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is not so exact in his persons, having introduced reapers and fishermen as well as shepherds. He is apt to be too long in his descriptions, of which that of the Cup in the first paftoral is a remarkable instance. In the manners' he seems a little defective, for his swains are fometimes abusive and immodeft, and perhaps too much inclining to rusticity; for instance, in his fourth and fifth Idyllia. But it is enough that all others learned their excellencies from him, and that his dialect alone has a secret charm in it, which no other could ever attain.
Virgil, who copies Theocritus, refines upon his origi
, nal; and in all points where judgment has the principal part, is much fuperior to his master. Though some of his subjects are not paftoral in themselves, but only seem to be such, they have a wonderful variety in them, which the Greek was a stranger to. He exceeds him in regularity and brevity, and falls fhort of him in nothing but simplicity and propriety of style; the first of which perhaps was the fault of his age, and the last of his language.
Among the moderns, their success has been greatest who have most endeavoured 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 pastoral writers, as in his Gieyufalemme he has outdone the epic poets of his country.
. But as this piece seems to have been the original of a new fort of poein, the Pastoral Comedy, in Italy, it cannot so well be considered as a copy of the ancients. Spenser's Calendar, in Mr. Dryden's opinion, is the most complete work of this kind which any nation has pro# duced ever since the time of Virgil. Not but he may be thought imperfect in some few points. His Eclogues are somewhat too long, if we compare them with the ancients. He is sometimes too allegorical, and treats of matters of religion in a pastoral style, as the Mantuan 3
had done before him. He has employed the Lyric meafure, which is contrary to the practice of the old poets. His ftanza is not ftill the same, nor always well chofen. This last may be the reason his expression is sometimes not concise enough: for the tetraftic has obliged him to extend his sense 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 Theocritus himself; though notwith ftanding 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 ufed in part of Greece, and frequent in the mouths of many of the greatest persons : whereas the old English and country phrases of Spenser were either entirely obsolete, or spoken only by people of the lowest condition. As there is a difference betwixt fimplicity and rufticity, so the expresfion of fimple thoughts should ibe plain, but not clownish. The addition he has made of a Calendar to his Eclogues is very beautiful; since by this, besides that 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 several seasons, and at once exposes to his readers a view of the great and little worlds, in their various changes and afpe&ts. Yet the scrupulous division of his Pastorals into months, has obliged him either to repeat the same description, in other words, for three months together; or when it
exhausted before, entirely to omit it: whence it comes to pass, that some of his Eclogues (as the fixth, eighth, and tenth, for example) have nothing but their title to distinguish them.
, caufe the year has not that variety in it to furnish every month with a particular description, as it may every
Of the following Eclogues I shall only say, that these Comprehend all the subjects which the critics upon
Theocritus and Virgil will allow to be fit for Paftoral : that they have as much variety of description, in refpect of the several seasons, as Spenser's: that in order to add to this variety, the several times of the day are observed, the rural employments in each season or time of day, and the rural scenes or places proper to such employments; not without some regard to the several 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 some good old authors, whose works as I had leisure to study, so I hope I have not wanted care to imitate.
Nor blush to sport on Windfor’s blissful plains :
You, that too wise for pride, too good for pow'r,
Mule her slender reed inspire,
These Pastorals were 'written in the year 1704, when our Author was Gxteen years of age, but not printed till 1709. after he had resigned the post of Secretary of State to King Williain 11t.
Forest, to which he retreatced
Soon as the flocks shook off the nightly dews * Two Swains, whom Love kept wakeful, and the Muse, Pour'd o'er the whitening vale their fleecy care, Fresh as the morn, and as the season fáir :
20 The dawn now blushing on the mountain's fide, Thus Daphnis spoke, and Strephon thus reply'd.
Sing then, and Damon shall attend the strain,
* The scene of this Pastoral a Valley, the time the Morning.