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may be conceived then to have been; when the best of men followed the employment. To carry this refemblance yet further, it would not be amifs to give these fhepherds fome skill 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 fome relifh 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 should be fo too. For we cannot suppose Poetry in those days to have been the bufinefs of men, but their recreation at vacant hours.
But with respect to the prefent age, nothing more conduces to make these compofures natural, than when fome Knowledge in rural affairs is difcovered t. This may be made to appear rather done by chance than on defign, and fometimes is beft fhewn by inference; left by too much ftudy to feem natural, we destroy that eafy fimplicity from whence arifes the delight. For what is inviting in this fort of poetry proceeds not so much from the Idea of that business, as the tranquillity of a country life.
We must therefore use fome illufion to render a Paftoral delightful; and this confists in expofing the beft fide only of a fhepherd's life, and in concealing its miferies ‡.
* Rapin, Reflex. fur l'Art Poet. d'Arist. xxvii.
+ Pref. to Virg. Paft. in Dryd. Virg.
p. 2. Reflex.
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 some particular beauty in itself, and that it be different in every Eclogue. Befides, in each of them a designed scene or prospect is to be prefented to our view, which should likewife 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; fometimes by infifting a little on circumftances; and, lastly, by elegant turns on the words, which render the numbers extremely sweet and pleafing. As for the numbers themfelves, though they are properly of the heroic measure, they should be the smootheft, 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 delivered as that art is in perfection, they must of neceffity be derived from thofe 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 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 shepherds. He is apt
*See the forementioned Preface.
† @dpiɛtai, Idyl. x. and maiɛn, Idyl. xxi.
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 fwains are fometimes abufive and immodeft, and perhaps too much inclining to rufticity; for instance, in his fourth and fifth Idyllia. But it is enough that all others learned their excellence 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 master. Though fome of his fubjects are not paftoral in themselves, but only seem 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 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 confiderable Genius appears in the famous Taffo, and our Spenfer. Taffo in his Aminta has as far excelled all the Paftoral writers, as in his Gierufalemme he has outdone the Epic poets of his country. But as his 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
*Rapin, Refl. on Arist. part ii. Refl. xxvii. -Pref. to the Ecl. in Dryden's Virg.
Spenser's Calendar, in Mr. Dryden's opi
ancients. nion, is the most complete work of this kind which nation has produced ever fince the time of Virgil *. Not but that he may be thought imperfect in some 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 the Mantuan had done before him. He has employed the Lyric measure, which is contrary to the practice of the old Poets. His ftanza is not ftill the fame, nor always well chofen. This last may be the reason his expreffion is fometimes not concife enough for the Tetrastic has obliged him to extend his fenfe 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 the time of Theocritus; it was used in part of Greece, and frequent in the mouths of many of the greateft perfons: whereas the old English and country phrases of Spenfer were either entirely obfolete, or fpoken only by people of the lowest 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 to his Eclogues, is very beautiful; fince by this, befides the general moral of
Dedication to Virg. Ecl.
innocence and fimplicity, which is common to other authors of Paftoral, he has one peculiar to himself; he compares human Life to the several Seasons, and at once exposes to his readers a view of the great and little worlds, in their various changes and afpects. Yet the fcrupulous division of his Paftorals into Months, has obliged him either to repeat the fame description, in other words, for three months together; or, when it was exhausted before, entirely to omit it: whence it comes to pass 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 defcription, as it may every season.
Of the following Eclogues I fhall only fay, that thefe four comprehend all the subjects which the Critics upon Theocritus and Virgil will allow to be fit for pastoral: That they have as much variety of defcription, in respect of the feveral feasons, as Spenfer's: That, in order to add to this variety, the feveral times of the day are obferved, 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 fome good old Authors, whofe works as I had leisure to study, fo, I hope, I have not wanted care to imitate.