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Eaft. But this does not feem fupported by any probable conjecture. The fhepherds of Arabia were characters very diffimilar from the fhepherds of Sicily. The Song of SOLOMON will furnish us with a true idea of the oriental eclogue; which widely differs, both in matter and form, from the pastorals of THEOCRITUS. Marked with all the peculiarities of Afiatic eloquence, its parts are unconnected, and its expreffions bold and highly figurative. But let us examine the Paftoral Idyllia.
The first nine, and the eleventh, have been commonly confidered by the critics as legitimate Bucolics. But furely there are others, which, from the general caft of the sentiment, ought to be admitted into the fame rank. The twentieth and twenty-feventh have doubtless that claim. And there feems to be no very good reafon for excluding "THE REAPERS" or "THE FISHERMEN" from the number. The critical definitions, on this subject, have been peculiarly abfurd and indeterminate; and, amidst volumes of contradictory opinion, the nature of the Bucolic ftill remains (like its origin) in suspense!
The first Idyllium hath been ever efteemed a beautiful poem, from the time of its Roman translator* to the present day. Its characters seem to hold a fuperior rank, in point of civility. The DAMÆTAS and DAPHNIS of the fixth Idyllium appear marked by no diftant traits of resemblance; whether we confider their mufical talents, or their mutual complacence, and inclination to compliment each other *See VIRGIL's 3d and 10th Eclogues.
There is a delicacy of fentiment in the piece before us, with scarcely any mixture of vulgarity. The fituations of the fcene are pleasingly shifted; and we no fooner commence an acquaintance with our poet, than we are presented with a delightful specimen of his talents in ftill-life painting. The Goatherd's defcription of his cup is minute, though not tedious: nothing can be more pictorefque than its embellifhments. The Woman and her two Lovers, the figure of the Fisherman labouring to throw his net, the Rock, the Vineyard, the Foxes, and the Careless Boy framing his locufttraps, are all fo diftinctly delineated, that inftead of being ftruck with the idea of crouded imagery, or an unnatural length of defcription, we fee a deep and capacious veffel before our eyes, even without the affistance of critical illuftration. We readily acknowledge, however, our obligations to the very learned and ingenious Commentator, who hath clearly proved the fize of this ornamental Kiσorov. The Ode (which is the fecond part of this piece) deserves not, perhaps, equal commendation. The commencement of it is charmingly elegiac; and, what is a proof of its attractive' beauty, it hath been imitated by VIRGIL and POPE, and much improved upon by MILTON and LYTTElton. But the introduction of lions and wolves, cows, heifers, bulls, and steers, drooping in fympathetic forrow at the feet of the expiring fwain, is furely not accordant with nature or fimplicity. The beafts of the foreft affembled round their fick lion, may be a good fubject for an Afopian fable. Yet fuch images throw an air of burlesque over the forrows of elegiac verfe; and thus laughter is often excited, amidst the strings of fenfibility.
The Commentators have all concurred in placing the. fecond Idyllium among the Bucolic pieces. But it feems to breathe a fpirit above the pastoral ftrain. And SIMÆTHA rather resembles the MEDEA or HECATE whom the invokes, than a character on a level with the ruftics of THEOCRITUS. However this may be, there is a wonderful animation runs through the whole; which was doubtlefs pronounced with the most violent emotions of paffion, and the strongest energy of correfpondent action. And the affections of a flighted lover are here expreffed in all their variety.
Among the fources of the fublime, there are none more powerful than those of magic. But the ancients have been furpaffed by the moderns, in the horror of their incantations. The Pharmaceutria before us (the beauties of which are well transfused into VIRGIL'S Eclogue of the fame title) supplies us with the principal Heathen ceremonies, amidst the scenes of enchantment. The Canidia of HORACE, for character, fituation, and circumstances, must be neceffarily more striking and dreadful. But even this, uniting its forceries with the magic of APOLLONIUS RHODIUS* and LUCAN, must yield, in terror and fublimity, to the blafted heath of SHAKSPEARE, or the tremendous foreft of TASSO. In thefe ages of necromancy, there was a wildness in the popular belief, which particularly tinctured the fictions of the poet; even Kings believed the power of the forcerefs, and
* THEOCRITUS hath borrowed much of his imagery from APOLLONIUS, in the Idyllium before us.
gave a fanction to her poetic machinery. The phantoms have not long vanished from this country: the Demonologie was the work of our first JAMES; and SHAKSPEARE is supposed to have written his Macbeth in compliment to the monarch's taste.
If we pass on to the third Idyllium, we shall find it similar to the last we have reviewed, fo far as it represents distracted love, in many abrupt and beautiful transitions of paffion. The attention of the reader alfo is confined, in both, to the action and speech of a single perfonage. This is faid to be a fpecies of the Пapanλavobupov, or plaintive fong, which the excluded lover was accustomed to fing before the door of his mistress. We have an inftance of fuch fort of gallantry in HORACE:*
"Me tamen afperas
"Porrectum ante fores objicere," &c.
an ode, which, DACIER thinks, was actually fung before LYCE's door; and which he values as the only ferenading fong now extant in the Latin language. But as it seems to poffefs an air of humour, it was probably composed with a view of ridiculing this fpecies of extravagant ballad. The Comaftes (the Idyllium before us) was performed whilft the perfon was standing; and its title (according to HESYCHIUS) imports a fhepherd finging and dancing at the same point of time. We are not unacquainted with the cuftom of ferenading among the modern Italians. After all, it may admit of a doubt, whether this piece was attended or not with artificial gefticulation. The comment "fmells of the lamp.”
* Ode X. book 3
There is more pleasure in perusing it, as the unftudied effufion of a lover, distracted by various paffions; and in confidering its accompaniment of external expreffion, as no other than the action of fimple nature independent on cuftom. The goatherd's first appeal to his mistress, is tender and affecting; and his refolution to drown himself (as well as the concluding lines) is expreffed in such a strain as to move our pity. But his allufions to mythology (together with that unpaftoral, indeed unnatural, fentiment, of Love fuckled by a lioness) detract from the pathos of the piece.
In the fourth and fifth Idyllia, there is indeed a vulgarity, a homeliness, which might well be afraid of appearing in the forum, or any part of the city. We have lefs rufticity, however, in the Swains than the Travellers. And BATTUS'S apostrophe to his deceased AMARYLLIS, on CORYDON'S mention of her name, is fo ftrikingly introduced, that it makes amends, perhaps, for the abfurd and defultory conclufion of the pastoral in question; which (to use the language of criticifm) hath neither beginning, middle, nor end. The Travellers, though full of abusive language and coarse raillery, fhould yet be received with hofpitality, as good honeft characters in low life. COMATES and LACON are doubtlefs the exact copies of nature. Any one, who may have cafually overheard the jarrings of clowns, must instantly recognize them in this Idyllium. Yet we could not have indulged our Sicilian, in the repetition of such ribaldry. Even here paffages occur, the groffness of which not HEINSIUS, or all the commentators, are able to palliate.