« PreviousContinue »
seeder os that species; as Neat-herd signifies a seeder os Neat cattle or kine; Shepherd a seeder os sheep; and Goatherd a seeder of goats; the word Herdman may well be used to signify all the several Pa/lores, or seeders of cattle.
Theocritus, of Syracuse, who lived in the reign of Hiero, and was contemporary with Ptolemy Philadelphus king of Egypt, is generally looked upon as the father of Pastoral Poetry. And yet it is no less generally asserted, that his Idyllia cannot be said to be all Pastorals. The Criticks, who often form to themselves imaginary rules, which the Ancients never dreamed of, will not allow above ten or eleven out of the thirty Idyllia of that Author, to belong to that species of Poetry,. Those who would have a Pastoral to be entirely conformable to the manners os the Golden Age, in which nothing is to be found but Piety, Innocence, and Simplicity, will exclude almost all the Idyllia of Theocritus, and Eclogues^of Vir-: gil. The dying groans of Daphnis, in the first My Ilium, will be judged too melancholy for the peace and happiness of that state: the witchcraft made use of in the second, is inconsistent with piety: in the third, the goatherd wickedly talks of killing himself: the railing, and gross obsceJ nity in the fifth is contrary to good manners; and' i.u'ii\ a 4. the the tenth is not a Pastoral; because it is a dialogue between two Reapers; Thus, if we adhere strictly to the rules laid down by most of our Criticks, we shall find, that no more than fix, out of the . eleven first Idyllia of Theocritus are to be admitted into the number* . The like objections have been, or may be, framed against most-of the Eclogues of Virgil., But there are other Criticks, who are so' far from requiring the purer manners of the Golden tAge in Past oral writings; that nothing will please them, but downright rusticity. They tell us, that Herdmen are a rude, unpolished ignorant set of people: that Pastorals are an Imitation of the aEiion of a Herdman^ or of one represented under that cbaraBer *: wherefore any deviation from that character is unnatural, and unfit for Pastoral Poetry. B.ut surely, this assertion* that Herdmen are rude, unpolished, and ignorant, is too general: for it cannot be affirmed of them universally. The'Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, must be eycepted: and Moses also, who was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians f: not to mention the Royal Psalmist, who must have received his education, before he was called from tending his father's sheep. We find also that the Prophet Amos, who was contemporary
* This is Rapin's Definition of a Pastoral. -f Acts vii. 22. with Uzziah and Jeroboam, was one of the herd* men of Tekoa *. We have seen already, that the ancient Arcadians, how rude and ignorant soever they were with regard to other arts, yet were not so with regard to Musick and Poetry: and in some ages and nations, the most polite people have been Herdmen. It will be readily acknowledged, that" Nature ought to be followed, in this as well as in all the other sorts of Poetry: but surely, we ought ttnmitate that part of Nature, which is most agreeable and pleasing. The country affords us many' objects, which delight us, by their beauty: and a man would justly be thought to have an odd taste, who should turn his eye from these, to gaze on some which are less agreeable. The lowing of the herds, the bleating of the flocks, the wildnefs of an extensive common, the solemn made of a thick wood, and the simplicity 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 os a dunghill, or a hogstye* We may therefore conclude, that though Nature is -to be followed; yet we are not to represent every thing that is natural, without distindtion; but to select such images only
*' Amos i. \, V.U...14. K as as are pleasing, throwing a veil at the fame time ojftfs, 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 Pastoralbut at the fame time, jf there is not a*,little judgment used, in the choice of the Herdnaeft we intend tpjmitate, our Pastorals will be fit fpr tjie reading only of such rude clowns, as we have places before us for an example*
\^e should, 1 believe, form a much better notion .of Bi^olical or Pastoral Poetry, by attending Gafefully itp the design of those great Ancients, Theocritus .ajid Virgil ^ than by studying all the imaginary rules of the modern Criticks. Theocritus certainly intended to describe the manners of the Herd men 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 fung by the ancient Arcadian shepherds. The first IdyIlium is a dialogue between |he shepherd , Thyrsis and a Goatherd. Thyrsis is a^icilian^y r. and at the request of his friend, sings the death of Daphnis, who was a Sicilian Herdman. The; second describes the jealousy os Simaetha, who had been debauched, and then deserted
*. ©i^G-if Us w '£ Am*?.
by one Delphi's. 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 sixths two neatherds, Damoetas 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 fee tjie 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, be-, tween the shepherd Menalcas and the neatherd Daphnis: a goatherd is chosen judge, who decrees Ae prize to Daphnis. A like contention is related in the ninth, between two herdsmen, Daphnis and Menalcas. These nine are generally allowed by the Criticks to be Pastorals: but the tenth is usually' excluded, being a dialogue between two Reapers. And yet perhaps, if we consider, that aherdman may very naturally describe a conversation between ttfo of his country neighbours, who