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diversity of character to the view; to particularize every atti. tude and gesture of our personages; to represent a variety of natural circumstances in lively and distinct colors, and to bring every thing before our eyes--these are the criteria of original genius, in the midst of polished life.

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If we survey the period in which Theocritus flourished, we shall find our remarks abundantly illustrated and confirmed, in the consideration of the advantages he enjoyed, subsidiary to his genius; and of those pieces, which, amidst his numerous productions, have escaped the ravages of time. . We have little transmitted to us concerning the life of THEOCRITUS; and this little is involved in contradiction, and obscured by conjecture. Even his age and country

* have been the subjects of controversy with grammarians and commentators. The relations of SUIDAS and GYRALDUS, among others, are ftrangely confused and indeterminate. But from his own works we might extract enough to convince us, that he was a Syracufan--that PRAXAGORAS and PHILINA were his parents—and that he flourished under HIERO and PTOLEMY PHILADELPHUS, both in SICILY and in Egypt. Of the former his twenty-second epigram is a sufficient testimony; and of the latter his two famous panegyrical Idyllia. From the Commentator on POLYBIUS we learn that Hiero, the King of Syracuse, began his reign about 275 years before the Christian æra.

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As our poet seems to have been dissatisfied with the cold attentions of the Syracufan Monarch, who was more diftin* See BARNES'S “ Life," corrected by WARTON,


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guished in the character of a warrior, than a patron of learning; we may attribute to this circumstance, his departure from Sicily into Ægypt: the Court of Alexandria was the nurse of the Muses. It is rather remarkable that we know scarcely any thing of THEOCRITUS, but what may be gathered from himself. Independently of this internal evidence, we might determine the place of his birth, from the allusions of his imitator VIRGIL, and the casual intimations of JULIAN, TERENTIANUS, MAURUS, and MANI

But here our views are circumscribed; and we vainly look around us for a detail of his life.


As a pastoral writer, he found every advantage in the delicious climate and luxuriant landscapes of Sicily. No country could have presented him with a more beautiful assemblage of rural images. The pictoresque scenery of the hills and the vallies diversified beyond description; an almost infinite variety of trees and shrubs; the grottos, precipices, and fountains, of the most romantic appearance; and the sweetness and serenity of the skies; all these concurred with the tranquillity of retirement, in awakening the Muse, and inspiring the pastoral numbers.

The pieces of THEOCRITUS are the result of his own accurate observation. He described what he saw and felt. His characters, as well as his scenes, are the immediate transcript of nature. We

We may well imagine, that the shepherds and the herdsmen, surrounded by their flocks and their cattle, piped before him the current ditties of the times; and that he was frequently a witness of their dialogues and contentions; heard their proverbial speeches, transcribed their manner, and caught from their lips the very vulgarisms which characterize his ruder Idyllia. Such was the foundation of his Pastorals, original both in matter and form; the more rustic of which were probably composed in the earlier ·

of his life, before he left his native island, allured by brighter prospects.


That he had a very early propensity to this species of composition, and that his genius was originally formed for it, (in preference to any other) may be inferred from his frequent recurrence to the woods and plains, in works of a contexture and complexion by no means resembling the Pastoral; and from the interspersion, indeed, through all his productions, of such similies and allusions as are evidently the offspring of the country. But his genius was not confined to a particular species of writing. Though not fervid or bold, it was versatile and penetrating. The refined age of THEOCRITUS was equally favourable to compositions where the fashions and foibles of men are humorously displayed Wit can only exist amidst ease and security. At a period of high civilization, there arise checquered and complex characters, variously shaded by folly, and assuming a diversity of transitory shapes. Hence the manners become the subject of observation, and afford ample scope for the exercise of ridicule. These fleeting traits of a civilized people by no means escaped the penetration of THEOCRITUS.

But he had not only the opportunities of contemplating, in his own country, the beautiful forms of nature, and the


diversified appearances of life: he enjoyed the additional advantages of travel. The prospect of Ægyptian manners and customs, and pursuits so different from those of Sicily, must have enlarged his knowledge of mankind; and the rich and extensive pastures on the banks of the Nile have dem lighted his rural imagination. But, during his residence in Ægypt, his genius and his talte must have been enlightened and refined by the polite conversation of a court, where lite. rature was associated with elegance and splendor; and where emulation was excited and cherished by princely munificence. And not only the Muses flourished under the auspices of a PTOLEMY; but literature in general was highly cultivated and improved.

The labors of the seventy interpreters at the Alexandrian court, form a celebrated epocha in the annals of learning. That our poet availed himself of these labors, and frequently snatched a grace from facred writ, no one will doubt, who peruses his most finished pieces with attention. It was under the patronage of PTOLEMY, that his contemporary bard CALLIMACHUS composed those hymns to his fabled Gods, which evidently borrowed some portion of their beauty from the same sources: and possibly the more ancient writers of Greece might have drawn sentiments and imagery from scripture. There is often discoverable in PINDAR a spirit of oriental grandeur; and we trace, in many passages of HOMER, resemblances apparently imitative of these divine originals. It is not to be wondered, that such elegant enjoyments should have kindled the gratitude of our poet; and have produced that panegyric on his royal patron, which,

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in point of animation, delicacy, address, and well appropriated compliment, may be considered as the first of encomi. astic performances.

These corresponding felicities of genius and situation was it the fortune of THEOCRITUS to possess. It is to these that we owe his most original and interesting works; though to his perfect acquaintance with fabulous antiquity we are indebted for no mean effusions of the heroic Muse: while his other productions, of various character, still further evince the versatility of his talents, the extent of his knowledge, and the elegance of his friendships.

This great diversity of pieces hath been transmitted to us (except the Epigrams indeed) under the title of IDYLLIA;* a term, which, according to its general import, is doubtless well applied to a collection of miscellaneous poems. HEINSIUS observes, that the ancients gave this title to the poems before us, to express their variety. Thus have we the Sylvæ of STATIUS, and Edyllia of AUSONIUS. But as Eidualcov (a diminutive of Eidos) may signify a little picture or image; it may, in this sense, be applied, with peculiar propriety, to the Miscellanies of THEOCRITUS; which are, every where, replete with lively and natural representation, and paint all the objects they describe.

* Besides the Idyllia and Epigrams now extant, THEOCRITUS is said by Suidas to have written: Prætides, Hopes, Hymns, Heroines, Dirges, Ilegies, and lambics.


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