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lowness and warmth. It was at an elegant æra, that the graces of THEOCRITUS shone forth in a Roman dress. But had his more predominating qualities been exhibited, and his original discriminations of character been faithfully preserved, it is probable that such simplicity and precision would have received their due tribute of applause at the court of AUGUSTUS. It was not till the Augustan age of our own country, that there appeared another imitator of the polished pastoral. But he had loft sight of Sicily and her piping train! He was unacquainted with shepherds or shepherdesses! He could string the filver lyre, but disdained to frame the oaten reed! In his general uncharacteristic pieces
Pure description holds the place of sense.
In the school of rustic imitation, SPENSER and Gay are said to hold the most conspicuous places. But neither the Shepherd's Calendar, nor the Shepherd's Week, presents us with just copies of nature or THEOCRITUS. The one exhibits mean and despicable characters that never existed, whose barbarity of language is often incongruously connected with elevated sentiment, and theological learning. The pastorals of the other (if we may judge from his proæmium) are designed as pieces of burlesque.
In the mean time, the barbarisms of TITUS CALPHURNIUS, the corrupted taste of AURELIUS NEMESIANUS, the ridiculous allegories of MANTUAN, the unclassical ornaments and prettinesses of Tasso, and those fanciful affectations and puerilities which glitter through the pieces of GUARINI, BONARELLI, and MARINO, together with the
courtly shepherds of FONTENELLE, and the constrained unnatural air of CAMÖENS, LOPE DE VEGA, and GARCI. LESSO; all these, announcing the general attention of the European nations to pastoral composition, through a series of ages, proclaim, in yet stronger language, that to exhibit a genuine portraiture of nature, whilst she is hidden from our eyes, is a weak and impossible attempt! The foundations of European pastoral are no more. Real life no longer presents us with shepherds piping for a conch or a crook.
If any source remain, to which the lover of fimplicity may resort for interesting character and scenery, that source perhaps may be discovered in the East. The plains of Arabia and Perfa may furnish him with elegant and striking imagery. Though the coloring of the Oriental Eclogues* is evidently European, yet are they truly pathetic and beautiful. A genuine draught of the affections hath its archetype in every heart. To hold up therefore the pursuits and the passions of an Arabian shepherd to the view, amidst his spicy groves, or his camels, might be no unaffecting display. But here possibly an European imagination must repose in the indolence of translating images from books; must content itself with reflected likenesses, with unoriginal productions. Yet the remoteness of the scene, and the general ignorance of the manners that are delineated, would diffuse over such composition the delusion of novelty.
There is one writer (perhaps the most elegant and varioully-learned this country hath ever produced) whose un
common industry hath opened an ample field for the display of oriental genius.
Among his poetical performances, his Solyman is a charming specimen of the Arabian eclogue; and his Arcadia as delightful a painting of THEOCRITUS and his Pastoral progeny.
T H E
HUMOROUS IDYLLI A.
We have allotted to Cynisca's Love, and The Syracufian Gops, a more conspicuous place, than, possibly in the opinion of many, their comparative merits have any right to claim. Yet they seem of so original a turn, and of a complexion so different from the other Idyllia, that they deserve our particular attention.
We are aware, that humour, in its more appropriated sense, is a species of wit which exposes, by one happy effort, the predominant quality of its obje&t. This single stroke, attended with so powerful an effect, must arise from a peculiar felicity of combination. According to this definition, the pieces before us may be improperly characterised as
Humorous. We have few instances of such humour in the comic writings of the ancients. It is a species of modern growth; the effect of a deeper insight into human nature, than the fimplicity of Greece or Rome could boast.
That, however, in these singular Idyllia, (particularly the Gosps) there is such a general air of pleasantry, and in a few instances, such apposite strokes of wit, as evidence more than a superficial knowledge of the manners, no one, on an accurate survey, will deny.
They are both conducted in the style of familiar conversation, amidst the scenes of ordinary life. They lay open to us domestic affairs and customs, ludicrously set forth our common foibles, and obliquely glance at the vanities of fashion.
THYONICHUS banters his love-fick friend in a strain of ridicule, that, whilft it conveys a reflexion on the absurd mortifications of the Pythagorists, exposes the slovenliness of Æschines, with a jocose allusion to his situation, epigrammatically pointed: and Æschines, with a figure truly rue. ful, though ridiculous, seems to discover a natural disposition to pleasantry, amidst his amorous whining. His very particular description, therefore, of the entertainment, at the close of which his misadventure happened, and his enumeration of all the minute circumstances attending the unlucky affair, interspersed as it is with similies and proverbial expressions, may be thought consistent enough, and sufficiently in character. The pun, on which the hinge of the story turns,
involves an allusion to a popular idea among the ancient
If we turn to the Syracusan Gosips, we shall discover the well-drawn lineaments of the female in the middle ranks of life. Their easy dialogue is supported, throughout, with a fpirit, vivacity, and flippancy, truly characteristic. The scene within PRAXINOE's house is not unamusing. To see the trivial things, that are every day pafling under one's own roof, naturally represented, must have a pleasing effect on minds of a domestic turn. And the lovers of antiquity
a might draw pleasure from another source. He, who is acquainted with the minute researches of antiquarians, and their transports at discoveries apparently the most trivial, would not be surprised at the remark—that the Syracufian women evidently used chairs and cushions too, as may be proved from the second line in the Gosips of THEOCRITUS
—that nitre composed a part of their toilette, as may be inferred from the same Idyllium-that they wore an under garment fastened to the breast by clasps (VIRGIL says the ladies of fashion had clasps of gold*) — that the luxury of
* Aurea purpuream subnectit fibula vestem.