« PreviousContinue »
Shews how the art of cobling bears
A scrap of parchment hung by geometry
Thus Partridge, by his wit and parts,
peep upon a twinkling star.
Befides, he could confound the Spheres,
Great scholars have in Lucian read,
took a diff'rent side i
Thus Partridge still shines in each art,
Triumphant ftar ! fome pity shew
Thou, high exalted in thy fphere,
To thee the Bull will lend his hide,
toote C H A P. XI:
Of the P AS TO R: A L.
Paftor, a Shepherd; the subject of it being fomething in the Pastoral or rural life; and the persons, or in-. terlocutors, introduced in it, either. Thepherds or other: rusticks.
These poems are. frequently called Eclogues, which fignifies seleet or choice pieces; tho' some account for this name. after a different manner. They are also called Bucolicks from Buxoro , a Herdsman.
“ The original of poetry, says Mr. Pope, is ascribed to " that age which succeeded the creation of the world : " and as the keeping of flocks seems to have been the first “ employment of mankind, the most ancient sort of poe
try was probably Pafioral. It is natural to imagine, " that the leisure of those ancient Mepherds admitting and
inviting fome diversion, none was so proper to that soli. “ tary and sedentary life as finging; and that in their
fongs they took occasion to celebrate their own felicity. " From hence a poem was invented, and afterwards, im
proved to a perfect image of that happy time ; which by giving us an esteem for the virtues of a former age,
* Tibia brachia contrahet ingens
es might recommend them to the present. And since the
life of thepherds was attended with more tranquility « than any other rural employment, the poets chose to « introduce their persons, from whom it received the name w of Pafloral."
Scaliger, and Fontenelle are of Mr. Pope's opinion, and fuppose that Pastorals were the first poems ; but this conclufion seems not to be drawn from nature and reason. As man in the infant state of the world, was undoubtedly ftruck with an awful idea of God, arising from a consideration of his works of creation, so must he be very early led to supplicate and adore that divine Being on whom he perceived his existence depended ; it is more natural, and more rational, therefore, to suppose that the first poems where hymns or odes made in praise of the Deity. We may allow shepherds indeed to have been the firit poets, but we cannot suppose that Paftorals were the firft poems; Gince it is more reasonable to conclude that the ancients would prefer the praise of the Creator to that of his crea. tures. But controversies of this sort are beside our purpose.
This kind of poem, when happily executed, gives great delight ; nor is it a wonder, fince innocence and fimplicity generally please: To which let me add, that the scenes of Pastorals are always laid in the country, where both poet and painter have abundant matter for the exercise of genius, such as inchanting prospects, purling streams, Ihady groves, enamelled meads, Rowery:lawns, rural amuse. ments, the bleating of flocks, and the musick of birds ; which is of all melody the moft sweet and pleasing, and calls to my mind the wisdom and taste of Alexander, who on being importuned to hear a man that imitated the notes of the Nightingale, and was thought a great curiofixy, replied, that he had had the happiness of hearing the Nightingale berself.
The character of the Pastoral confifts in fimplicity, bre. vity, and delicacy; the two first render an eclogue natural, and the last delightful. With respect to nature, indeed, we are to consider, that as a pastoral is an image of the ancient times of innocence and undesigning plainness, we are not to describe shepherds as they really are at this day, but as they may be conceiv'd then to have been, when the best of men, and even princes, followed the employment. For this reafon an air of piety should run through the whole poem, which is visible in the writings of antiquity,
To make it natural with respect to the present age, fome knowledge in rural affairs should be discovered, and that in such a manner, as if it was done by chance rather than by design ; left by too much pains to seem natural that simplicity be destroyed from whence arises the delight ; for what is so engaging in this kind of poefy proceeds not so much from the idea of a country life itself, as in expofing only the best part of a fhephera's life, and concealing the misfortunes and miseries which sometimes attend it. Be. fides, the subject must contain some particular beauty in itself, and each eclogue present a scene or prospect to our view enriched with variety · which variety is in a great measure obtained by frequent comparisons drawn from the most agreeable objects of the country; by interrogations to things inanimate ; by short and beautiful digreffions ; and by elegant turns on the words, which ręnder the numbers more sweet and pleasing. To this let me add, that the connections must be negligent, the narrations and deferiptions short, and the periods concise.
Riddles, parables, proverbs, antique phrases, and superftitious fables are fit materials to be intermixed with this kind of poem. They are here, when properly applied, very ornamental; and the more so, as they give our modern compositions the air of the ancient manner of: writing
The style of the Pafloral ought to be humble, yet pure ; neat, but not florid ; easy, and yet lively: and the numbers should be smooth and flowing.
This poem in general should be short, and ought never much to exceed an hundred lines; for we are to consider that the ancients made these fort of compositions their amusement, and not their bufiness : but however short they are, every eclogue must contain a plot or fable, which must be simple and one; but yet so managed as to admit of thort digressions. Virgil has always observed this-I shall give you the plot or argument of his first Pastoral as an example.
Melibæus, an unfortunate flaepherd, is introduced with Tityrus, one in more fortunate circumstances; the former addresses the complaint of his sufferings and banishment to the lat. ter, who enjoys his flocks and folds in the midst of the public calamity, and therefore expresses his gratitude to the benefactor
from whom this favour flow'd: but Melibæus accuses fortune, civil wars, and bids adieu to his native country. This is therefore a dialogue.
But we are to observe, that the poet is not always obliged to make his eclogue allegorical, and to have real persons represented by the fietitious characters introduced ; but is in this respect entirely at his own liberty.
Nor does the nature of the poem require it to be always carried on by way of dialogue ; for a shepherd may with propriety fing the praises of his love, complain of her inconstancy, lament her absence, her death, &c. and address himself to groves, hills, rivers, and fuch like rural objects, even when alone.
We shall now give examples from each of those authors who have eminently diftinguish'd themfelves by this manner of writing, and introduce them in the order of time in which they were written.
Theocritus, who was the father or inventor of this kind of poetry, has been deservedly esteemed by the best critics ; and by fome, whose judgement we cannot difpute, prefer's to all other Pastoral writers. We shall infert his third Idyllium, not because it is the best, but because it is within our compass, and we are favoured with an elegant version of it by Mr. FAWKES ; who will soon oblige the public with an entire translation of this favourite author.
AMARYLLIS : Or the third Idyllium of THEOCRITUS.
To Amaryllis, lovely Nymph, I speed,