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The grave cadence becomes still more sensible when the pause follows the seventh syllable. This kind of verse however, seldom occurs; and its effect is to diversify the melody.
And in the smooth, descriptive | murmur still,
Our blank verse is a noble, bold and disincumbered mode of versification. It is free from the full close, which rhyme forces upon the ear at the end of every couplet. Hence it is peculiarly suited to subjects of dignity and force. It is more favourable than rhyme to the sublime and highly pathetic. It is the most proper for an epic poem and for tragedy. Rhyme finds its proper place in the middle regions of poetry; and blank verse in the highest.
The present form of our English heroic rhyme in couplets is modern. The measure used in the days of Elizabeth, James, and Charles I. was the stanza of eight lines. Waller was the first who introduced cou. plets; and Dryden established the usage. Waller smoothed our verse, and Dryden perfected it. The versi. fication of Pope is peculiar. It is flowing, smooth, and correct in the highest degree. He has totally thrown aside the triplets so common in Dryden. In ease and variety, Dryden excels Pope. He frequently makes his couplets run into one another with somewhat of the freedom of blank verse,
IT was not before men had begun to assemble in great cities, and the bustle of courts and large societies was known, that pastoral poetry assumed its present form. From the tumult of a city life, men looked back ! with complacency to the innocence of rural retirement.
In the court of Ptolemy, Teocritus wrote the first pas torals with which we are acquainted; and in the court of Augustus, Virgil imitated him.
The pastoral is a very agreeable species of poetry. It lays before us the gay and pleasing scenes of nature. It recals objects which are commonly the delight of our childhood and youth. It exhibits a life with which we associate ideas of innocence, peace and leisure. It transports us into Elysian regions. It presents many objects favourable to poetry; rivers and mountains, meadows and hills, rocks and trees, flocks and shepherds void of care.
A pastoral poet is careful to exhibit whatever is most pleasing in the pastoral state. He paints its simplicity, tranquility, innocence, and happiness; but conceals its rudeness and misery. If his pictures be not those of real life, they must resemble it. This is a general idea of pastoral poetry. But, to understand it more perfectly, let us consider. 1. The scenery:
2. The characters; and lastly, the subjects it should exhibit.
The scene must always be in the country; and the poet must have a talent for description. In this respect, Virgil is excelled by Theocritus, whose descriptions are richer and more picturesque. In every pastoral, a rural prospect should be drawn with distinctness. It is not enough to have unmeaning groups of roses and violets, of birds, breezes, and brooks thrown together. A good poet gives such a landscape as a painter might copy. His objects are particularized. The stream, the rock, or the tree, so stands forth as to make a figure in the imagination, and give a pleasing conception, of the place where we are.
. In his allusions to natural objects as well as in professed descriptions of the scenery, the poet must study variety. He must diversify his face of nature by presenting us new images. He must also suit the scenery to the subject of his pastoral; and exhibit nature under such forms as may correspond with the emotions and sentiments he describes. Thus Virgil, when he gives the lamentation of a despairing lover, communicates a gloom to the scene.
Tantum inter densas, umbrosa cacumina, fagos,
Montibus et sylvis studio jactabat inani.
With regard to the characters in pastorals, it is not sufficient that they be persons residing in the country. Courtiers and citizens who resort thither occasionally, are not the characters expected in pastorals. We ex. pect to be entertained by shepherds, or persons wholly engaged in rural occupations. The shepherd/must be plain and unaffected in his manner of thinking. An amiable simplicity must be the ground-work of his character; though there is no necessity for his being dull and insipid. He may have good sense, and even vivas city; tender and delicate feelings. But he must never deal in general reflections, lor abstract reasonings ;. nor in conceits of gallantry; for these are consequences of refinement. When Aminta ih Tasso is disentangling his mistress's hair from the tree, to which a savage had bound it, he is made to say, "Cruel tree, how couldst "thou injure that lovely hair, which did thee so much "honour? Thy rugged trunk was not worthy of so love
ly knots. What advantage have the servants of love, "if those precious chains are common to them and to "trees?" Strained sentiments, like these, suit not the woods. The language of rural personages is that of plain sense and natural feeling; as in the following beautiful lines of Virgil:
941 1 Sepibus in nostris parvam te roscida mala
(Dux ego vester eram) vidi cum matre legentem ;
The next inquiry is, what are the proper subjects of pastorals? For it is not enough that the poet give us shepherds discoursing together. Every good poem has a subject that in some way (interests us. In this lies the difficulty of pastoral writing. The active scenes of country life are too barren of incidents. The condition of a shepherd has few things in it that excite curiosity or surprise. Hence of all poems the pastoral is host meagre in subject, and least diversified in strain. Yet this defect is not to be ascribed solely to barrenness. of subjects. It is in a great measure, the fault of the poet. For human nature and human passions are much the same in every situation and rank of life. What a variety of objects within the rural sphere do the passions present The struggles and ambition of shepherds; their adventures; their disquiet and felicity; the rivalship of lovers ; unexpected successes and disasters; are all proper subjects for the pastoral musega),
Theocritus and Virgil are the two great fathers of pastoral writing. For simplicity of sentiment, harmony of numbers, and richness of scenery, the former is highly distinguished. But he sometimes descends to ideas that are gross and mean, and makes his shep.. herds abusive and immodest. Virgil on the contrary preserves the pastoral simplicity without any offensive rusticity.. ́*
Modern 'writers of pastorals have in general imitated the ancient poets. Sannazarius, however, a Latin poet, 624 1