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fome relifh of the old way of writing; the connection should be loose, the narrations and descriptions 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 respect to the prefent age, nothing more conduces to make these compofures natural, than when some Knowledge in rural affairs is discovered +. 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 use 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 miferiest. 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 fome particular beauty in itself, and that it be different in every Eclogue. Befides, in each of them a defigned scene or profpect is to be presented to our view, which should likewife have its variety. This variety is obtain'd in a great degree by frequent comparisons, drawn from the moft agreeable objects of the country; by interrogations to things inanimate; by beautiful digreffions, but thofe fhort; fometimes by infifting a little on circumstances; and lastly, by * Rapin, Reflex. fur l'Art Poet. d'Arift. p. 2. Ref. xxvii. P.
+ Pref. to Virg. Paft. in Dryd. Virg. Fonnelle's Difc. of Paftorals.
See the forementioned Preface.
elegant turns on the words, which render the num bers extremely sweet and pleafing. As for the numbers themselves, though they are properly of the heroic measure, they fhould be the fmootheft, the most easy 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 must 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.
Theocritus excels all others in nature and fimplicity. The fubjects of his Idyllia are purely paftoral; but he is not fo exact in his perfons, having introduced reapers and fifhermen as well as fhepherds. He is apt to be too long in his defcriptions, of which that of the Cup in the firft paftoral is a remarkable inftance. In the manners he feems a little defective, for his fwains are fometimes abusive 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 excellen`cies 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 pastoral in themselves, but only feem to be fuch; they have a wonderful variety in them, which the Greek was a ftranger to t. He exceeds him in regularity and brevity, and falls fhort of him in nothing but fimplicity,
OEPIETAI Idyl. x. and AAIEIE Idyl. xxi.
+ Rapin Ref. on Arift. part ii. refl. xxvii.-Pref. to the
Ecl. in Dryden's Virg.
and propriety of ftyle; the firft of which perhaps was the fault of his age, and the laft of his language.
Among the moderns, their success has been greateft who have most endeavour'd to make these ancients their pattern. The moft confiderable Genius appears in the famous Taffo, and our Spenfer. Taffo in his Aminta has as far excelled all the Paftoral writers, as in his Gierufalemme he has out-done the Epic poets of his country. But as this piece feems to have been the original of a new fort of poem, the Paftoral Comedy, in Italy, it cannot fo well be confidered as a copy of the ancients. Spenfer's Calendar, in Mr. Dryden's opinion, is the most complete work of this kind which any nation has produced ever fince the time of Virgil *. Not but that he may be thought imperfect in fome few points. His Eclogues are fomewhat too long, if we compare them with the ancients. He is fometimes too allegorical, and treats of matters of religion in a paftoral ftyle, as Mantuan had done before him. He has employ'd the Lyric measure, which is contrary to the practice of the old Poets. His Stanza is not ftill the fame, nor always well chofen. This last may be the reafon his expreffion is fometimes not concife enough for the Tetrastic has obliged him to extend his fenfe to the length of four lines, which would have been more closely confined in the Couplet.
In the manners, thoughts, and characters, he comes near to Theocritus himself; tho', notwithstanding all the care he has taken, he is certainly inferior in his Dialect: For the Doric had its beauty and propriety in the time of Theocritus; it was used in part of Greece, and frequent in the mouths of many of the greateft perfons: whereas the old Englifh and country phrafes of Spenfer were either en
* Dedication to Virg. Ecl. P.
tirely obfolete, or fpoken only by people of the loweft condition. As there is a difference betwixt fimplicity and rufticity, fo the expreffion of fimple thoughts fhould be plain, but not clownish. The addition he has made of a Calendar to his Eclogues, is very beautiful; fince by this, befides the general moral of innocence and fimplicity, which is common to other authors of Paftoral, he has one peculiar to himself; he compares human Life to the feveral Seafons, and at once exposes to his readers a view of the great and little worlds, in their various changes and afpects. Yet the fcrupulous divifion of his Paftorals into Months, has obliged him either to repeat the fame description, in other words, for three months together; or, when it was exhaufted before, entirely to omit it: whence it comes to pass that fome of his Eclogues (as the fixth, eighth, and tenth for example) have nothing but their Titles to diftinguish them. The reason is evident, because the year has not that variety in it to furnish every month with a particular description, as it may every season.
Of the following Eclogues I fhall only fay, that thefe four comprehend all the fubjects which the Critics upon Theocritus and Virgil will allow to be fit for paftoral: That they have as much variety of description, in respect of the several seasons, as Spenfer's that in order to add to this variety, the feveral times of the day are obferv'd, the rural employments in each season or time of day, and the rural fcenes or places proper to fuch employments; not without fome regard to the feveral ages of man, and the different paffions proper to each age.
But after all, if they have any merit, it is to be attributed to fome good old Authors, whofe works as I had leisure to ftudy, fo I hope I have not wanted care to imitate.
To Sir WILLIAM TRUMBal.
IRST in these fields I try the fylvan ftrains, Nor blush to sport on Windfor's blissful plains: Fair Thames, flow gently from thy facred spring, While on thy banks Sicilian Muses sing;
Thefe Paftorals were written at the age of fixteen, and then paft thro' the hands of Mr. Walsh, Mr. Wycherley, G. Granville afterwards Lord Lanfdown, Sir William Trumbal, Dr. Garth, Lord Hallifax, Lord Somers, Mr. Mainwaring, and others. All these gave our author the greatest encouragement, and particularly Mr. Walsh (whom Mr. Dryden, in his Poftfcript to Virgil, calls the best critic of his age.) "The Author (fays he) feems to have a
particular genius for this kind of Poetry, and a judg"ment that much exceeds his years. He has taken very "freely from the Ancients. But what he has mixed of "his own with theirs is no way inferior to what he has "taken from them. It is not flattery at all to say that