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ESSAY ON THE GEORGICS.
VIRGIL may be reckoned the first wno intro them are of a quite different character, since the duced three new kinds of poetry among the Ro precepts of husbandry are not to be delivered mans, which he copied after three the greatest with the simplicity of a ploughman, but with the masters of Greece. Theocritus and Homer have address of a poet. No rules, therefore, that restill disputed for the advantage over him in Pas- late to pastoral, can any way affect the Geortoral and Heroics; but I think all are unanimous gics, which fall under that class of poetry which in giving him the precedence to Hesiod in his consists in giving plain and direci instructions "Georgics.” The truth of it is, the sweetness to the reader; whether they be inoral duties, as and rusticity of a Pastoral cannot be so well ex those of Theognis and Pythagoras, or philosophpressed in any other tongue as in the Greek, ical speculations, as those of Aratus and Luwhen rightly mixed and qualified with the Doric cretius, or rules of practice, as those of Hesiod dialect ; nor can the majesty of a Heroic poem and Virgil. Among these different kinds of anywhere appear so well as in this language, subjects, that which the Georgic goes upon, is, which has a natural greatness in it, and can be I think, the meanest and least improving, but often rendered more deep and sonorous by the the most pleasing and delightful. Precepts of pronunciation of the Ionians. But, in the mid- morality, besides the natural corruption of our dle style, where the writers in both tongues are tempers, which makes us averse to them, are so on a level, we see how far Virgil has excelled abstracted from ideas of sense, that they seldom all who have written in the same way with him. give an opportunity for those beautiful descrip
There has been abundance of criticism spent tions and images which are the spirit and life on Virgil's “ Pastorals"and "Æneis;" but the of poetry. Natural philosophy has indeed scn"Georgics” are a subject which none of the sible objects to work upon; but then it ofien critics have sufficiently taken into their consid puzzles the reader with the intricacy of its nocration; most of them passing it over in silence, tions, and perplexes him with the multitude of its or casting it under the same head with pastoral: disputes. But this kind of poetry I am now a division by no means proper, unless we sup- speaking of addresses itself wholly to the impose the style of a husbandman ought to be imi- agination : it is altogether conversant among tated in a Georgic, as that of a shepherd is in the fields and woods, and has the most delightful a Pastoral. But, though the scene of both these part of nature for its province. It raises in our poems lies in the same place, the speakers in minds a pleasing variety of scenes and land
• Addison had already distinguished himself as a man of letters, and as an admirer of Dryden, by a copy of verses addressed to our author, and hy a translation of the Fourth Book of the Georgics, exclusive of the story of Aristaus. This last performance is liherally commended by Dryden in the Postscript to Virgil. The following Essay, which has heen much admired for judicious criticism contained in elegant language, was sent by him to our author, but without permission to prefix the writer's name. This circum. stance led Tickell to throw some reflection on Dryden, as if he had meant to assume to himself the merit of the composition. This charge was refuter! by Steele, in a letter to Congreve, prefixed to an edition of the comedy of "The Drummer," in 1722, who proves, that the Essay was the same paper which Dryden calls the Preface to the Georgics, and which he acknowledges to have been sent by a friend, whose namo he was not at liberty to make public. See the article Addison in the “* Biographia Britannica."
scapes, whilst it teaches us, and makes the Ferre pyrum, et prunis lapidosa rubescere comna driest of its precepts look like a description. A
---Steriles platani malos gessere valentes :
Castanee fagus, ornusque incanuit albo Georgic, therefore, is some part of the science of Flore pyri; glandemque sues fragere aud ulmis. husbandry put into a pleasing dress, and set of
-Nec longum tempus; et ingens
Exiit ad cælum ramis felicibus arbos; urth all the beauties and embellishments of poetry. Miraturque novas frondes, et non sua poma. Now, since this science of husbandry is of a very large extent, the poet shows his skill in Here, we see, the poet considered all the efsingling out such precepts to proceed on, as are
fects of this union between trees of different useful, and at the same time most capable of kinds, and took notice of that effect which had ornament. Virgil was so well acquainted with
the most surprise, and by consequence the most this secret, that, 10 set off his Georgics, he has delight in it, to express ihe capacity that was in run into a set of precepts, which are almost them of being thus united. This way of wriforeign to his subject, in that beautiful account ting is everywhere much in use among the he gives us of the signs in nature, which precede poets, and is particularly practised by Virgil
, the changes of the weather.
