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of them deserve to be ranked in a higher class of poets than bare imitators. The sense of this universal pleasure, says the Rambler, has invited numbers without number to try their skill in pastoral performances, in which they have generally succeeded after the manner of other imitators, transmitting the same images in the same combination from one another, till he that reads the citle of a poem may guess at the whole series of the composition; nor will a man after the perufal of thousands of these performances, find his knowledge enlarged with a fingle view of nature not produced before, or his imagination amused with any new application of those views to moral purposes *.
The reason of this sameness in pastoral composicions is very evident ; the species * Rambler, vol. i. p. 198.
poetry will not admit so entertaining a range as many others. It is agreed by all critics that the scene of pastorals 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 pastoral is an image of what they call the golden age, particularly Rapin, Fontenelle, Pope and Drydent. But this nocion has been fince exploded as false, and is handled in a
* Vide Rapin's critical works, vol. ii. p. 225. Pope's works, vol. i. p. 4. small 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 pastoral is an image of what they call the golden age, so that we are not to describe our shepherds, as shepherds at this day really are; but as they may be conceived then to have been.
Pope's Discourse on Paftorals, p. 5.
masterly manner by the Rambler in the 37th number. Rapin tells us, that the matter should be low, and nothing great is in the genius of it, its business being only to describe the little affairs of shepherds *. But this assertion is also founded in mere critical caprice. Whatsoever may, according to the common course of things happen in the country, may afford a proper subject for a pastoral poett. It has nothing peculiar but its confinement to rural imagery, without which it ceases to be pastoral. This is its true characteristic, and this it cannot lose by any dignity of sentiments or beauty of
* Pope's Discourse on Pastorals, Vol. ii. p. 225.
+ If we search in the writings of Virgil for the true definition of a pastoral, it will be found a poem in which any action or pasion is represented by its effects wpon a country life. Rambler, vol. i. p. 202.
diction. For this reason, the Pollio of Virgil is truly bucolic *.
As all sorts of people inhabit the country, pastoral admits every rank ; nor are any ideas improper, but such as owe not their original to rural objects. A young prince who loses his way in hunting, and either by himself or with his friend talks of his passion, and bor. rows his images and comparisons from rural beauties, is an excellent personage for an idyllium +.
It is also a most absurd notion among some pastoral writers, that as they should always have the low and despicable condition of a shepherd before them, their language
* Yet the generality of critics have rejected it.
+ Reflexions critiques sur la poesie & peinture, par Du Boș, tom. i. fect. 22.
should be barbarous and rustic, and stuffed with obsolete terms, or that at least it should never rise out of the plainest and simplest poetry ; thus Spenser begins one of his pastorals,
Diggon Davie, I bid her good day :
Or Diggon her is, or I misfay.
But now her is a most wretched wight.
And Philips, in his homely strains,
Oh woful day! O day of woe, quoth he,
Ah me the while! ah me, the luckless day!