thecer. P.
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 fufficient, that the sentences only be brief, the whole Eclogue sḥould 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 t. This may be made to appear rather donc by chance than on design, and sometimes is best shewn by inference; left by too much study to seem natural, we destroy that eafy 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 beft side only of a shepherd's life, and in concealing its miseries I. Nor is it enough to introduce shepherds discoursing together in a natural way; but a regard must be had to the subject; that it contain Tome 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 varietyll. This variety is obtain’d 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
* Rapin, Reflex, sur l'Art Poet. d'Arift. p. 2. Refl.
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 Aowing 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 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 undis, puted authors of Pastoral) that the Critics have drawn the f regoing notions concerning it.
Theocritus excels all others in nature and fimplicity. The subjects of his Idyllia are purely pasto-, ral; but he is not so exact in his persons, having introduced reapers * and fishermen as well as fhepherds. 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 feems 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 fecret charm in it, which no other could ever attain.
Virgil, who copies Theocritus, refines upon his original; and in all points where judgment is principally concerned, he is much superior to his master.. Though some of his. subjects are not pastoral in themselves, but only feem 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 short of him in nothing but simplicity
OEPIET AI Idyl. x. and ASIEIE Idyl. xxi. P. † Rapin Refl.on Arift. part ii.refl
. xxvii.-Pref. to the Eci. in Dryden's Virg.
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 greateft who have most endeavour'd to make these ancients their pattern. The most considerable Genius appears in the famous Taffo, and our Spenser. Tallo in his Aminta has as far excelled all the Pastoral writers, as in his Gierusalemme he has out-done the Epic poets of his country. But as this piece feems to have been the original of a new sort of poem, the Pastoral Comedy, in Italy, it cannot fo well be confidered as a copy of the ancients. Spenser's Cafendar, 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 alle ġorical, and treats of matters of religion in a pastoral style, as Mantuan had done before him. He has employ'd the Lyric measure, which is contrary to the practice of the old Poets. His Stanza is not ftill the same, nor always well chofen
This last may be the reason his expression is fometimes 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; tho', notwithstanding all the care he has taken, he is certainly in= ferior 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 Englifh and country phrases of Spenfer were either enDedication to Virg. Ed. P, B4
tirely obsolete, or spoken only by people of the lowest condition. As there is a difference betwixt fimplicity and rusticity, so the expression of simple thoughts should be plain, but not clownish. The addition he has made of a Calendar to his Eclogues, is very beautiful; since by this, besides the general moral of innocence and simplicity, which is common to other authors of Pastoral
, he has one peculiar to himself; he compares human Life to the several Seafons, 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 Pastorals into Months, has obliged him either to repeat the same description, 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 dilo tinguish them. The reason is evident, because the year has not that variety in it to furnish every month with a particular description, as it may every season.
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 pastoral : 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 observ'd, the rural employments in each season 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 wants ed care to imitate.