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for us to assert, without the fear of contradiction, that there have been ages of simplicity in which the higher members of the social combination were husbandmen or shepherds, and in which the manners of rural life have supplied the imitation of poetry with some of its most pleasing subjects. From that exquisite composition, the “ Song of Solomon,” to the Idyllia of Theocritus, or even perhaps to those of our contemporary, Gesner, the offspring of the pastoral Muse have obtained and gratified readers of the most cultivated taste. This will form in the present instance a complete vindication of Milton; who when he chose lo embody his sorrow in the form of a pastoral, to invoke the powers of song that once warbled in the fields of Sicily, and to trace the steps of Theocritus and of Virgil, could not be aware that he was exposing himself to the sneer of the critic, and to the charge of childish imitation.
T'he climate and the manners, if not the language of Britain, oppose its being the scene of pastoral poetry; and no person can object more strongly than myself to the writer of English bucolics, who must either violate probability by the introduction of classic names and manners, or outrage taste by the exhibition of common and coarse nature,
unallied to the pleasing and the picturesque. But a writer, who can speak the language of the ancients, may certainly invest himself in all their rights; and, lawfully taking possession of their scenery their manners and their poetic truth, may urge with them an indisputable appeal to the imagination. An eclogue or idyllium, added to those of the Sicilian or the Mantuan bard, would surely not be condemned merely because it was the production of a modern. Alphesibæus and Daphnis, on their native plains, with their native accents and manners, would be readily acknowledged by every poetic fancy, let their poetic creator be born within the arctic circle or under the line; and, retain , ing in its full extent their power of pleasing, they would thus be able to accomplish the prime end of poetry, and consequently to satisfy the just demand of criticism. To brand therefore all pastoral poetry since the days of the ancients, because the pastoral Muse cannot, for some local reasons, be naturalized in England, argues either great rashness or a very imperfect view of the subject. Milton stands on the ground of Virgil and must be absolved or condemned as an ancient writer of bucolics. He certainly requires no pardon on this occasion for any
error, induced by the faulty taste of his age. In the age of Augustus or of George, he might stand at the bar of criticism with the Damon in his hand, and not dread any heavier censure, to counterpoise substantial approbation, than what might be incurred by a few very venial trespasses against the prudery of classical expression. The structure of his hexameters in this poem is, for the most part, of that appropriate kind which is called the bucolic as distinguished from the epic:$ his images and sentiments, with exception to those in a very few lines, are through the whole of the composition strictly pastoral; and he never wanders so far beyond the bounds of bucolic song, or rises so high as Virgil in his Silenus, his Pollio, or perhaps his Gallus. His scene is determined by the names of some places to Britain: but it offends us with no incongruous or unpleasant images, and is made, in fact,
& When I speak of this distinction, I speak on the authority of Terentianus Maurus, who says that the proper structure of the bucolic verse, observed more by Theocritus than by Virgil, is where the first four feet are not linked by a syllable to the fifth, as “Non ;-verum Ægonis; nuper mihi tradidit Ægon;" and not as “ Silvestrem tenui Musam meditaris avena.”
• One slight incongruity occurs in the 41st verse of the poem; and it is remarked in the note on the translation of that passage, p. 187.
of no consequence to the piece. A shepherd may utter his complaints for the loss of his friend in any country, if he be not stationed under an orange grove where orange groves do not exist, or be made to pass the night in a field where the rigour of the skies would make us feel more for his bodily than for his mental distress. The picture, in short, in this pastoral is consistent, and neither extravagant nor horrid: it will justify therefore the art and the taste of its author, and be secure of acquittal before any just and intelligent tribunal.
I have said so much on the subject of this poein,
that it may probably gratify my readers to have the whole of it laid before them. Its beauties indeed will be only indistinctly seen in my translation : but to those who are not conversant with the original, the inadequate copy may not perhaps be unacceptable.
i I am afraid that our poet has been guilty in this place of a false quantity. The first syllable of Hylas is unquestionably short.
His adjungit Hylan nautæ quo fonte relictum
Ving. Ecl. vi.
Dicite Sicelicum Thamesina per oppida carmen;
Cui non dictus Hylas puer? !o Geor. iii.
Αυταρ Ύλαν φιλότητι Θεά ποιήσατο νύμφη
APOLL. Arg. lib. 1.
Τώ χαρίεντος Ύλα, τω ταν πλοκαμίδα φορέυντος.
Theo. Idyl. xiii.
This, however, was only a slip of Milton's pen: 'in his seventh elegy the quantity of Hylas is right
Thiodamantæus Naiade raptus Hylas.
But I have an objection, on the ground of taste, to the opening passage of this poem. It presents us with an unwarrantable mixture of fable with truth; and brings the fictitious or fabulous personages of Daphnis and Hylas into union with Bion, the pastoral poet of Smyrna, whose death was lamented in the elegiac strains of Moschus of Syracuse.
Two rivers of Sicily bore the name of Himera, one of them flowing with a northern.course into the Tuscan sea, and the other, which is the largest, with a southern into the Lybian. On the banks of the former of these rivers, near its influx into the sea, stood the city of Himera, in the vicinity of which Gelon, the king of Syracuse, gained a memorable victory over the Carthaginians at the time of the invasion of Greece by Xerxes. I am at a loss to discover why Mr. Warton should call the Himera “ the famous bucolic river of Theocritus." Not one of this sweet poet's scenes are placed upon this river: it is mentioned only twice (if my recollection be at all accurate) in the thirty idyllia, which have been ascribed to him; and he was a native, as Suidas informs us, according to some accounts, of Coös, or, according to others, of Syracuse, a city no otherwise connected with the Himera than as it is in Sicily. The