Abbildungen der Seite

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 fimplicity from whence arises the delight. For what is inviting in this sort of poetry proceeds not so much from the Idea of that business, as of the tranquillity of a

country life.

We must therefore use some illusion to render a Pastoral delightful; and this consists in exposing the best fide only of a shepherd's life, and in concealing its miseries .

Nor is it enough to introduce shepherds discoursing together in a natural way; but a regard must be had to the subject; that it contain some particular beauty in itself, and that it be different in every Eclogue. Besides, in each of them a design'd scene or prospect is to be presented to our view, which should likewise have its variety. This variety is obtained in a great degree by frequent comparisons, drawn from the most agreeable objects of the country; by interrogations to things inanimate; by beautiful digressions, but those short; sometimes by insisting a little on circumstances; and lastly, by elegant turns on the words, which render the numbers extremely sweet 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.

8 Fontenelle's Difc. of Paftorals. h See the forementioned Preface.





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 necessity be derived from those 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 simplicity. The subjects of his Idyllia are purely pastoral; but he is not so exact in his perfons, having introduced reapers ' and fishermen as well as shepherds t. 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 feems 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.

[merged small][ocr errors]

* Stelichorus, it is said, wrote pastorals alfo. EPIETAI, Idyl. x, and AIEIE, Idyl. xxi.

P. † The roth and 21st Idyll. here alluded to, contain some of the most exquisite strokes of nature and true poetry any where to be met with, as does the beautiful description of the carving on the cup; which, indeed, is not a cup, but a very large pastoral vessel or cauldron. Vas pastorilium ampliffimum.

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]


Virgil I, who copies Theocritus, refines upon his original: and in all points, where judgment is principally concerned, he is much fuperior to his master. Though fome 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 tok. He exceeds him in regularity and brevity, and falls short of him in nothing but fimplicity 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 moft considerable Genius appears in the famous Taffo, and our Spenser. Taffo & in his Aminta has as far excelled


# He refines indeed fo much as to make him, on this very account, much inferior to the beautiful fimplicity of his original.

k Rapin, Ref. on Arift. part ii. refl. xxvii.-Pref. to the Ecl. in Dryden's Virg.

P. The Aminta of Taffo is here erroneously mentioned by Pope as the very first paftoral comedy that appeared in Italy: And Dr. Hurd also fell into the fame mistake. But it is certain that Il Sacrificio of Agostino Beccari was the first, who boasts of it in his prologue, and who died very old in 1590; which drama was acted in the Palace of Francesco of Efte. Such a mistake is very pardonable in so young an author, and very different from the grofs and unfcholar-like blunder of Trapp, who tells us in his fourteenth Lecture, that all the eclogues of Calphurnius and Nemefian, who flourished under Diocletian, were entirely lost, € 2

I will

all the Pastoral writers, as in his Gierusalemme he has out-done the Epic poets of his country. But as this piece seems to have been the original of a new fort of poem, the Pastoral Comedy, in Italy, it cannot so well be considered as a copy of the ancients. Spenser's Calendar, in Mr. Dryden's opinion, is the most complete work of this kind which any nation has produced ever since the time of Virgil'. Not but that he may be thought imperfect in some few points. His Eclogues aré 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 fame, nor always well chosen. This last may be the reason his expression is sometimes not concise enough: for the Tetrastic has obliged him to extend his fenfe to the length of four lines, which would have been more closely confined in the Couplet.

I will just add, that the famous Critic, Jason de Nores, who wrote so well on Horace's Art of Poetry, condemned the Pastoral Drama. And that the above-mentioned Il Sacrificio was acted at Ferrara 1550, and the Aminta 1573, and the Pastor Fido before Cardinal Borghefe 1590. It is observable, that Pope does not mention the Comus of Milton, the most exquisite of all pastoral dramas.

1 Dedication to Virg. Ecl. P.

In the manners, thoughts, and characters, he comes near to Theocritus himself; tho’, 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 persons: 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 should 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 innocence and fimplicity, 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 fixth, 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,

« ZurückWeiter »