« AnteriorContinuar »
tive life, and a high relish for the ease and indolent enjoyments connected with rural retirement.
And Wisdom's self
Oft seeks the sweet retired solitude,
She plumes her feathers, and lets grow her wings,
Were all too ruffled, and sometimes impair'd.
As these dispositions and sentiments have a peculiar tone and character, that poetry in which they are expressed is, with propriety, considered as distinct from every other; being obviously different from that which is employed in describing great and heroic actions, or from that which is intended to call forth sympathy by scenes of distress, or from that which is calculated to excite laughter by exhibiting objects of folly and ridicule.
In a poem expressive of tender sentiments, it seems necessary that the scene should be laid at a distance from places of business and public resort, and should be filled with a description of rural objects and amusements. Shepherds, therefore, being the earliest inhabitants of the country, enjoying ease and happiness, were naturally pitched upon as the only persons who could, with probability, be represented in compositions of this nature. Hence it seems to have arisen, that the readers of such poems, and even critics, attending more to the sensible objects that were exhibited, than to the end which the poet had in view, have considered that as primary which was merely an accidental circumstance; and have regarded the employment of tending flocks as essential in the persons represented. It is in consequence of this that the name of pastoral is now commonly appropriated to that sort of composition, which has been substituted in place of Eclogues, Idyllia, Sylva, and several others used by
ancient authors. No reason, however, occurs for adhering to those early ideas in the present state of the world, where the situation of things is totally changed. Many people at present may, with probability, be supposed to live in the country, whose situation in life has no connexion with that of shepherds, and yet whose character is suitable to sentiments which ought to prevail in that species of writing.
It may even be doubted, whether the representation of sentiments belonging to the real inhabitants of the country, who are strangers to all refinement, or those entertained by a person of an elegant and· cultivated mind, who, from choice, retires into the country, with a view of enjoying those pleasures which it affords, is calculated to produce a more interesting picture. If the former is recommended by its naïveté and simplicity, it may be expected that the latter should have the preference in point of beauty and variety.
Two of the greatest poets of antiquity have described the pleasures of a country life in these two different aspects. The former view is exhibited, with great propriety and elegance, in one of the most beautiful poems of Horace.
"Quod si pudica mulier in partem juvans
(Sabina qualis, aut perusta solibus
Sacrum vetustis exstruat lignis focum
Claudensque textis cratibus laetum pecus
Distenta siccet ubera;
Et horna dulci vina promens dolio
But if a chaste and virtuous wife
Fatigued when homeward he returns,
Or in their folds his happy flock confine';
While unbought dainties crown the feast,
"O fortunatos nimium sua si bona norint
The more elevated Virgil has given a picture of the latter kind no less delightful, in that passage at the end of the second book of the Georgics, beginning,
O happy if he knew his happy state
The enlargement of the field of pastoral poetry, which is here suggested, would surely be of advantage, considering how much the common topics of that species of writing are already exhausted. We are become weary of the ordinary sentiments of shepherds, which have been so often repeated, and which have usually nothing but the variety of expression to recommend them. The greater part of the productions which have appeared under the name of pastorals are, accordingly, so insipid, as to have excited little attention: which is the more remarkable, because the subjects which they treat of naturally interest the affections, and are easily painted in such delusive colours as tend to sooth the imagination by romantic dreams of happiness.
M. de Fontenelle has attempted to write pastorals, upon the extensive plan above mentioned; but, though this author writes with great elegance in prose, his poetical talents seem rather below mediocrity; so that it is not likely he will be regarded, by succeeding poets, as a model for imitation.
No. LXXX. SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 8.
................ Ex fumo dare lucem,
Cogitat, ut speciosa dehinc miracula promat,
AUTHORS have been divided into two classes, the instructive and the entertaining; to which has been added a third, who mix, according to Horace, the "utile dulci," and are, in his opinion, entitled to the highest degree of applause.
Readers complain, that in none of these departments is there, in modern writing, much pretension to originality. In science, they say, so much has been already discovered, that all a modern writer has left, is, to explain and enforce the systems of cur predecessors; and, in literature, our fathers have so exhausted the acuteness of reasoning, the flashes of wit, the luxuriance of description, and the invention of incident, that an author now-a-days can only give new form, not matter, to his argument; a new turn, not thought, to his epigram; new attitudes, not object, to his picture; new language, not situation, to his story.
However true this complaint may be in the main, there is one class of writers to whom the charge of triteness, does, I apprehend, very little apply. They are generally of the first species mentioned above, who publish useful information to mankind; yet, in the last quarter of the 18th century, their information is often as new as if they had written in the infancy of art and of science, when every field was open to the researches of industry, and the invention of genius. The writers I allude to, are the authors of those little essays which appear in the learned world under the title of Advertisements.
The necessary and ornamental arts of life are equally the objects of the class of authors whom I describe. In both, I will venture to assert, that the novelty of their productions is equal to their usefulness.
It was formerly imagined, that disease was an evil which mankind had inherited as a punishment for the lapse of their progenitor. Milton has given, in his Paradise Lost, a catalogue of some of those tormenting maladies which were to be felt by the race of fallen Adam........So has Dr. Dominiceti in an advertisement, which is now lying before me; but, with the most extraordinary force of original discovery, has informed us, that, in his treatment of those disorders, there is no evil, no pain, but, on the contrary, much pleasure, and even luxury." I "engage," says the doctor, "with pleasure and " even luxury, to the patient, to encrease or diminish "the vital heat, and the circulatory, secretory, and "excretory functions; to soften and relax the "too hard and dry muscular and nervous fibres, and "contracted ligaments; and to harden and make "compact, and give the proper tone and elasticity "to the too moist and flabby muscular and nervous ❝fibres and relaxed sinews, and provide and esta"blish an equilibrium between the fluids and ves"sels; to sweeten acrid, corrosive, and saline "humours; and to cure the dropsy, asthma, con"sumptions, cholic, gravel, rheumatism, palsy, pleu"risy and fevers, stone and gout, scurvy and leprosy ; "to mollify and destroy inveterate callosities, to "deterge and cure obstinate ulcers, &c.
"These are not the representations of a quack's "bill; I detest the arts of quackery as much as any man living. I deal not in nostrums or myste"ries, or magic, or expedient to captivate:
"Non sibi, sed toto genitum se crcdere mundo."