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as the keeping of flocks seems to have been the first employment of mankind, the most ancient fort of poetry was probably paftoral. 'Tis natural to imagine, that the leifure of thofe ancient fhepherds requiring fome diversion, none was so proper to that folitary life as finging; and that in their fongs they took occafion to celebrate their own felicity. From hence a Poem was invented, and afterwards improv'd 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 chofe to introduce their Perfons, from whom it receiv'd the name of Pastoral.
fhepherd; the 2
A Paftoral is an imitation of the action of a form of this imitation is dramatic, or narrative, or mix'd 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 short 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 last delightful.
If we would copy Nature, it may be useful to take this confideration along with us, that pastoral 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 conceiv'd then to have been; when a notion of quality was annex'd to that name, and the best of men follow'd the employment. To carry this resemblance yet farther, that Air of piety to the Gods fhould fhine thro' the Poem, which fo vifibly appears in all the works of antiquity: And it ought to preferve fome relish of the old way of writing; the connections fhould be loofe, 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 to have been the business of the ancient fhepherds, but their recreation at vacant hours.
But with a respect to the prefent age, nothing more conduces to make these compofures natural, than when fome Knowledge in rural affairs is difcover'd. This may be made to appear rather done by chance than on defign, and fometimes is beft fhewn by inference; left by too much study to feem natural, we deftroy the delight. For what is inviting in this fort of poetry (as Fontenelle obferves) proceeds not fo much from the Idea of a country life itself, as from that of its Tranquillity. We must therefore ufe fome illufion to render a Pastoral delightful; and this conC
fifts in exposing the best fide only of a fhepherd's life, and in concealing its miferies. Nor is it enough to introduce thepherds difcourfing together, but a regard must be had to the fubject; that it contain fome particular beauty in itself, and that it be different in every Eclogue. Befides, in each of them a design'd scene or profpect is to be prefented to our view, which fhould likewife 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 elegant turns on the words, which render the numbers extremely fweet and pleasing. As for the numbers themfelves, tho' they are properly of the heroic measure, they fhould be the fmootheft, the most 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 deliver'd as that art is in perfection, they must of neceffity be deriv'd from thofe in whom it is acknowledg'd fo to be. 'Tis therefore from the practice of Theocritus and Virgil, (the only undifputed authors of Paftoral) that the Criticks have drawn the foregoing notions concerning it.
Theocritus excells all others in nature and fimplicity. The fubjects of his Idyllia are purely pastoral, but he is not fo exact in his perfons,
having introduced Reapers and fishermen as well as fhepherds. He is apt to be long in his defcriptions, of which that of the Cup in the first paftoral is a remarkable instance. In the manners he feems a little defective, for his fwains are fometimes abusive and immodeft, and perhaps too much inclining to rufticity; for instance, in his fourth and fifth Idyllia. But 'tis enough that all others learn'd 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 has the principal part, is much fuperior to his master. Tho' fome of his fubjects are not paftoral in themselves, but only feem to be fuch; they have a wonderful variety in them which the Greek was a stranger to. He exceeds him in regularity and brevity, and falls fhort of him in nothing but fimplicity and propriety of ftyle; the firft of which perhaps was the fault of his age, and the last of his language.
Among the moderns, their fuccefs has been greatest who have moft endeavour'd to make thefe ancients their pattern. The most confiderable Genius appears in the famous Taffo, and our Spenfer. Taffo in his Aminta has as far excell'd all the Paftoral writers, as in his Gierufalemme he has outdone the Epic Poets of his country 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 confider'd as a copy of the ancients. Spenfer's Calender, in Mr. Dryden's opinion, is the most complete work of this kind which any Nation has produc'd ever fince the time of Virgil. Not but 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 style 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 still the fame, nor always well chofen. This laft may be the reafon his expreffion is fometimes not concise enough for the Tetraflic has oblig'd him to extend his fense to the length of four lines, which would have been more closely confin'd in the Couplet.
In the manners, thoughts, and characters, he comes near Theocritus himfelf; 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 perfons; whereas the old English and country phrafes of Spenfer were either entirely obfolete, or fpoken only by people of the bafeft condition. As there is a difference betwixt fimplicity and rufticity, fo the expreffion of fimple thoughts fhould be plain, but not clownish. The addition he has made of a Calendar