Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

P A S T O R A L S,

WITH A

DISCOURSE

ON

PASTORAL

By ALEXANDER POPE, Efq;

Rura mihi & rigui placeant in vallibus amnes,
Flumina amem, fylvasque, inglorius !

VIRG.

[blocks in formation]
[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

А

DISCOURS E

ON

PASTORAL POETRY.

T

HERE are not, I believe, a greater number of

any sort of verses than of those which are called

Paftorals; nor a smaller, than of those which are truly fo. It therefore seems neceffary 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 differtations the critics have made on the subject, without omitting any of their rúles in my own favour. You will also find some points reconciled, about which they feem to differ, and a few remarks which I think have escaped their observation.

ral.

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 antient sort of poetry was probably pasto

'Tis natural to imagine, that the leisure of those ancient shepherds requiring fome diversion, none was fo proper to that folitary life as singing; and that in their songs they took occasion to celebrate their own felicity. From hence a Poein was invented, and afterwards improved to a perfect image of that happy time; which;

by

B 2

by giving us an esteem for the virtues of a former age, might recoinmend them to the present. And since the life of shepherds was attended with more tranquillity than any other rural employment, the Poets chose to introduce their persons, from whom it received the name of Paftoral.

A Pastoral is an imitation of the action of a shepherd; 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 passion, 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 short, the fable, manners, thoughts, and expressions, are full of the greatest simplicity in nature.

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 consideration 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 shepherds 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 farther, that air of piety to the gods should shine through the Poem, which lo - visibly appears in all the works of antiquity: and it ought to preserve some relish of the old way of writing; the connections 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 fo too. For we cannot suppose Poetry to have been the business of the ancient shepherds, but their recreation at vacant hours.

But

H

But with a respect to the present age, nothing more conduces to make these composures natural, than when some knowledge in rural affairs is discovered. This may be made to appear rather done by chance than on design, and sometimes” is beft shewn by inference; left by too much ftudy to seem natural, we destroy the delight. For what is inviting in this sort of poetry proceeds not so much from the idea of a country life itself, as from that of its tranquillity. We must there, fore use fome illusion to render a Pastoral delightful; and this confifts in exposing the best fide only of a shepherd's life, and in concealing its miseries. Nor is it enough to introduce shepherds discoursing together, 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 designed scene or prospect is to be presented 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 digrefsions, but those short; sometimes by insisting a little on circumstances : and lastly, by elegant turns on the words, which render the numbers extremely sweet and pleasing. As for the numbers themselves, though they are properly of the heroic measure, they should be the smootheft, the moft easy and flowing imaginable.

It is by rules like these that we ought to judge of Pastoral. And fince the instructions given for any art are to be delivered as that art is in perfection, they must of necessity be derived from those in whom it is acknowledged so to be. It is therefore from the practice of Theocritus and Virgil, (the only undisputed authors of Paftoral) that the critics have drawn the foregoing notions concerning it.

Theocritus excels all others in nature and simplicity. The subjects of his Idyllia are purely pastoral ; but he

is

« AnteriorContinua »