who loves to suggest a iruth indirectly, and, And, if there be so much art in the choice of without giving us a full and open view of it, to fit precepts, there is much more required in the
let us see just so much as will naturally lead the treating of them, that they may fall in after each imagination into all the parts that lie concealed. other by a natural unforced method, and show
This is wonderfully diverting to the underthemselves in the best and most advantageous standing, thus to receive a precept, that enters, light. They should all be so finely wrought lom
as it were, through a by-way, and to apprehend geiher in the same piece, that no coarse seam
an idea that draws a whole train after it. For may discover where they join; as, in a curious
here the mind, which is always delighted with brede of needlework, one colour falls away by
its own discoveries, only takes the hint from the such just degrees, and another rises so insen- poet, and seems to work out the rest by the sibly, that we see the variety, without being strength of her own faculties. able to distinguish the total vanishing of the one
But, since the inculcaling precept upon prefrom the first appearance of the other. Nor is cept will at length prove tiresome to the reader, it sufficient to range and dispuse this body of
if he meets with no other entertainment, the precepts into a clear and easy method, unless poet must take care not to encumber his poem they are delivered to us in the most pleasing and
with too much business, but sometimes to relieve agreeable manner : fur there are several ways
the subject with a moral reflection, or let it rest of conveying the same truth to the mind of man;
a while for the sake of a pleasant and pertinent and to choose the pleasantest of these ways is digression. Nor is it sufficient to run out into that which chiefly distinguishes poetry from
beautiful and diverting digressions, (as it is prose, and makes Virgil's rules of husbandry generally thought,) unless ihey are brought in pleasanter to read than Varro's. Where the aptly, and are something of a piece with the prose-writer tells us plainly what ought to be
main design of the Georgic: for they ought to done, the poet often conceals the precept in a
have a remole alliance at least to the subject, description, and represents his countryman per
that so the whole poem may be more uniform forming ihe action in which he would instruct
and agreeable in all its parts. We should never his reader. Where the one sets out, as fully quite lose sight of the country, though we are and distinctly as he can, all the parts of the truth
sometimes entertained with a distant prospect of which he would communicate to us, the other
it. Of this nature are Virgil's descriptions of singles out the most pleasing circumstance of the origin of agriculture, of the fruitfulness of this truin, and so conveys the whole in a more
Italy, of a country lise, and the like, which are diverting manner to the understanding. I shall
not brought in by force, but naturally rise out of give one instance, out of a multitude of this na
the principal argument and design of the poem. ture, that might be found in the Georgics, where
I know no one digression in the Georgics that the reader may see the different ways Virgil may seem to contradict this observation, besides has taken to express the same thing, and how
thai in the latter end of the first book, where the much pleasanter every manner of expression is, poet launches out into a discourse of the battle than the plain and direct mention of it would
of Pharsalia, and the actions of Augustus : but have been. It is in the Second Georgic, where it is worth while to consider how admirably he ne tells us what trees will bear grafting on each
has turned the course of his narration into its other:
proper channel, and made his husbandman conEt sæpe alterius ramos impune videmus
cerned even in what relates to the battle, in Vertere in alterius, mutatamque insita mala
those inimitable lines:
Scilicet et tempus venlet, cum finibus illis his great prudence, the oracle of the neighbour-
hood. These principles of good husbandry ran Aut gravibus rastris galeas pulsabil inanes, through his works, and directed him to the Grandiaque effossis mirabitur ossa sepulcris.
choice of tilage and merchandise, for the sub
ject of that which is the most celebrated of And afterwards, speaking of Augustus's ac
ihem. He is everywhere bent on instruction, tions, he still remembers, that agriculture ought avoids all manner of digressions, and does not to be some way hinted ai throughout the whole stir out of the field once in the whole Georgic. poem:
His method, in describing month after month, Non ullus aratro Dignus honos: squalent abductis arva colonis;
with ils proper seasons and employments, is 100 Et curvæ rigiduni falces conflantur in ensem. grave and simple; it takes off from the surpriso
and variety of the poem, and makes the whole We now come to the style which is proper to look but like a modern almanac in verse. The a Georgic; and indeed this is the part on which reader is carried through a course of weather, the poel must lay out all his strength, that his and may beforehand guess whether he is to meet words may be warm and glowing, and that every with snow or rain, clouds or sunshine, in the thing he desoribes may inmediately present it next description. His descriplions, indeed, self, and rise up to the reader's view. He have abundance of nature in thein; but then it oughe, in particular, to be careful of not letting is nature in her simplicity and undress. Thus, his subjeci debase his stylo, and betray him when he speaks of January, -" The wild into a meanness of expression, but everywhere beasts," says he, “run shivering through the to keep up his verse in all the pomp of numbers, woods, with their heads stooping to the ground, and digoily of words.
