ePub 版

vented, 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 prefent. And fince the life of fhepherds was attended with more tranquillity than any other rural employment, the Poets chose to introduce their Perfons, from whom it received the name of Paftoral.

A Pastoral is an imitation of the action of a fhepherd, or one confidered under that character. The form of this imitation is dramatic, or narrative, or mixed of both; the fable fimple, the manners not too polite nor too ruftic: the thoughts are plain, yet admit a little quicknefs and paffion, but that fhort and flowing the expreffion humble, yet as pure as the language will afford, neat, but not florid; eafy, and yet lively. In fhort, the fable, manners, thoughts, and expreffions are full of the greatest fimplicity in nature.

The complete character of this poem confifts in fimplicity +, brevity, and delicacy; the two first of which render an eclogue natural, and the laft delightful.

If we would copy Nature, it may be useful to take this Idea along with us, that Paftoral is an image of what they call the golden age. So that we are not to defcribe our fhepherds as fhepherds at this day, really are, but as they may be conceived then to have been; when the beft of men followed the employment. To carry this refemblance yet farther, it would not be amifs to give these fhepherds fome fkill in aftronomy, as far as it may be useful to that fort of life. And an air of piety to the Gods fhould fhine through the Poem, which fo visibly appears in all the works of antiquity and it ought to preferve


Heinfius in Thecer.
Rafin de Carm. Paft. p. 2.


some relish of the old way of writing; the connection fhould be loose, the narrations and defcriptions fhort *, and the periods concife. Yet it is not fufficient, that the fentences only be brief, the whole Eclogue fhould be fo too. For we cannot fuppofe Poetry in those days to have been the business of men, but their recreation at vacant hours,

But with a refpect to the prefent age, nothing more conduces to make these compofures natural, than when some Knowledge in rural affairs is difcovered t. This may be made to appear rather done by chance than on defign, and fometimes is best shewn by inference; left by too much study to seem natural, we destroy that eafy fimplicity from whence arifes the delight. For what is inviting in this fort of poetry proceeds not fo much from the Idea of that bufinefs, as of the tranquillity of a country


We must therefore ufe fome illufion to render a Paftoral delightful; and this confifts in expofing the beft fide only of a fhepherd's life, and in concealing its miferiest. Nor is it enough to introduce fhepherds difcourfing together in a natural way; but a regard must be had to the fubject; that it contain fome particular beauty in itself, and that it be diffe rent in every Eclogue, Befides, in each of them a defigned fcene or profpect is to be prefented to our view, which fhould likewise have its variety. This variety is obtain❜d in a great degree by frequent comparisons, drawn from the most agreeable objects of the country; by interrogations to things inanimate; by beautiful digreffions, but thofe fhort; fometimes by infifting a little on circumftances; and laftly, by Rapin, Reflex, fur l'Art Poet. d'Arift. p. 2. Reft,



[blocks in formation]

elegant turns on the words, which render the numbers extremely sweet and pleafing. As for the numbers themselves, though they are properly of the heroic measure, they fhould be the smootheft, the moft eafy and flowing imaginable.

It is by rules like thefe that we ought to judge of Paftoral. And fince the inftructions given for any art are to be delivered as that art is in perfection, they muft of neceffity be derived from those in whom it is acknowledged fo to be. It is therefore from the practice of Theocritus and Virgil (the only undifputed authors of Paftoral) that the Critics have drawn the foregoing notions concerning it.


Theocritus excels all others in nature and fimplicity. The fubjects of his Idyllia are purely paftoral; but he is not fo exact in his perfons, having introduced reapers and fishermen as well as fhepherds. He is apt to be too long in his defcriptions, of which that of the Cup in the firft paftoral is a remarkable inftance. In the manners he feems a little defective, for his fwains are fometimes abufive and immodeft, and perhaps too much inclining to rufticity; for inftance, in his fourth and fifth Idyllia. But 'tis enough that all others learnt their excellencies from him, and that his Dialect alone has a fecret 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 mafter. Though fome of his fubjects are not pastoral in themselves, but only feem to be fuch; they have a wonderful variety in them, which the Greek was a ftranger tot. He exceeds him in regularity and brevity, and falls fhort of him in nothing but fimplicity

ΘΕΡΙΣΤΑΙ Idyl. x. and ΑΛΙΕΙΣ Idyl. xxi.


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




and propriety of ftyle; the first of which perhaps was the fault of his age, and the laft of his language.

Among the moderns, their fuccefs has been greateft who have most endeavour'd to make these ancients their pattern. The most confiderable Genius appears in the famous Taffo, and our Spenfer. Taflo in his Aminta has as far excelled all the Paftoral writers, as in his Gierufalemme he has out-done the Epic poets of his country. But as this piece feems to have been the original of a new fort of poem, the Paftoral Comedy, in Italy, it cannot fo well be confidered as a copy of the ancients. Spenfer's Calendar, in Mr. Dryden's opinion, is the most 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 fome few points. His Eclogues are fomewhat too long, if we compare them with the ancients. He is fometimes too allegorical, and treats of matters of religion in a pastoral ftyle, as Mantuan had done before him. He has employ'd the Lyric measure, which is contrary to the practice of the old Poets. His Stanza is not ftill the fame, nor always well chofen. This laft may be the reafon his expreffion is fometimes not concife enough for the Tetraftic has obliged him to extend his fenfe to the length of four lines, which would have been more clofely confined in the Couplet.

In the manners, thoughts, and characters, he comes near to Theocritus himself; tho', notwithftanding all the care he has taken, he is certainly in'ferior 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 Englifh and country phrafes of Spenfer were either en

*Dedication to Virg. Ecl.





tirely obfolete, or fpoken only by people of the loweft condition. As there is a difference betwixt fimplicity and rufticity, so the expreffion of fimple thoughts fhould be plain, but not clownish. The addition he has made of a Calendar to his Eclogues, is very beautiful; fince by this, befides the general moral of innocence and fimplicity, which is common to other authors of Paftoral, he has one peculiar to himfelf; he compares human Life to the feveral Seafons, and at once exposes to his readers a view of the great and little worlds, in their various changes and afpects. Yet the fcrupulous divifion of his Paftorals into Months, has obliged him either to repeat the fame defcription, in other words, for three months together; or, when it was exhaufted before, entirely to omit it: whence it comes to pafs that fome of his Eclogues (as the fixth, eighth, and tenth for example) have nothing but their Titles to diftinguish them. The reafon 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 fhall only fay, that thefe four comprehend all the fubjects which the Critics upon Theocritus and Virgil will allow to be fit for paftoral: That they have as much variety of description, in refpect of the several seasons, as Spenfer's that in order to add to this variety, the feveral times of the day are obferv'd, the rural employments in each season or time of day, and the rural fcenes or places proper to fuch employments; not without fome regard to the feveral ages of man, and the different paffions proper to each age.

But after all, if they have any merit, it is to be attributed to some good old Authors, whofe works as I had leisure to study, fo I hope I have not want ed care to imitate.


« 上一頁繼續 »