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THERE are not, I believe, a greater, number of any fort of verfes than of thofe which are called Paftorals; nor a smaller, than of thofe which are truly fo. It therefore seems neceffary to give fome account of this kind of Poèm, 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 their rules in my own favour. You will also find fome points reconciled, about which they feem to differ, and a few remarks, which, I think, have efcaped their obfervation.

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 firft employment of mankind, the most ancient fort of poetry was probably paftoralt. It is natural to imagine, that the leisure of those ancient fhepherds admitting and inviting fome diverfion, none was fo proper to that folia

*Written at fixteen years of age.
Fontenelle's Dife. on Paftorals.

ry 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 esteem for the virtues of a former age, might recommend them to the present. 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 Pastoral.

A Pastoral is an imitation of the action of a shepherd, 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; eafy, and yet lively. In fhort, the fable, manners, thoughts, and expreffions are full of the greatest fimplicity in


The complete character of this Poem confifts in fimplicity; brevity, and delicacy; the two first of which render an Eclogue natural, and the last delightful.

If we would copy Nature, it may be useful to take this Idea along with us, that Pastoral in an image of

* Heinfius in Theocrit.

Rapin de Carm, Past. p. 2.

what they call the Golden Age.

So that we are not

to defcribe our shepherds 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 refemblance yet further, it would not be amiss to give these fhepherds some skill in astronomy, as far as it may be useful to that fort of life. And an air of piety to the Gods should shine through the Poem, which fo 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 short*, 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 fuppofe Poetry in thofe days to have been the business of men, but their recreation at vacant hours.

But with refpect 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 rather to appear done by chance than on defign, and fometimes is best fhewn by inference; left by too much study to feem natural, we destroy that easy simplicity from whence arifes the delight. For what is inviting in this fort of poetry proceeds not fo much from the Idea of that business, as the tranquillity of a country life.

Rapin, Reflex. fur l' Art Poet. d' Arift. p. 2. Reflex. xxvii.

Pref. to Virg. Past, in Dryd. Virg.

We must therefore ufe fome illufion to render a Pastoral delightful; and this confifts in exposing the beft fide only of a fhepherd's life, and in concealing its miseries . Nor is it enough to introduce shepherds 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 different in every Eclogue. Befides, in each of them a designed scene or profpect is to be prefented to our view, which fhould 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 digreffions, but thofe fhort; fometimes by infifting a little on circumftances; and, laftly, by elegant turns on the words, which render the numbers extremely fwect and pleafing. As for the numbers themfelves, though they are properly of the heroic meafure, they fhould be the fmootheft, the moft 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 muft of neceffity be derived from those 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.

Fontenelle's Difc. of Paftorals.

$ See the forementioned Preface.

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