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Difcourfe on PASTORA L.

Written in the Year M DCC IV.

Rura mihi et rigui placeant in vallibus amnes,
Flumina amem, fylvafque, inglorius!

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HERE are not, I believe, a greater number of any fort of verfes than of those which are called Paftorals; nor a fmaller, than of thofe which are truly fo.It therefore feems neceffary to give fome account of this kind of Poem, and it is my defign to comprize in this fhort paper the fubftance of thofe numerous differtations the Critics have made on the fubject, without omitting any of made ar. You will allo find


fome points, reconciled, about which they seem to differ, and a few remarks, which, I think, have efcaped their obfervation.

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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 moft ancient fort of poetry was probably paftoralt. It is natural to ima-! gine, that the leifare 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 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.

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A Paftoral is an imitation of the action of a fhepherd, or one confidered under that character. The form of this imitation is dramatic, or narrative, of 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; 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 de lightful.

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 best of men followed the employment. To carry this refemblance yet farther, it would not be amifs to give these shepherds fome skill in astronomy, 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 vifibly appears in all the works of antiquity: and it ought to preferve

Heinfius in Thecer. P. + Rapin 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 should 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 fome Knowledge in rural affairs is discovered 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 life.

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 miferies 1. 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 should 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 lastly, by *Rapin, Reflex, fur l'Art Poet. d'Arift. p. 2. Reft, xxvii. -P.

+ Pref. to Virg. Paft. in Dryd. Virg. Fontenelle's Difc. of Paftorals.

See the forementioned Preface.



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