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lowness and warmth. It was at an elegant æra, that the graces of THEOCRITUS fhone forth in a Roman drefs. 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 applaufe at the court of AUGUSTUS. It was not till the Auguftan age of our own country, that there appeared another imitator of the polished pastoral. But he had loft fight of Sicily and her piping train! He was unacquainted with fhepherds or shepherdeffes! He could ftring the filver lyre, but difdained to frame the oaten reed! In his general uncharacteristic pieces
Pure description holds the place of sense.
In the school of ruftic imitation, SPENSER and GAY are faid to hold the most conspicuous places. But neither the Shepherd's Calendar, nor the Shepherd's Week, presents us with juft copies of nature or THEOCRITUS. The one exhibits mean and defpicable characters that never exifted, whofe barbarity of language is often incongruously connected with elevated sentiment, and theological learning. The paftorals of the other (if we may judge from his procemium) are defigned as pieces of burlesque.
In the mean time, the barbarisms of TITUS CALPHURNIUS, the corrupted tafte of AURELIUS NEMESIANUS, the ridiculous allegories of MANTUAN, the unclaffical ornaments and prettineffes of TASSO, and those fanciful affectations and puerilities which glitter through the pieces of GUARINI, BONARELLI, and MARINO, together with the
courtly fhepherds of FONTENELLE, and the constrained unnatural air of CAMOENS, LOPE DE VEGA, and GARCILESSO; all these, announcing the general attention of the European nations to paftoral compofition, through a series of ages, proclaim, in yet stronger language, that to exhibit a genuine portraiture of nature, whilft fhe is hidden from our eyes, is a weak and impoffible attempt! The foundations of European paftoral are no more. Real life no longer presents us with fhepherds piping for a conch or a crook.
If any fource remain, to which the lover of fimplicity may refort for interefting character and scenery, that fource perhaps may be discovered in the Eaft. The plains of Arabia and Perfia 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 paffions of an Arabian fhepherd to the view, amidst his spicy groves, or his camels, might be no unaffecting difplay. But here poffibly an European imagination must repose, in the indolence of tranflating images from books; must content itself with reflected likeneffes, with unoriginal productions. Yet the remoteness of the scene, and the general ignorance of the manners that are delineated, would diffuse over fuch compofition the delusion of novelty.
There is one writer (perhaps the most elegant and variously-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 fpecimen of the Arabian eclogue; and his Arcadia as delightful a painting of THEOCRITUS and his Paftoral progeny.
WE have allotted to Cynifca's Love, and The Syracufian
Goffps, a more confpicuous place, than, poffibly in the opinion of many, their comparative merits have any right to claim. Yet they feem of fo original a turn, and of a complexion fo 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 object. 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 inftances of fuch humour in the comic writings of the ancients. It is a species of modern growth; the effect of a deeper infight into human nature, than the fimplicity of Greece or Rome could boast.
That, however, in these singular Idyllia, (particularly the Goffips) there is fuch a general air of pleasantry, and in a few inftances, fuch appofite ftrokes of wit, as evidence more than a fuperficial knowledge of the manners, no one, on an accurate furvey, will deny.
They are both conducted in the flyle of familiar conversation, amidst the scenes of ordinary life. They lay open to us domeftic affairs and cuftoms, 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 abfurd mortifications of the Pythagorifts, expofes the flovenliness of ASCHINES, with a jocose allufion to his fituation, epigrammatically pointed: and ÆSCHINES, with a figure truly rueful, 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 fimilies and proverbial expreffions, may be thought confiftent enough, and fufficiently in character. The pun, on which the hinge of the story turns,
involves an allufion to a popular idea among the ancient Italians, that if a wolf faw any man first, it deprived him of his voice
Vox quoque Marim
The encomium on PTOLEMY is artfully introduced: and the praises THYONICHUS beftows on him are better founded than most of our modern eulogies on great men, if we may believe the relations of ATHENEUS and APPIAN.
If we turn to the Syracufian Goffips, we fhall difcover the well-drawn lineaments of the female in the middle ranks of life. Their easy dialogue is supported, throughout, with a spirit, vivacity, and flippancy, truly characteristic. The fcene within PRAXINOE's houfe is not unamufing. To fee the trivial things, that are every day paffing under one's own roof, naturally represented, must have a pleasing effect on minds of a domeftic turn. And the lovers of antiquity might draw pleasure from another fource. He, who is acquainted with the minute researches of antiquarians, and their tranfports at difcoveries apparently the moft trivial, would not be furprised at the remark-that the Syracufian women evidently used chairs and cushions too, as may proved from the second line in the Goffips of THEOCRITUS --that nitre compofed a part of their toilette, as may be inferred from the fame Idyllium-that they wore an under garment fastened to the breast by clafps (VIRGIL fays the ladies of fashion had clafps of gold*)—that the luxury of
*Aurea purpuream fubnetit fibula veftem.