« EdellinenJatka »
A DISCOURSE ON PASTORAL,
Written in the Year MDCCIV.
Rura mihi et rigui placeant in vallibus amnes,
There are not, I believe, a greater number 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 that Critics have made on the subject, without omitting any of their rules in
* Written at fixteen years of age.
Pope. This fenfible and judicious Discourse, written at fo early an age, is a more extraordinary production, than the Pastorals that follow it : in which, I hope, it will not be deemed an injurious criticism to say, there is scarcely a single rural image to be found that is new. The ideas of Theocritus, Virgil, and Spenser, are indeed here exhibited in language equally mellifluous and pure ; but the descriptions and fentiments are trite and common. To this assertion, formerly made, Dr. Johnfon answered ; " That no invention was intended :" he therefore allows the fact, and the charge. Our author has chiefly drawn his observations from Rapin, Fontenelle, and the preface to Dryden's Virgil. A translation of Rapin's Difcourse had been some years before prefixed to Creech's Translation of Theocritus, and is no extraordinary piece of critis cism. And though Hume highly praises the Discourse of Fon. tenelle, yet Dr. Hurd thinks it only rather more tolerable than 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 obfervation.
The original of Poetry is ascribed to that Age which fucceeded 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 to imagine, that the leisure of those ancient shepherds admitting and inviting fome diversion, none was so
his Paftorals I much wonder our Author did not allude to the elegant lines on Paftoral Poetry at the beginning of the second canto of Boileau's Art of Poetry. The best dissertations on this subject, seem to be those in the IId and Vth volumes of the Memoirs of the French Academy, that which is prefixed to Heyne's excellent edition of Virgil's Eclogues, and that which is prefixed to the * Oxford edition of Theocritus, in two volumes 4to, 1776; in which the reader will find a particular account of the three distind characters and personages introduced by Theocritus, namely, the Keepers of Oxen, the Keepers of Sheep, and of Goats; to which distinction even Virgil did not attend: and in which he also will find such reasons for preferring the pastorals of Theocritus to those of Virgil, as will serve for a complete confutation of Dr. Johnfon's opinion on this subject.
The truly learned Heyne goes fo far as to say, that if Virgil bad written only his Bucolics, vix eum in cenfum principum poetarum venturum fuisse arbitror. So competent and able a judge as the sweet and pathetic Racine, assured M. de Longe. pierre, that he thought the second Idyllium of Theocritus was one of the most exquifite pieces that antiquity had left us, and that it contained the most striking and forcible descriptions of the paflion of love he had ever seen.
WARTON. b Fontenelle's Disc. on Paftorals.
Edition of Theocritus by Th. Warton.