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HE genius of the pastoral, as well as of every
other respectable species of poe. try, had its origin in the Eaft, and from thence was transplanted by the muses of Greece; but whether from the continent of the lefser Afia, or from Egypt, which, about the æra of the Grecian pastoral, was the hospitable nurse of letters, it is not easy to determine. From the subjects, and the manner of Theocritus, one would incline to the latter opinion, while the history of Bion is in favour of the former.
However, though it should still remain a doubt through what channel the pastoral travelled westward, there is not the least shadow
of uncertainty concerning its Oriental Origin.
IN those ages, which, guided by sacred chronology, from a comparative view of time, we call the early ages, it appears from the most authentic hiftorians that the chiefs of the people employed themselves in rural exercises, and that astronomers and legilators were at the same time thepherds. Thus Strabo informs us that the history of the creation was communicated to the Egyptians by a Chaldean shepherd.
From these circumstances it is evident not
only that such thepherds were capable of all the dignity and elegance peculiar to poetry, but that whatever poetry they attempted would be of the pastoral kind; would take its subjects from those scenes of rural fimplicity in which they were conversant, and, as it was the off.
spring of Harmony and Nature, would employ the powers it derived from the former to celebrate the beauty and benevolence of the latter
ACCORDINGLY we find that the most an
cient poems treat of agriculture, astronomy, and other objects within the rural and natural systems.
WHAT constitutes the difference between the Georgic and the Pastoral is love and the colloquial, or dramatic form of composition peculiar to the latter : this form of composition is sometimes dispensed with, and love and rural imagery alone are thought sufficient to distinguish the pastoral. The tender passion, however, seems to be essential to this species of poctry, and is hardly ever excluded from those pieces that were intended to come under this deno. mination : even in those eclogues of the Ame
bean kind, whose only purport is a trial of skill between contending thepherds, love has its usual share, and the praises of their respective mistresses are the general subjects of the competitors.
It is to be lamented that scarce any oriental compositions of this kind have furvived the ravages of ignorance, tyranny and time; we cannot doubt that many such have been extant, possibly as far down as that fatal period, never to be mentioned in the world of letters without borrour, when the glorious monuments of human ingenuity perished in the alhes of the Alexandrian library.
Those ingenious Greeks whom we call the parents of pastoral poetry were, probably, no more than imitators of imitators, that derived their harmony from bigher and remoter four