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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 seems a little defective, for his swains are sometimes abusive and immodest, 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 fiom him, and that his Dialect alone has a secret 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 master. Though some of his subjects are not pastoral in themselves, but only seem to be such ; they have a wonderful variety in them, which the Greek was a stranger to *. He exceeds him in regularity and brevity, and falls short of him in nothing but simplicity 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 greatest who have most endeavoured to make these ancients their pattern. The most considerable Genius appears in the famous Talso, and our Spenser. Tasso in his Amintą, has as far excelled all the Pastoral writers, as in his Gierusalemme he has outdone the Epic poets of his country. But as his piece seems to have been the original of a new sort of poem, the Pastoral Comedy, in Italy, it cannot so well be considered as a copy of the
Rapin, Refl. on Arist. part ii. Refl. xxvii. Pref. to the Ecl. in Dryden's Virg.
ancients. Spenser's Calendar, in Mr. Dryden's opinion, is the moft 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 somewhat too long, if we compare them with the ancients. He is sometimes too allegorical, and treats of matters of religion in a pastoral style, as the Mantuan had done before him. He has employed the Lyric measure, which is contrary to the practice of the old Poets. His stanza is not still the same, nor always well chofen. This last may be the reason his expression is sometimes 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; 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 Spenser were either entirely 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 thould 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
* Dedication to Virg. Ecl.
innocence and simplicity, which is common to other authors of Pastoral, he has one peculiar to himself; he compares human Life to the several Seasons, 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 sixth, eighth, and tenth, for example) have nothing but their Titles to distinguish 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 observed, 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
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, so, I hope, I have not wanted care to imitate.
Nor blush to sport on Windsor's blissful plains :
You that, too wise for pride, too good for power,
Soon as the flocks Thook off the nightly dews,