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by giving us an esteem for the virtues of a former age, might recommend them to the present. And fince the life of thepherds was attended with more tranquillity than any other rural employment, the Poets chose to introduce their Perfons, from whom it received the name of Paftoral.
A Paftoral is an imitation of the action of a shepfherd, or one confidered under that character. The form of this imitation is dramatic, or narrative, or mixed of both; the fable fimple, the manners not too polite nor too ruftic: the thoughts are plain, yet admit a little quickness and paffion, but that short and flowing: the expreffion humble, yet as pure as the language will afford; neat, but not florid; easy, and yet lively. In fhort, the fable, manners, thoughts, and expreffions are full of the greatest fimplicity in nature.
The complete character of this Poem confifts in fimplicity, brevity, and delicacy; the two first of which render an Eclogue natural, and the last delightful.
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 defcribe our thepherds as thepherds 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 refemblance yet further, it would not be amifs to give these fhepherds fome skill in aftronomy, as far as it may be ufeful to that fort of life. And an air of piety to the Gods fhould thine through the Poem, which fo visibly appears in all the works of antiquity: and it ought to preferve fome relifh of the old way of writing; the connection fhould be loofe, the narrations and defcriptions fhort, and the periods concife. Yet
c Heinfius in Theocr.
d Rapin, de Carm. Paft. p 2.
e Rapin, Reflex, fur l'Art Poet. d'Arift. p. 2. Reflex. xxvii.
it is not fufficient, that the fentences only be brief, the whole Eclogue fhould be fo too. For we cannot fuppofe Poetry in thofe days to have been the bufinefs of men, but their recreation at vacant hours.
But with respect to the prefent age, nothing more conduces to make these compofures natural, than when fome Knowledge in rural affairs is difcovered f. This may be made rather to appear done by chance than on defign, and fometimes is beft fhewn by inference; left by too much study to feem natural, we destroy that eafy fimplicity from whence arifes the delight. For what is inviting in this fort of poetry proceeds not fo much from the Idea of that business, as the tranquillity of a country life.
We must therefore ufe fome illufion to render a Paf toral delightful; and this confifts in expofing the best fide only of a fhepherd's life, and in concealing its miferies. Nor is it enough to introduce fhepherds difcourfing together in a natural way; but a regard must be had to the fubject; that it contain fome particular beauty in itself, and that it be different in every Eclogue. Besides, in each of them a defigned fcene or prospect is to be presented to our view, which fhould likewife have its variety . This variety is obtained in a great degree by frequent comparifons, drawn from the most agreeable objects of the country; by interrogations to things inanimate; by beautiful digreffions, but thofe fhort; fometimes by infifting a little on circumftances; and, laftly, by elegant turns on the words, which render the numbers extremely fweet and pleafing. As for the numbers themselves, though they are properly of the heroic measure, they f Pref. to Virg. Paft. in Dryd, Virg. g Fontenelle's Difc. of Paftorals.
See the forementioned Preface.
fhould be the fmootheft, the most easy and flowing imaginable.
It is by rules like thefe that we ought to judge of Paftoral. And fince the inftructions given for any art are to be delivered as that art is in perfection, they muft of neceffity be derived from thofe in whom it is acknowledged fo to be. It is therefore from the practice of Theocritus and Virgil (the only undifputed authors of Paftoral) that the Critics have drawn the foregoing notions concerning it.
Theocritus excels all others in nature and fimplicity. The fubjects of his Idyllia are purely paftoral; but he is not fo exact in his perfons, having introduced reapers i and fishermen as well as fhepherds. He is apt to be too long in his defcriptions, of which that of the Cup in the first Paftoral is a remarkable inftance. In the manners he feems a little defective, for his fwains are fometimes abufive and immodeft, and perhaps too much inclining to rufticity; for instance, in his fourth and fifth Idyllia. But it is enough that all others learned their excellence 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 fuperior to his mafter. Though fome of his fubjects are not pastoral in themselves, but only feem to be fuch; they have a wonderful variety in them, which the Greek was a ftranger to. He exceeds him in regularity and brevity, and falls fhort of him in nothing but fimplicity and propriety of ftyle; the first of which perhaps was the fault of his age, and the last of his language.
i @EPIETAI, Idyl. x, and AAIEIZ, Idyl. xxi. k Rapin, Ref. on Arift. part ii. Ref. xxvii.Bel. in Dryden's Virg.
-Pref. to the
Among the moderns, their fuccefs has been greatest who have most endeavoured to make thefe ancients their pattern. The moft confiderable Genius appears in the famous Taffo, and our Spenfer. Taffo in his Aminta has as far excelied all the Paftoral writers, as in his Gierufalemme he has outdone the Epic poets of his country. But as this piece feems to have been the original of a new fort of poem, the Paftoral Comedy, in Italy, it cannot fo well be confidered as a copy of the ancients. Spenfer's Calendar, in Mr. Dryden's opinion, is the most complete work of this kind which any nation has produced ever fince the time of Virgil'. Not but that he may be thought imperfect in some few points. His Eclogues are fomewhat too long, if we compare them with the ancients. He is fometimes too allegorical, and treats of matters of religion in a paftoral ftyle, 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 ftill the fame, nor always well chofen. This laft may be the reafon his expreffion is fometimes not concife enough for the Tetraffic has obliged him to extend his fenfe 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 time of Theocritus; it was used in part of Greece, and frequent in the mouths of many of the greatest perfons: whereas the old English and country phrases of Spenfer were either entirely obfolete, or fpoken only by people of the loweft condition. As there is a difference betwixt fimplicity and rufticity, fo 1 Dedication to Virg. Ecl.
the expreffion of fimple thoughts fhould be plain, but not clownish. The addition he has made of a Calendar to his Eclogues, is very beautiful; fince by this, befides the general moral of innocence and fimplicity, which is common to other authors of Paftoral, he has one peculiar to himself; he compares human Life to the feveral Seafons, and at once exposes to his readers a view of the great and little worlds, in their various changes and afpects. Yet the fcrupulous divifion of his Paftorals into Months, has obliged him either to repeat the fame defcription, in other words, for three months together; or, when it was exhaufted before, entirely to omit it: whence it comes to pafs that fome of his Eclogues (as the fixth, eighth, and tenth, for example) have nothing but their Titles to diftinguish them. The reafon is evident, because the year has not that variety in it to furnifh every month with a particular defcription, as it may every season.
Of the following Eclogues I fhall only fay, that thefe four comprehend all the fubjects which the Critics upon Theocritus and Virgil will allow to be fit for paftoral: That they have as much variety of defcription, in respect of the feveral feafons, as Spenfer's: That in order to add to this variety, the several times of the day are obferved. the rural employments in each feafon or time of day, and the rural fcenes or places proper to fuch employments; not without fome regard to the feveral ages of man, and the different paffions proper to each age.
But after all, if they have any merit, it is to be attributed to fome good old Authors, whose works as I had leifure to study, fo, I hope, I have not wanted care to imitate.