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DISCOURSE

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PASTORAL POETRYa.

ΤΗ

HERE are not, I believe, a greater number of any fort of verses than of those which are called Paftorals; nor a fmaller, than of those which are truly fo. It therefore seems neceflary to give fome account of this kind of Poem, and it is my design to comprize in this short- paper the

substance of those numerous differtations the Critics have made on the subject, without omitting any of their rules in my own favour. You will also find fome points reconciled, about which they seem to differ, and a few remarks, which, I think, have escaped their observation.

The original of Poetry is afcribed to that Age which fucceeded the creation of the world: and as the keeping of flocks seems to have been the first employment of mankind, the most ancient fort of poetry was probably paftoral. It is natural to

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imagine, that the leisure of those antient shepherds 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 invented, and afterwards improved to a perfect image of that happy time; which by giving us an efteem 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.

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, or 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; easy, and yet lively. In short, the fable, manners, thoughts, and expreffions are full of the greatest fimplicity in nature.

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The complete character of this poem confifts in fimplicity, brevity, and delicacy; the two first of which render an eclogue natural, and the laft delightful.

C Heinfius in Theocr. P.

Rapin de Carm. Past. p. 2. P.

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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 describe our fhepherds as thepherds 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 resemblance yet further, it would not be amiss to give these shepherds fome skill in astronomy, as får as it may be useful to that fort of life. And an air of piety to the Gods should shine through the Poem, which so visibly appears in all the works of antiquity: and it ought to preserve some relish of the old way of writing; the connection should 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 fhould be fo too. For we cannot fuppose 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 composures natural, than when fome Knowledge in rural affairs is difcovered. This may be made to appear rather done by chance than on design, and sometimes is beft fhewn by inference; left by too much study to seem natural, we deftroy that eafy fimplicity from whence arifes the delight. For what is in

Rapin, Reflex. fur l'Art Poet. d'Arift. p. 2. Refl, xxvii. P.
Pref. to Virg. Paft. in Dryd. Virg. P,

viting in this fort of poetry proceeds not fo much from the Idea of that business, as of the tranquillity of a country life.

We must therefore use fome illufion to render a Paftoral delightful; and this confifts in expofing the best fide only of a fhepherd's life, and in concealing its miseries. Nor is it enough to introduce fhepherds difcourfing together in a natural way; but a regard must be had to the subject; that it contain some particular beauty in itself, and that it be different in every Eclogue. Besides, in each of them a defigned scene or profpect is to be prefented to our view, which should likewise 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 digreffions, but those short; fometimes by infifting a little on circumftances; and laftly, by elegant turns on the words, which render the numbers extremely sweet and pleafing. As for the numbers themselves, though they are properly of the heroic measure, they should be the smootheft, the most easy and flowing, imaginable.

It is by rules like these that we ought to judge of Pastoral. 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 those

Fontenelle's Difc. of Paftorals. P.

See the forementioned Preface. P.

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 excels all others in nature and fimplicity. The subjects of his Idyllia are purely paftoral; but he is not fo exact in his perfons, hav ing introduced reapers' and fishermen as well as hepherds. He is apt to be too long in his defcriptions, of which that of the Cup in the first paftoral is a remarkable inftance. In the manners he feems a little defective, for his swains are sometimes abufive and immodeft, and perhaps too much inclining to rufticity; for inftance, in his fourth and fifth Idyllia. But 'tis enough that all others learnt 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 is principally concerned, he is much fuperior to his mafter. Though fome of his fubjects are not paftoral in themselves, but only feem to be such; they have a wonderful variety in them, which the Greek was a stranger tom. He exceeds him in regularity and brevity, and falls fhort of him in

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ΘΕΡΙΣΤΑΙ, Idyl. x. and ΑΛΙΕΙΣ, Idyl. xxi. P.

Rapin Refl. on Arift. part ii. refl. xxvii.

Ecl. in Dryden's Virg. P.

Pref. to the

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