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If high exalted on the Throne of Wit,
Of thee more worthy were the task, to raise A lafting Column to thy Country's Praise, To fing the Land, which yet alone can boast That Liberty corrupted Rome has lost ; Where Science in the arms of Peace is laid, And plants her Palm beneath the Olive's fhade. Such was the Theme for which my lyre I ftrung, Such was the People whofe exploits I fung; Brave, yet refin'd, for Arms and Arts renown'd, With diff'rent bays by Mars and Phoebus crown'd, Dauntless oppofers of Tyrannic Sway,
But pleas'd, a mild AUGUSTUS to obey.
If these commands fubmiffive thou receive,
And howl with Furies in tormenting fire;
Difcourfe on PASTORA L.
Written in the Year M DCC IV.
Rura mihi et rigui placeant in vallibus amnes,
HERE are not, I believe, a greater number of any fort of verses than of those which are called Paftorals; nor a smaller, than of those which are truly fo. It therefore seems neceffary to give fome account of this kind of Poem, and it is my defign to comprize in this fhort paper the fubftance of those numerous differtations the Critics have made on the subject, without omitting any of their rules in my own favour. You will alfo find fome points reconciled, about which they seem to differ, and a few remarks, which, I think, have escaped their obfervation.
The original of Poetry is afcribed to that Age which fucceeded the creation of the world: and as the keeping of flocks feems to have been the first employment of mankind, the most ancient fort of poetry was probably paftoral +. It is natural to ima gine, that the leifure of thofe ancient fhepherds admitting and inviting fome diverfion, none was fo proper to that folitary and fedentary life as finging; and that in their fongs they took occafion to celebrate their own felicity. From hence a Poem was in
Written at fixteen years of age. + Fontenelle's Difc. on Paftorals. B 2
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 present. And fince the life of fhepherds was attended with more tranquillity than any other rural employment, the Poets chofe to introduce their Perfons, from whom it received the name of Paftoral.
A Pastoral is an imitation of the action of a shepherd, 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 quickness and paffion, but that short and flowing the expreffion humble, yet as pure as the language will afford; neat, but not florid; easy, 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 last 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 thepherds 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 refemblance yet farther, it would not be amiss to give these shepherds fome skill in aftronomy, as far as it may be useful to that fort of life. And an air of piety to the Gods should fhine through the Poem, which fo vifibly appears in all the works of antiquity; and it ought to preserve
*Heinfius in Theoer. P. Rapis de Carm. Paft. p. 2.