and their tails clapped between their legs; the I think nothing, which is a phrase or saying goats and oxen are almost Aayed ifith cold: but in common lalk, should be admitted into a so it is not so bad with the sheep, because they rious poem; because it takes off from the solem- have a thick coat of wool about them. The old nity of the expression, and gives it too great a men too are bitterly pinched with the weather : turn of fainiliarity. Much less ought the low but the young girls feel nothing of is, who sit at phrases and terms of art, that are adapted to home with their mothers by a warm fireside." husbandry, have any place in such a work as the Thus does the old gentleman give himself up to Georgic, which is not to appear in the natural a loose kind of taule, rather than endeavour simplicity and nakedness of its subject, but in after a just poetical description. Nor has he the pleasantest dress that poetry can bestow on shown inore of art or judgment in the precepts it. Thus Virgil, to deviale from the common he has given us, which are sown so very thick, form of words, would not make use of lempore, that they clng the poem too much, and are often but sidere, in his first verse, and everywhere so minute and full of circumstances, that they else abounds with metaphors, Grecisms, and weaken and unnerve bis verse. But, after all, circumlocutions, to give his verse the greater we are beholden to him for the first rough sketch pomp, and preserve it from sinking into a ple- of a Georgic; where we may still discover beian style. And herein consists Virgil's mas- something venerable in the antiqueness of the ter-piece, who has not only excelled all other work : but, if we would see the design enlarged, poels, but even himself, in the language of his the figures reformed, the colouring laid on, and Georgics, where we receive more strong and the whole piece finished, we must expect it from lively ideas of things from his words, than we a greater master's hand. could have done from the objects themselves; Virgil has drawn out the rules of tillage and and find our imaginations more affected by his planting into two books, which Hesiod has desdescriptions, than they would have been by the patched in half a one; but has so raised the Tery sight of what he describes.
natural rudeness and simplicity of his subject I shall now, after this short scheme of rules, with such a significancy of expression, such a consider the different success that Hesiod and pomp of verse, such variety of transitions, and Virgil have met with in this kind of poetry, such a solemn air in his reflections, that, if we which may give us some farther notion of the look on both poels together, we see in one the excellence of the Georgics. To begin with plainness of a downrighe countryman, and, in Hesiod :-If we may guess at his character the other, sornething of a rustic majesty, like from his writings, he had much more of the bus. that of a Roman dictator at the ploughtail
. He bandman than the poet in his temper : he was delivers the meanest of his precepts with a kind wonderfully grave, discreet, and frugal: he lived of grandeur : he breaks the clods, and tosses the altogether in the country, and was probably, for dung about, with an air of gracefulness. His
prognostications of the weather are taken out of the bees to those of the Cyclops. In short, the Aratus, where we may see how judiciously he last Georgic was a good prelude to the Æneis, has picked out those that are most proper for his and very well showed what the poet could do in husbandman's observation; how he has enforced the description of what was really great, by his the expression, and heightened the images, describing the mock grandeur of an insect with which he found in the original.
so good a grace. There is more pleasantness The second book has more wit in it, and a in the little platform of a garden, which he gives greater boldness in its metaphors, than any of us about the middle of this book, than in all tho the rest. The poet, with a great beauty, ap- spacious walks and water-works of Rapin. The plies oblivion, ignorance, wonder, desire, and speech of Proiells, at the end, can never be the like, to his trees. The last Georgic has, in- enough admired, and was indeed very fit to con deed, as many metaphors, but not so daring as clude so divine a work. this; for human thoughts and passions may be After this particular account of the beauties more naturally ascribed to a bee, than to an in- in the Georgics, I should, in the next place, enanimate plant. He who reads over the pleas- deavour to point out its imperfections, if it has ures of a country lise, as they are described any. But, though I think there are some few by Virgil in the latter end of this book, can parts in it that are not so beautiful as the rest, scarce be of Virgil's mind in preferring even tho I shall not presume to name them, as rather suslife of a philosopher to it.
pecting my own judgment, than I can believe a We may, I think, read the poet's clime in his fault to be in that poem, which lay so long undescription; for he seems to have been in a der Virgil's correction, and had his last hand sweat at the writing of it:
put to it. The First Georgic was probably burO! qui me gelidis in vallibus Hæmi lesqued in the author's lifetime ; for we still Sistat, et ingenti ramorum protegal umbra - find in the scholiasts a verse that ridicules part and is everywhere mentioning, among his chief of a line translated from Hesiod-Nudus ara, pleasures, the coolness of his shades and rivers, sere nudus : And we may easily guess at the vales and grottoes, which a more northern poet judgment of this extraordinary critic, whoever would have omitted, for the description of a sun- he was, from his censuring this particular preny hill and fireside.
cepl. We may be sure Virgil would not have The Third Georgic seems to be the most la- translated it from Hesiod, had he not discovered boured of them all: there is a wonderful vigour some beauty in it; and indeed the beauty of it and spirit in the description of the horse and is, what I have before observed to be frequently chariot race.
The force of love is represented met with in Virgil, the delivering the precept so in noble instances, and very sublime expres- indirectly, and singling out the particular cirsions. The Scythian winter-piece appears so cumstance of sowing and ploughing naked, to very cold and bleak to the eye, that a man can suggest to us, that these employments are proper scarce look on it without shivering. The mure only in the hot season of the year. rain, at the end, has all the expressiveness that I shall not here compare the style of the words can give. It was here that the poet Georgics with that of Lucretius, (which the strained hard to outdo Lucretius in the de- reader may seo already done in the preface 10 scription of his Plague: and, if the reader would the second volume of Miscellany Poems,) but see what success he had, he may find it at large shall conclude this poem to be the most comin Scaliger.
plete, elaborate, and finished piece of all anBut Virgil seems nowhere so well pleased, tiquity. The Æneis, indeed, is of a nobler as when he is got among his Bees in the Fourth kind; but the Georgic is more perfect in its Georgic; and ennobles the actions of so trivial kind. The Æneis has a greater variety of a creature, with metaphors drawn from the most beauties in it; but those of the Georgic are important concerns of mankind. His verses are more exquisite. In short, the Georgic has all not in a greater noise and hurry in the battles of the perfection that can be expected in a poem Æneas and Turnus, than in the engagement of written by the greatest poet in the power of his two swarms. And as, in his Æneis, he com- age, when his invention was ready, his imagipares the labours of his Trojans to those of bees nation warm, his judgment settled, and all his and pismires, here he compares the labours of faculties in their full vigour and maturity.
THE POEMS OF DRYDEN.
TRANSLATIONS FROM VIRGIL.
And the hoarse raven, on the blasted bough,
By croaking from the left, presaged the coming OR,
blow, TITYRUS AND MELIBEUS.
But tell me, Tityrus, what heavenly pow'r
Preserv'd your fortune in that fatal hour ?
Augustus had settled himself in the Roman em.
Like Mantua, where on market days we come, their past service, he distributed among them all And thither drive our tender lambs from home. the lands that lay about Cremona and Mantua ;
So kids and whelps their sires and dams exturning out the right owners for having sided with his enemies. Virgil was a sufferer among
press; the rest; who afterwards recovered his estate by And so the great I measur'd by the less. Mæcenas's intercession, and, as an instance of his gratitude, composed the following pastoral,
But country towns, compar'd with her, appear where he sets out his own good fortune in the Like shrubs, when lofty cypresses are near. person of Tityrus, and the calamities of his Man
MELIBEUS. tuan neighbours in the character of Melibceus.
What great occasion call'd you hence to Rome? MELIBUS. Beneath the shade which beechen boughs Freedom, which came at length, tho’ slow to
diffuse, You, Tityrus, entertain your sylvan muse. Nor did my search of liberty begin, Round the wide world in banishment we roam, Till my black hairs were chang'd upon my Forc'd from our pleasing fields and native
[loves, Nor Amaryllis would vouchsafe a look, While, stretch'd at ease, you sing your happy Till Galatea's meaner bonds I broke And Amaryllis fills the shady groves.
Till then a helpless, hopeless, homely swain, TITYRUS.
I sought not freedom, nor aspired to gain : These blessings, friend, a deity bestow'd; Though many a victim from my folds was For never can I deem him less than God.
bought, The tender firstlings of my woolly breed And many a cheese to country markets brought, Shall on his holy altar often bleed.
Yet all the little that I gou, I spent, He gave me kine to graze the flow'ry plain, And still returned as empty as I went. And to my pipe renew'd the rural strain.
We stood amaz'd to see your mistress mour, I envy not your fortune but adınire,
Unknowing that she pin'd for your return: That, while the raging sword and wasteful fire We wonder'd why she kept her frui: so long, Destroy the wretched neighbourhood around, For whom so late th’ungather'd apples hung. No hostile arms approach your happy ground. But now the wonder ceases, since I see Far diff'rent is my fate : my feeble goats She kept them only, Tityrus, for thee. With pains I drive from their forsaken cotes. For thee the bubbling springs appear'd to mourn, And this, you see, I scarcely drag along, And whisp'ring pines made vows for thy reWho, yeaning, on the rocks has left her young;
turn. The hope and promise of my falling fold. My loss, by dire portents the gods foretold; What should I do?-While here I was enFor, had I not been blind, I might have seen :
chain'd Yon riven oak, the fairest of the green, No glimpse of godlike liberty remain'd;