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nius appears in the famous Tasso, and our Spenser. Tasso? in his Aminta has as far excelled all the Pastoral writers, as in his Gierusalemme he has outdone the Epic poets of his country. But as this piece seems to have been the original of a new sort of poem, the Pastoral Comedy, in Italy, it cannot so well be considered as a copy of the ancients. Spenser’s Calendar, in Mr. Dryden's opinion, is the most complete work of this kind which any nation has produced ever since the time of Virgil. Not but that he may be thought imperfect in some few points. His Eclogues are somewhat too long, if we compare
them with the ancients. He is sometimes too allegorical, and treats of matters of religion in a pastoral style, as the Mantuan had done before him. He has employed the Lyric measure, which is contrary to the practice of the old Poets. His stanza is
? The Aminta of Tasso is here erroneously mentioned by Pope as the very first pastoral comedy that appeared in Italy : and Dr. Hurd also fell into the same mistake. But it is certain that Il Sacrificio of Agostino Beccari was the first, who boasts of it in his prologue, and who died very old in 1590; which drama was acted in the palace of Francesco of Este. mistake is very pardonable in so young an author, and very different from the gross and unscholar-like blunder of Trapp who tells us in his fourteenth Lecture, that all the eclogues of Calphurnius and Nemesian, who flourished under Diocletian, were entirely lost.
I will just add, that the famous critic, Jason de Nores, who wrote so well on Horace's Art of Poetry, condemned the Pasto, ral Drama : and that the above-mentioned Il Sacrificio was acted at Ferrara 1550, and the Aminta 1573, and the Pastor Fido before Cardinal Borghese 1590. It is observable, that Pope does not mention the Comus of Milton, the most exquisite of all pastoral dramas.
* Dedication to Virg. Ecl. P.
not still the same, nor always well chosen. This last may be the reason his expression is sometimes not concise enough: for the Tetrastic has obliged him to extend his sense to the length of four lines, which would have been more closely confined in the Couplet.
In the manners, thoughts, and characters, he comes near to Theocritus himself; tho', notwithstanding all the care he has taken, he is certainly inferior in his Dialect : For the Doric had its beauty and propriety in the time of Theocritus; it was used in part of Greece, and frequent in the mouths of many of the greatest persons : whereas the old English and country phrases of Spenser were either entirely obsolete, or spoken only by people of the lowest condition. As there is a difference betwixt simplicity and rusticity, so the expression of simple thoughts should be plain, but not clownish. The addition he has made of a Calendar to his Eclogues, is very beautiful; since by this, besides the general moral of innocence and simplicity, which is common to other authors of Pastoral, he has one peculiar to himself; he compares human Life to the several Seasons, and at once exposes to his readers a view of the great and little worlds, in their various changes and aspects. Yet the scrupulous division of his Pastorals into Months, has obliged him either to repeat the same description, in other words, for three months together; or, when it was exhausted before, entirely to omit it: whence it comes to pass that some of his Eclogues (as the sixth, eighth, and tenth, for example) have nothing but their Titles to distin
guish them. The reason is evident, because the
year has not that variety in it to furnish every month with a particular description, as it may every season.'
Of the following Eclogues I shall only say, that these four comprehend all the subjects which the Critics upon Theocritus and Virgil will allow to be fit for pastoral : That they have as much variety of description, in respect of the several seasons, as Spenser's : that in order to add to this variety, the
· The superiority of Milton's Lycidas to all pastoral poems in our language is, I should hope, acknowledged by every man of true classical judgment; and Dr. Johnson's strange animadversions on it have been thus effectually answered. Lycidas (says he) is filled with the heathen deities; and a long train of mythological imagery, such as a college easily supplies.-But it is also such as even the court itself could now have easily supplied. The public diversions, and books of all sorts, and from all sorts of writers, more especially compositions in poetry, were at this time overrun with classical pedantries. But what writer, of the same period, has made these obsolete fictions the vehicle of so much fancy and poetical description? How beautifully has he applied this sort of allusion to the druidical rocks of Denbighshire, to Mona, and the fabulous banks of Deva! It is objected, that its pastoral form is disgusting. But this was the age of pastoral: and yet Lycidas has but little of the bucolic cant, now so fashionable. The satyrs and fauns are but just mentioned. If any trite rural topics occur, how are they heightened !
