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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 to imagine, that the leisure of those ancient 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 2; 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 simplicity in
The complete character of this poem consists in simplicity, brevity, and delicacy; the two first of
1 Fontenelle's Discourse on Pastorals.-P.
3 Rapin de Carm. Past., p. 2.-P.
which render an Eclogue natural, and the last delightful.
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; when the best of men followed the employment. To carry this resemblance yet further, it would not be amiss to give these shepherds some skill in astronomy, as far as it may be useful to that sort of life. And an air of piety to the Gods should shine through the poem, which so visibly appears in all the works of antiquity; and it ought to preserve some relish of the old way of writing; the connexion 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 so too. For we cannot suppose Poetry in those days to have been the business of men, but their recreation at vacant hours.
But with respect to the present age, nothing more conduces to make these composures natural, than when some Knowledge in rural affairs is discovered. This may be made to appear rather done by chance than on design, and sometimes is best shown by inference; lest by too much study to seem natural, we destroy that easy simplicity 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
4 Avoiding, what a sensible writer calls, les sentimens quintessencies, les douceurs metaphysiques.- Warton.
5 Rapin, Reflex. sur l'Art. Poet. d'Arist., p. ii. Refl. xxvii.—P. 6 Pref. to Virg. Past. in Dryd. Virg.-P.
Pastoral delightful; and this consists in exposing the best side 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 designed 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.
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 persons, having introduced reapers' and fishermen as well as shepherds. He is
7 Fontenelle's Disc. of Pastorals.-P.
8 See the forementioned Preface.-P.
9 Stesichorus, it is said, wrote pastorals also.-Warton.
1 OEPITAI, Idyl. x. and AAIEIZ, Idyl. xxi.-P.
2 The 10th 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,
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. 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 5. 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 Tasso, and our Spenser. Tasso in his
is not a cup, but a very large pastoral vessel or cauldron. Vas pastorilium amplissimum.-Warton.
Dr. Warton might have mentioned the 7th and 22nd Idyll. as most highly picturesque, romantic, and beautiful.-Bowles.
3 He refines indeed so much as to make him, on this very account, much inferior to the beautiful simplicity of his original.-Warton.
4 It is difficult to conceive where is the "wonderful variety" in Virgil's Eclogues, which the "Greek was a stranger to." Many of the more poetical parts of Virgil are copied literally from Theocritus, but are weakened by being made more general, and often lose much of their picturesque and poetical effect from that circumstance. Every thing in Theocritus is painted with the hand of a Poussin, a Salvator, or a Rubens. Witness the pines and broken waterfalls, the Bebrycian mountains, and the savage Amycus, near the clear fount, and the rich glowing summer scene in the 7th Idyll. It is indeed the variety, the wildness, and the nature which give such a charm to Theocritus.-Bowles.
Rapin, Refl. on Arist., part ii. Refl. xxvii.—Pref. to the Ecl. in Dryden's Virg.-P.
The Aminta of Tasso is here erroneously mentioned by Pope as the
Aminta has far excelled all the Pastoral writers, as in his Gierusalemme he has outdone the Epic poets of his country. But as this 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 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 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 chosen. 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
very first pastoral comedy that appeared in Italy: and Dr. Hurd also fell into the same 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 Este. Such a mistake is very pardonable in so young an author, and very different from the gross and unscholar-like blunder of Trapp, who tells us in his fourteenth Lecture, that all the Eclogues of Calphurnius and Nemesian, who flourished under Diocletian, were entirely lost.
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 Borghese 1590. It is observable, that Pope does not mention the Comus of Milton, the most exquisite of all pastoral dramas.-Warton.
There were several writers of Pastoral in Italy prior to those mentioned either by Pope or Warton; amongst whom may be enumerated Bernardo Pulci, Politian, and Sannazaro in his Arcadia.