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A DISCOURSE ON PASTORAL,
Written in the Year Mocciv.
Rura mihi et rigui placeant iu vallibus amnes,
THERE are not, I believe, a greater number of
any sort of verses than of those which are called Pastorals; nor a smaller than of those which are truly
It therefore seems necessary 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 that 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 sort of poetry was probably pastoral. It is natural to imagine, that the deisure of those ancient shepherds admitting and inviting some diversion, none was so proper to that solitary 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 pre
* Written at sixteen years of age.
sent. 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 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 simple, the manners not too polite nor too rustic: the thoughts are plain, yet admit a little quickness and passion, but that short and Bowing : the expression 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 simplicity in nature.
The complete character of this poem consists in simplicity t, 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 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 further, it would not be amiss to give these shepherds some skill in astrono
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
my, as far
way of writing ; the connection should be loose, the narrations and descriptions shorts, and the periods concise. Yet it is not sufficient, that the sentences only be brief, the whole eclogue should be so too.
* Heinsius in Theocr. + Rapin de Carm. Past. p. 20
Rapin; Reflex. sur l'Art Poet. d'Arist, po 2. Ref. xxvii.