Together both, ere the high lawns appear’d
Under the opening eyelids of the morn,
What time the gray-fly winds her sultry horn,
Battning our flocks with the fresh dews of night. " Here the day-break is described by the faint appearance of the upland lawns under the first gleams of light: the sun-set, by the buzzing of the chaffer : and the night sheds her fresh dews on their flocks. We cannot blame pastoral imagery and pastoral allegory, which carry with them so much natural painting. In
several times of the day are observ'd the rural employments in each season or time of day, and the the rural scenes or places proper to such employments ; not without some regard to the several ages of man, and the different passons proper to each age.
But after all, if they have any merit, it is to be attributed to some good old Authors, whose works as I had leisure to study, so I hope I have not wanted care to imitate.
this piece there is perhaps more poetry than sorrow. But let us read it for its poetry. It is true, that passion plucks no berries from the myrtle and ivy, no calls upon Arethuse and Mincius, nor tells of rough satyrs with cloven heel. But poetry does this ; and, in the hands of Milton, does it with a peculiar and irresistible charm. Subordinate poets exercise no invention, when they tell how a shepherd has lost his companion, and must feed his flocks alone, without any judge of his skill in piping: but Milton dignifies and adorns these common artificial incidents with unexpected touches of picturesque beauty, with the graces of sentiment, and with the novelties of original genius. It is said, • here is no art; for there is nothing new.' But this objection will vanish, if we consider the imagery which Milton has raised from local circumstances. Not'to repeat the use he has made of the mountains of Wales, the Isle of Man, and the river Dee, near which Lycidas was shipwrecked; let us recollect the intro duction of the romantic superstition of Saint Michael's Mount, in Cornwall, which overlooks the Irish seas, the fatal scene of his friend's disaster.
“ But the poetry is not always unconnected with passion. The poet lavishly describes an ancient sepulchral rite, but it is made preparatory to a stroke of tenderness. He calls for a variety of flowers to decorate his friend's hearse, supposing that his body was present, and forgetting for a while he was drowned; it was some consolation that he was to receive the decencies of burial. This is a pleasing deception: it is natural and pathetic. But the real catastrophe recurs. And this circumstance again opens a new vein of imagination,"
Poems of Milton, second edition, Robinson, 1791, p. 35.
THE FIRST PASTORAL.
TO SIR WILLIAM TRUMB AL.
First in these fields I try the sylvan strains, Nor blush to sport on Windsor’s blissful plains:: Fair Thames, flow gently from thy sacred spring, While on thy banks Sicilian Muses sing;
These Pastorals were written at the age of sixteen, and then passed through the hands of Mr. Walsh, Mr. Wycherley, G. Granville, afterward Lord Lansdown, Sir William Trumbal, Dr. Garth, Lord Halifax, Lord Somers, Mr. Mainwaring, and others. All these gave our Author the greatest encouragement, and particularly Mr. Walsh, whom Mr. Dryden, in his Postscript to Virgil, calls the best Critic of his age. “The Author (says he) seems to have a particular genius for this kind of Poetry, and a judgment that much exceeds his years. He has taken very freely from the Ancients. But what he has mixed of his own with theirs, is no way inferior to what he has taken from them. It is not flattery at all to say, that Virgil had written nothing so good at his Age. His preface is very judicious and learned.” Letter to Mr. Wycherley, Ap. 1705. The Lord Lansdown about the same time, mentioning the youth of our Poet, says (in a printed Letter of the Character of Mr. Wycherley), " that if he goes on as he hath begun in the Pastoral way, as Virgil first tried his strength, we may hope to see English poetry vie with the