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The fixth and eleventh Idyllia contain the loves of POLYPHEMUS and GALATEA. In the one, DAMÆTAS represents the character of the Cyclops; in the other, POLYPHEME is introduced in his own perfon; in the former, GALATEA is wanton, and POLYPHEMUS obdurate; but, in the latter, the nymph grows fhy, and flights her lover, who almoft lofes his reason in despair. The charms of poetry, however, reftore him to his fenfes; and we cannot but feel the sweetness of the foothing ong, which is not only musical but elegant. Though the fentiment of these pieces is natural and well imagined, our preconceptions feem to revolt from the melting sighs of our monster shepherd. VIRGIL, it is true, and OVID, have industriously copied the picture. But these representations of POLYPHEME, with whofe immenfe fize, deformity, and cruelty, we have been forcibly ftruck, in the defcriptions of HOMER, do not immediately intereft us, or excite our fympathy; fince we cannot at once reconcile his habits with the general character of paftoral life. The idea of his ferocity repels our pity. No one sympathizes in the forrows of favage love. If fuch monfters indeed really existed on the coaft of Sicily, we might imagine them employed in rural occupations, like the Patagonians of America. But POLYPHEME and his fea-nymph have not the attractions of AMARYLLIS and her goatherd. In the procemia of these two poems, THEOCRITUS appears in his own perfon, infcribing the first to ARATUS, the author of the Phænomena; and the fecond to NICIAS, a Milefian physician, to whom the thirteenth Idyllium is alfo addreffed. This mode of dedication hath been pleasingly imitated by fome of our modern poets.
We can scarcely help admiring, as we proceed, the various forms, under which THEOCRITUS has couched his defcriptions of the country.
In the Thalyfia, or Vernal Voyage, there is a novelty of form-an originality of combination, in every part delightful. We at firft regret the interruption of LYCIDAS, fince we had promised ourselves exquifite pleasure at the harvest-feast: but eager as we are to see our poet and his friends at the end of their journey, we are foon reconciled to the Cretan goatherd, and thank him for his charming mufick. At the feaft of CERES, however, the interest of the piece is wonderfully heightened, and our enthusiasm called forth, amidst the most variegated landscape-the most elegant affemblage of rural imagery to be met with in THEOCRITUS.
The eighth and the ninth are, critically speaking, the only legitimate Paftoral Idyllia that remain to be confidered. In the latter, there is no ftriking feature of difcrimination, though the herdsman DAPHNIS and the fhepherd MENALCAS are not unpleafingly characterized, as rude in their manners, and boaftful in their competitions of abilities and fortune. The Bucolic Singers (like the fifth Idyllium) presents us with an imitation of the contentions of shepherds, in verses extemporaneously recited. The perfonages are represented speaking alternately, and in the fame number of lines; which the critics calls the Amabea. It appears extremely probable that the ancient fhepherds actually contended in this manner; and, like the modern improvifatori of Italy, C 3
were educated in the habit of returning speech for speech; the effect of inftantaneous conception, and a corresponding adroitness at expreffion. Above one hundred years before the time of THEOCRITUS, there were extempore performers of this fort, at Rome, originally Tufcans. The Roman historian* informs us: "Imitari deinde eos Juventus fimul "inconditis inter fe jocularia fundentes verfibus, capêre." And he adds, "Incompofitum temerè ac rudem alternis jaciebant.” It is a curious and fingular circumstance, that the present people of Tuscany are remarkable for the fame improvisation, the fame readiness in metrical refponfes, as its ancient inhabitants. If we apply this to the fwains of Sicily, (and we have every reason to fuppofe that they partook of the Tufcan genius) is it not evident that THEOCRITUS copied the characters and customs paffing before him-that he caught, in fhort, the living manners? His ruder Idyllia, therefore, are to be admitted and valued as the genuine portraitures of life; even though we reject, as unnatural and inconsistent, the whole fungous growth of mimic paftorals-fome of them affectedly polished; while others are replete with barbarous and antiquated phraseology, holding forth a mingled dialect, "which in present times is not uttered, was never uttered in "times past, and will never be uttered in times future."
Though The Reaperst and The Fishermen have all the fimplicity of rural perfonages, in language, sentiment, and character, they are not, perhaps, (ftrictly speaking) to be admitted within the pale of pastoral. But whatever rank may
* See LIVY, lib. 7. an. Xt. 401.
+ 10th and 21ft Idyllia.
be allotted to them, they are confeffedly fuch as one might expect from the genius of THEOCRITUS, confidered in the light of a pastoral writer. The Fishermen is a singular performance. Critics are agreed in allowing the pifcatory eclogues of SANNAZARIUS† a confiderable degree of merit, as original pieces. The hint was not improbably suggested to the Italian author by this beautiful little poem, which no one could poffibly peruse without a high degree of fatisfaction, were not its mutilations or at least its numerous corrupted paffages, too offenfive to admit of an uninterrupted attention to the characters, or the general tenor of the piece.
Eunica, or the Neatherd,‡ and Daphnis and the Shepherdess,|| have been attributed by the commentators, in general, to MOSCHUS. Sprightliness is the predominant feature of the first, which bears fome refemblance to the third Idyllium, in the adduction of mythological example. With fubmiffion to the critics, we may venture to pronounce them true Bucolics.
On Daphnis and the Shepherdefs much learning hath been exhibited by SCALIGER, CAUSAUBON, and HEINSIUS. But we are not always to judge of the merit or importance of a piece, by the quantity of erudition it hath been the means of expanding. We do not recommend the little effufion before us, for its innocence or purity. To translate its fentiment in its full force, or to give its fituations their original afpect, would be no decorous task; but it was a task
+ Imitated by ONGARO, FLETCHER, &C.
that perfectly accorded with the licentioufness of DRYDEN'S muse, who hath heightened every feature with fuch glaring colors as must repel the eye of modefty.
We must not omit to observe that The Defpairing Lover§ hath nothing in it repugnant to the nature of paftoral. Its language and imagery are evidently rural. And the catastrophe is such as not unfrequently happens in the country.
Thus have we curforily furveyed the only Original Pastorals which the European world of letters can boaft!* In this light they are furely to be regarded as an invaluable treasure. All the fubfequent poets, in this line, are mere copyists, from VIRGIL to PHILLIPS. In these fecondary pictures, the tints of nature lose their warmth and truth; and her figures are frequently mutilated, or indiftinctly grouped. In proportion as we imitate copies, we recede from the prototype; and tracing its characteristic lines with lefs precifion, produce fainter refemblances of its original peculiarity. Let us tranfiently review the imitators of THEOCRITUS. We must have obferved, that elegance and rufticity (or rather, an elegant and a coarfe fimplicity) are the two general contradiftinctions of the Bucolic Idyllia. Hence there seem to have arisen two fchools of bucolic imitation—the refined and the ruftic.
The firft imitator of THEOCRITUS was attracted by his more polished beauties. These have, doubtless, acquired a brilliancy in the transfufion. Yet have they loft their mel
§ 23d Idyllium. * Unlefs BION and MOSCHUS may be accounted original writers of Paftoral.