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of them deferve to be ranked in a higher clafs of poets than bare imitators. fenfe of this univerfal pleasure, fays the Rambler, has invited numbers without number to try their skill in paftoral performances, in which they have generally fucceeded after the manner of other imitators, tranfmitting the fame images in the fame combination from one another, till he that reads the title of a poem may guefs at the whole series of the compofition; nor will a man after the perufal of thousands of thefe performances, find his knowledge enlarged with a fingle view of nature not produced before, or his imagination amused with any new application of thofe views to moral purposes *.
The reafon of this famenefs in paftoral compofitions is very evident; the species * Rambler, vol. i. p. 198.
poetry will not admit fo entertaining a range as many others. It is agreed by all critics that the scene of paftorals ought to be in the country; and that all the imagery should be rural *. But in most other points they differ in opinion. Some are of opinion that the paftoral is an image of what they call the golden age, particularly Rapin, Fontenelle, Pope and Drydent. But this notion has been fince exploded as falfe, and is handled in a
Vide Rapin's critical works, vol. ii. p. 225. Pope's works, vol. i. p. 4. fmall edit. Guardian vol. i. Numb. 22. Rambler vol. i. p. 205. Dryden's Virgil, vol. i. p. 89.
+ 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, fo that we are not to describe our fhepherds, as shepherds at this day really are; but as they may be conceived then to have been.
Pope's Difcourfe on Paftorals, p. 5. mafterly
masterly manner by the Rambler in the 37th number. Rapin tells us, that the matter fhould be low, and nothing great is in the genius of it, its business being only to defcribe the little affairs of fhepherds. But this affertion is alfo founded in mere critical caprice. Whatsoever may, according to the common courfe of things happen in the country, may afford a proper fubject for a pastoral poett. It has nothing peculiar but its confinement to rural imagery, without which it ceases to be paftoral. This is its true characteristic, and this it cannot lose by any dignity of fentiments or beauty of
Pope's Difcourfe on Paftorals, Vol. ii. p. 225. + If we fearch in the writings of Virgil for the true definition of a paftoral, it will be found a poem in which any action or paffion is reprefented by its effects upon a country life. Rambler, vol. i. p. 202. diction.
diction. For this reafon, the Pollio of Virgil is truly bucolic *.
As all forts of people inhabit the country, paftoral admits every rank; nor are any ideas improper, but fuch as owe not their original to rural objects. A young prince who lofes his way in hunting, and either by himself or with his friend talks of his paffion, and borrows his images and comparisons from rural beauties, is an excellent perfonage for an idyllium +.
It is also a moft abfurd notion among fome paftoral writers, that as they should always have the low and defpicable condition of a fhepherd before them, their language
* Yet the generality of critics have rejected it. + Reflexions critiques fur la poefie & peinture, par Du Bos, tom. i. fect. 22.
fhould be barbarous and ruftic, and stuffed with obfolete terms, or that at least it fhould never rife out of the plainest and fimpleft poetry; thus Spenfer begins one of his pastorals,
Diggon Davie, I bid her good day:
Dig. Her was her while it was day light,
And Philips, in his homely ftrains,
Oh woful day! O day of woe, quoth he,
Ah me the while! ah me, the luckless day!