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Discourse on PASTORAL.
Written in the Year MDCCIV.
Rura mihi et rigui placeant in vallibus amnes, Flumina amem, fylvasque, inglorius ! VIRG.
HERE are not, I believe, a greater num
ber of any sort of verses than of those which are called Pastorals; nor a smaller, than of those which are truly fo. It therefore seems necesiary to give some account of this kind of Poem, and it is my design to comprize in this short paper the substance of those numerous dissertations the Critics have made on the subject, without omitting any of their rules in my own favour. You will also find some points reconciled, about which they seem to differ, and a few remarks, which, I think, have escaped their observation.
The original of Poetry 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 fort of poetry was probably pafloral". It is natural to imagine, that the leisure of those antient Thepherds admitting and inviting fome
a Written at fixteen years
age. P. → Fontenelle's Disc. on Paftorals. P.
diversion, none was so proper to that folitary and sedentary life as singing ; and that in their songs they took occasion 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 since the life of thepherds was attended with more tranquillity than any other rural employment, the Poets chose to introduce their Persons, from whom it received the name of Pastoral.
A Pastoral is an imitation of the action of a shepherd, or one considered 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 rustic: the thoughts are plain, yet admit a little quickness and passion, 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 expressions are full of the greatest fimplicity in nature, The complete character of this
consists 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 is an image of what they call the golden age. So that we are not to describe 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 resemblance yet further, it would not be amiss to give these shepherds some skill in astronomy, as far as it may be useful to that sort 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
of writing; the connection should be loose, the narrations and descriptions short°, and the periods concise. Yet it is not sufficient, that the sentences only be brief, the whole Eclogue should be so too. For we cannot suppose Poetry in those days to have been the buliness of men, but their recreation at yacant hours.
But with a respect to the present age, nothing more conduces to make these composures natural, than when some Knowledge in rural affairs is difcovered'. This may be made to appear rather done by chance than on design, and sometimes is best shewn by inference; left by too much study to seem natural, we destroy that easy fimplicity
Rapin, Reflex. sur l'Art Poet. d' Arift. p. 2. Refl. xxvii, P. Pref. to Virg. Past. in Dryd. Virg. P.,