Page images
PDF

valleys; that Venus was passionately fond of a herdman on the mountains of Phrygia; that she both loved and lamented Adonis in the woods. He asks who was Endymion? was he not a herdman, and yet the Moon fell in love with him, as he was feeding his kine, and came down from heaven to embrace him. Rhea lamented a herdman, and Jupiter was fond of a boy that fed cattle. The dialogue between the two fishermen, in the twenty-first, cannot indeed be said to be Arcadian; for Arcadia was a midland country: but, as Sicily is an island, it was.natural enough for a Sicilian herdman to relate a dialogue between two aeighbours, whose business was on the sea fhoar. But the twenty-second is a hymn, after the manner of the ancient Arcadians, in praise of Castor and Pollux:

'Tf*woj^fj Ai>Sx<; Te xlyio^u Aid? via.

The desperate lover, in the twenty-third may easily be imagined to belong to the country: though the narration of his passion is very tragical. We cannot affirm any thing with certainty concerning the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth; as the end of one, and the beginning of the other is wanting. They are however both in praise of Hercules; and therefore belong to the Arcadian poe

b try: try 1: a$ does also the twenty-sixth, in which''the' death of Pentheus is related, who violated the Orgies of Bacchus.. The dialogue between Daphriis and the Shepherdess, in the twenty-seventh, is a complete scene os rural courtship, and must be allowed to be a true Pastoral. In the twentyeighth Theocritus himself presents a distaff to Theogenis, the wife of his friend Nicias, a Milesian physician; a proper present, no doubt, to be sent out of the country, and a subject worthy of a rural poet. The twenty-ninth h concerning Love, the common subject os most Pastorals. The thirtieth is in Lyric measure, and the subject of it is the boar that wounded the shepherd.A~ donis, the favourite of Venus. /l J"

It appears plainly, from this review of-the Idyllia of Theocritus, that the Greek Poet neves intended to write such a sett os poems, as the modern Criticks call Pastorals. They were Poems on several occasions, written "by a Sicilian herdman) or "by one who. assumed that character. The greater part of them are of the Dramatip kind, each Idyllium being a single Scene, or ©ia-. logue between the several sorts of Herdmen, their wives, or neighbours. Some of them are Narra.tive, the Poet speaking all the while in his owft person. The rest are Poems in praise os Gods , I and and Heroes. The scene is generally lard in Sicily, that country being famous for the stories .of the stiepherd Polyphemus arid the herdman Daphnis,; aud at' tie lame time the native place of the Poet; m\o nevertheless sometimes.lays the scene in other'icouritries, where he happened to travel.

[graphic]

lei

increases the rusticity of these Poems. We may ofes#Vfcv;that the pronunciation of the Dorians was very c$arse and broad, and sounded harstx in the. ears of the |>oliter Grecians, from a postage in. tj^ fifteefitkwhere a citizen of Alexandria, fihds fault with the Syracusian gossips for opening' their mouths so wide when they speak j

TlttUxa-y u JuVrani, xvxwrx Vmtikkoixtch . ,:->,\r\ *•

"Hist, hist, your tattling silly talk forbear*

lt Like turtles you have mouths from ear to ear."

J good women .arei affronted, and tell him, that as they are Dorians, they will make use of the Dork Dialect .. • •

TlweauSthii 'iirnoHrirP 'Xvpxxotriat; nritxirfiif \

TM b 2 Arid "And who are you? pray what have you to say, t( If we will talk? Seek those that will obey, f "Would you the Syracusian women rule? '< Besides, to tell you more, ycfaineddling fool, "We are Corinthians, that/s no'great disgrace, "Bellerophoh himself Ætl boast That race** '■• '* "We IJfeak our language, use the Dorick tone, And? Sir, the'Dares, sure, 'may ii se their own.1' VtBr! '; Creech

-"This Rusticity of the of Theaqitus,

ISelms tahave been well adapted to the age and country in which that Poet lived; and to have given the fame kind of pleasure, which the Scottish songs give to us, merely by being natural. There are indeed, amidst all this Rusticity, many sentiments of a most wonderful delicacy, which are highly worthy of imitation: but at the fame time* we meet with many others, which are most abeminably clownish, and even brutal. Hence Quintilian, who allows Theocritus to be admirable in his way, yet thinks his Muse too rustick and coarse for politer ears'-'*; '; . .CZ"7"1''

This Poet however had continued in full po£ fcstion of the rural crown, about two hundrec

* Admirabilis in suo gencre Theocritus, fed Musa ilia rustic et pastoral is , non forum modo verifm ipfam etiam urbetn refor midat. Lib. 10. cap'. i.

•-.v,......... n.;/vv^j^ years, 'when VIRGIL became his rival: a Qenius formed to excel in wit all those who had gone besorif^im.' That great Master os writing knew vcrjriweBi that as the Raman Language had not a variety-of i Dialects, like the Greek, it would be inoaaifo so think of giving his Bucolicks an air ofifWltcity, like those 9s Theocritus.' Nor waukhit have been natural, if he could have succeeded in the attempt. The manners of his age ^^^hiry were different: the Roman Swains talfecPIn as pure Latin, in their fields, as Cicero could speak in the Senate. He therefore wisely gave a different air to his Bucolicks, making J(iis Shepherds express themselves with that softness and elegance *, which gained him the esteem and admiration of the contemporary poets and criticks; an3 recommended him to the protection and favour of the greatest men of his time. Virgil, without doubt, intended to imitate Theocritus^ as appears by his frequent addresses to the Muses of Sicily f: But then he judiciously chose to imitate

[merged small][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »