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ON PASTORAL POETRY.
THERE are not, I believe, a greater numI ber of any sort of verses than of those which are called Pastorals; nor a smaller, than of those which are truly so. It therefore seems necessary to give some account of this kind of Poem, and it is my design to comprize in this short paper the substance of those numerous dissertations the Critics have made on the subject, without omitting any of their rules in my own favour. You will also find some points reconciled, about which they seem to differ, and a few remarks, which, I think, have escaped their observation
The original of Poetry is ascribed to that Age which succeeded the creation of the world : and as the keeping of flocks seems to have been the first employment of mankind, the most ancient sort of poetry was probably pastoral". It is natural ta,
imagine, that the leisure of those antient shepherds admitting and inviting some diversion, none was so proper to that solitary and sedentary life as singing; and that in their songs they took occasion to celebrate their own felicity. From hence a Poem was invented, and afterwards improved to a perfect image of that happy time; which by giving us an esteem for the virtues of a former age, might recommend them to the present. And since the life of shepherds was attended with more tranquillity than any other rural employment, the Poets chose to introduce their Persons, from whom it received the name of Pastoral.
A Pastoral is an imitation of the action of a shepherd, or one considered under that character. The form of this imitation is dramatic, or narrative, or mixed of both o; the fable simple, the manners not too polite nor too rustic: the thoughts are plain, yet admit a little quickness and passion, but that short and flowing: the expression humble, yet as pure as the language will afford; neat, but not florid; easy, and yet lively. In short, the fable, manners, thoughts, and expressions are full of the greatest fimplicity in nature.
The complete character of this poem consists in fimplicity, brevity, and delicacy; the two first of which render an ecloğue natural, and the last delightful. «Heinfius in Theocr. P. Rapin de Carm. Past. p. 2. P.
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 thepherds as thepherds at this day really are, but as they may be conceived then to have been; when the beit of men followed the employment. To carry this resemblance yet further, it would not be amiis to give these shepherds some skill in astronomy, as får as it may be useful to that sort of life. And an air of piety to the Gods should shine through the Poem, which fo visibly appears in all the works of antiquity: and it ought to preserve some relish of the old way of writing; the connection should be loose, the narrations and descriptions short, and the periods concise. Yet it is not sufficient, that the sentences only be brief, the whole Eclogue should be fo too. For we cannot suppose Poetry in those days to have been the business of men, but their recreation at vacant hours. · But with a respect to the present age, nothing more conduces to make these compofures natural, than when some Knowledge in rural affairs is difcovered. This may be made to appear rather done by chance than on design, and sometimes is best shewn by inference; left by too much study to seem natural, we destroy that easy simplicity from whence arises the delight. For what is in
* Rapin, Reflex. sur l'Art Poet. d'Arist. p. 2. Refl. xxvii. P. Pref. to Virg. Paft. in Dryd. Virg. P.
rain this art of poety proceeds not so much for the Idea of that batiners, as of the tranquilIt of a country lite
Wemal therefore ule fome illusion to render a Palma de bal; and this contiits in exposing the bei aje ons of a thepherd's life, and in concealing it mieriess. Nor is it enough to introduce thepherds albarting together in a natural way; but a regard must be had to the subject; that it contain igne particular beauty in itself, and that it he dicerent in every Eclogue. Besides, in each of toen aaned scene or prospect is to be presented i n Vict, which thould likewise have its variety. This variety is obtained in a great degree by frequent comparitons, drawn from the moft agreeable objects of the country ; by interrogations to things inanimate; by beautiful digreffions, but those thort; sometimes by insisting a little on circumítances; and lastly, by elegant turns on the words, which render the numbers extremely tweet and pleasing. As for the numbers themselves, though they are properly of the heroic measure, they should be the smoothest, the most easy and flowing, imaginable.
It is by rules like these that we ought to judge of Pastoral. And since the instructions given for any art are to be delivered as that art is in perfection, they must of neceflity be derived from those 6 Fontenelle's Difc. of Paftorals. P. See the forementioned Preface. P.
in whom it is acknowledged so to be. It is therefore from the practice of Theocritus and Virgil (the only undisputed authors of Pastoral) that the Critics have drawn the foregoing notions concerning it.
Theocritus excels all others in nature and fimplicity. The subjects of his Idyllia are purely pastoral; but he is not so exact in his persons, having introduced reapers. and fishermen as well as shepherds. He is apt 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 rusticity; for instance, in his fourth and fifth Idyllia. But 'tis enough that all others learnt their excellencies from 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 superior to his master. The some of his s are not pastoral in the but onl to be such; they have a
which the Greek was
Is him in regularity and ind fal f him in
* Rapin Refl. on Ecl. in Dryden's Virg.