Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

of the buildings, furnish us with pleasing images: and whilst we are contemplating these beauties, we seldom have much inclination to admire the disagreeable, though natural, sight and smell of a dunghill or a hogsty. We may therefore conclude, that though nature is to be followed, yet' we are not to represent every thing that is natural, without distinction; but to select such images only as are pleasing, throwing a veil at the same time over those which would give offence. Thus every imitation of the action of a herdman, or of one represented under that character, will indeed be a true pastoral: but at the same time, if there is not a little judgment used in the choice of the herdmen we intend to imitate, our pastorals will be fit for the reading only of such rude clowns, as we have placed before us for an example.

We should, I believe, form a much better notion of bucolical or pastoral poetry, by attending carefully to the design of those great ancients, Theocritus and Virgil, than by studying all the imaginary rules of the modern critics. Theocritus certainly intended to describe the manners of the herdmen of Sicily. His Idyllia are generally either dialogues between two persons of that character, or poems in praise of the celebrated actions of gods and heroes, such as seem to have been originally sung by the ancient Arcadian shepherds. The first Idyllium is a dialogue between the shepherd Thyrsis and a

[ocr errors]

goatherd. Thyrsis is a Sicilian", and at the request of his friend, sings the death of Daphnis, who was a Sicilian herdman. The second describes the jealousy of Simatha, who had been debauched, and then deserted, by one Delphis. She makes use of several incantations, in order to regain his love. In the third, a goatherd declares his passion for Amaryllis. The fourth is a dialogue between Battus a goatherd, and Corydon a neatherd. In the fifth, Comatas a goatherd, and Lacon a shepherd, after some very coarse railleries, challenge each other to sing for a wager: one stakes a goat, and the other a lamb; and the goatherd obtains the prize. In the sixth, two neatherds, Damotas and Daphnis, drive their herds together into one place, and sing alternately the passion of Polyphemus for Galatea. The seventh is the narration of a journey, which Theocritus took, to see the solemnities of Ceres: he meets with Lycidas a goatherd on the road; and the whole discourse between them is pastoral. In the eighth is related a contention about singing, between the shepherd Menalcas and the neatherd Daphnis: a goatherd is chosen judge, who decrees the prize to Daphnis. A like contention is related in the ninth, between two herdsmen, Daphnis and Menalcas. These nine are generally allowed by the critics to be pastorals: but the tenth is usually excluded, being a

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

dialogue between two reapers. And yet perhaps, if we consider that a herdman may very naturally describe a conversation between two of his country neighbours, who entertain each other with a rural song; we may soften a little the severity of our critical temper, and allow even this to be called a pastoral. The eleventh, which describes the passion of Polyphemus for Galatea, is, I think, allowed to be a pastoral; but those which follow are commonly rejected, though sometimes perhaps with little reason. Thus I know not why the twelfth may not be admitted, of which the subject is love, and wherein the similitudes are taken from fruits, sheep, heifers, and singing birds. Are not the following verses of that Idyllium truly pastoral?

Ἤλυθες, ὦ φίλε κοῦρε, τρίτῃ σὺν νυκτὶ καὶ ἠοῖ,
Ἤλυθες; οἱ δὲ ποθεῦντες ἐν ἤματι γηράσκουσιν.
Ὅσσον ἔας χειμῶνος, ὅσον μῆλον βραβύλοιο
Ἥδιον, &c.

You come, dear youth, now three long days are gone,
You come: but lovers do grow old in one.

As much as spring excels the frost and snow,

As much as plums are sweeter than a sloe,
As much as ewes are thicker fleec'd than lambs,
As much as maids excel thrice married dames,
As much as colts are nimbler than a steer,
As much as thrushes please the list'ning ear
More than the meaner songsters of the air,
So much thy presence cheers.

CREECH.

[ocr errors]

The thirteenth indeed, which is a relation of the loss of Hylas, the friend of Hercules, has nothing

b

pastoral in it: but as the actions of gods and heroes used to be sung by the ancient herdmen, we may venture to affirm, that the author intended this also for a pastoral. In the fourteenth, Æschines is a herdman, who being in love with Cynisca, and being despised by her, is determined to turn soldier. His friend Thyonichus advises him to enter into the service of Ptolemy, on whom he bestows great praises. There is nothing inconsistent with the character of a herdman, to suppose him crossed in love, and in despair to go for a soldier. This is so adapted even to the manners of a modern rustic, that our critics may venture to let this pass without censure. Nor does there seem any good reason to reject the fifteenth; though there is not a word in it about cattle, and though the scene is not laid in the pastures of Sicily, but in the great city of Alexandria. The persons of this Idyllium are not herdmen, but their wives. These gossips of Syracuse are got to Alexandria, to see the pomp of the feast of Adonis; where they are pushed about in the crowd, and prattle just as some of our good country dames would at a Lord Mayor's show. This therefore may be allowed to be a pastoral; unless we are to be so strict, that none but men are to be introduced, and even those men must never stir from their fields, but be perpetually piping to their flocks and herds. The sixteenth is a complaint of the ingratitude of princes to poets, who alone can

render their great actions immortal. He observes, that not only the Lycian and Trojan heroes, but even Ulysses himself, would have been buried in oblivion, if their fame had not been celebrated by Homer. But amidst these great heroes, Theocritus does not forget his pastoral capacity, or omit to mention the swineherd Eumæus, and the neatherd Philoetius;

-Ἐσιγάθη δ ̓ ὁ συφορβὸς

Εὔμαιος, καὶ βουσὶ Φιλοίτιος ἀμφ ̓ ἀγελαίαις
Ἔργον ἔχων, αὐτός τε περίσπλαγχνος Λαέρτας,
Εἰ μὴ σφᾶς ὤνασαν Ἰάονος ἀνδρὸς ἀοιδαί.

Theocritus seems indeed to rise above his pastoral style in the seventeenth Idyllium, wherein he celebrates the praises of Ptolemy Philadelphus. But may not a country poet be allowed to swell a little, when his heart is enlarged, by contemplating the virtues of a great prince, under whose protection he lives? a prince so powerful, that no hostile fleet or army dares invade his country, disturb the farmer, or injure the cattle;

—Λαοὶ δ ̓ ἔργα περιστέλλουσιν ἕκηλοι.

Οὐ γάρ τις δηΐων πολυκήτεα Νεῖλον ἐπεμβὰς
Πεζὸς ἐν ἀλλοτρίαισι βοὰν ἐστάσατο κώμαις.

The farmer fearless ploughs his native soil;
No hostile navies press the quiet Nile;
None leaps ashore, and frights the lab'ring swains;
None robs us of our flocks, and spoils the plains.

CREECH.

The Epithalamium on the marriage of Helen,

« PredošláPokračovať »