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That the design of pastoral poesy is, to represent the undisturbed felicity of the golden age, is an empty notion, which, though supported by a Rapin and a Fontenelle, * I think, all rational critics have agreed to extirpate and explode. But I do not remember, that even these, or any critics, have remarked the circumstance that gave origin to the opinion, that any golden age was intended. Theocritus, the father and the model of this enchanting species of composition, lived and wrote in Sicily. The climate of Sicily was delicious, and the face of the country various and beautiful: its vallies and its precipices, its grottos and cascades, were SWEET LY INTERCHANGED, and its flowers and fruits were lavish and luscious. The poet described what he saw and felt; and had no need to have recourse to those artificial assemblages of pleasing objects, which are not to B 2
* In the dissertation annexed to his Pastorals, in which he made his first attempt to depreciate the ancients. Among his papers, after his death, was found a discourse on the Greek Tragedians; which Trublet, his relation, gave to Diderot, that he might insert it in the Encyclopedie; which, however, Diderot refused to do, because, he said, he could not possibly insert in that work, a treatise that tended to prove, that Eschylus was a madman.
be found in nature. The figs and the honey, which he assigns* as a reward to a victorious shepherd, were in themselves exquisite, and are therefore assigned with great propriety : and the beauties of that luxurious landscape, so richly and circumstantially delineated in the close of the seventh idyllium, where all things smelt of summer, and smelt of autumn,
Παν’ ωσδεν θερεος μαλα σιονς, ωσδε δ' οπωρης,
were present and real. Succeeding writers, supposing these beauties too great and abundant to be real, referred them to the fictitious and imaginary scenes of a golden age.
A mixture of British and Grecian ideas may justly be deemed a blemish in the PASTORALS of Pope: and propriety is certainly violated, when he couples Pactolus with Thames, and Windsor with Hybla. Complaints of immoderate. heat, and wishes to be conveyed to cooling caverns, when uttered by the inhabitants of Greece, have a decorum and consistency, which they totally
Idyll. i. ver. 146.
+ Ver. 133.
lose in the character of a British shepherd : and Theocritus, during the ardors of Sirius, must have heard the murmurings of a brook, and the whispers of a pine, * with more home-felt pleasure, than POPE † could possibly experience upon the same occasion. We can never completely relish, or adequately understand, any author, especially any Ancient, except we constantly keep in our eye, his climate, his country, and his age. Pope himself informs us, in a note, that he judiciously omitted the following verse,
And listning wolves grow milder as they hear, I
on account of the absurdity, which Spenser overlooked, of introducing wolves into England. But on this principle, which is certainly a just one, may it not be asked, why he should speak, the scene lying in Windsor-Forest, of the sultry Sirius, § of the GRATEFUL CLUSTERS of grapes,|| of a pipe of reeds, 1. the antique fistula, of thanking Ceres for a plentiful harvest, ** of the sacrifice B 3
of of lambs,* with many other instances that might be adduced to this purpose. That Pope, however, was sensible of the importance of adapting images to the scene of action, is obvious from the following example of his judgment; for, in translating,
* Idyll. i. ver. 1. + Past. iv. ver. 1. Past. ii. § Past. ii. yer. 21. || Past. iii. ver. 74. Past. ii. ver. 41.
** Ibid, ver. 66,
Audiit EUROTAS, jussitque ediscere LAUROS,
he has dexterously dropt the laurels appropriated to Eurotas, as he is speaking of the river Thames, and has rendered it,
Thames heard the numbers, as he flow'd along,
In the passages which Pope has imitated from Theocritus, and from his Latin translator, Virgil, he has merited but little applause. It may not be unentertaining to see, how coldly and unpoetically Pope has copied the subsequent appeal to the nymphs on the death of Daphnis, in comparison of Milton on LYCIDAS, one of his juvenile, but one of his most exquisite pieces.
* Past, iv. ver. 81.
# Ibid. ver. 14,
Πα ποκ' αρ' ήσ9' οκα Δαφνις εταχεία και τα σοκα, Νυμφαι και
δη σολαμοιο μελαν ρουν έιχεί Αναπω, ,
εά Ακιδου ιερον ύδωρ.*
Where stray ye, Muses, in what lawn or grove,
Where were ye, nymphs, when the remorseless deep
The mention of places remarkably romantic, the supposed habitation of Druids, bards, and wizards, is far more pleasing to the imagination, than the obvious introduction of Cam and Isis, as seats of the Muses.
A shepherd in Theocritus wishes, with much tenderness and elegance, both which must suffer in a literal translation, “Would I could become a murmuring bee, fly into your grotto, and be
* THEOCRITUS, Idyll. i. 66.
+ Pope, Past. ii. 23.