Essays on Poetry
Thomas Purney, A Full Enquiry into the True Nature of Pastoral (1717)
With an Introduction by Earl Wasserman
The Augustan Reprint Society January, 1948 Price: $1.00
RICHARD C. BOYS, University of Michigan EDWARD NILES HOOKER, University of California, Los Angeles H. T. SWEDENBERG, JR., University of California, Los Angeles
W. EARL BRITTON, University of Michigan
EMMETT L. AVERY, State College of Washington BENJAMIN BOYCE, University of Nebraska LOUIS I. BREDVOLD, University of Michigan CLEANTH BROOKS, Yale University JAMES L. CLIFFORD, Columbia University ARTHUR FRIEDMAN, University of Chicago SAMUEL H. MONK, University of Minnesota ERNEST MOSSNER, University of Texas JAMES SUTHERLAND, Queen Mary College, London
Lithoprinted from copy supplied by author by Edwards Brothers, Inc. Ann Arbor, Michigan, U.S.A. 1948
In the preface to each of his volumes of pastorals (Pastorals. After the simple Manner of Theocritus, 1717; Pastorals. viz. The Bashful Swain: and Beauty and Simplicity, 1717) Thomas Purney rushed into critical discussions with the breathlessness of one impatient to reveal his opinions, and, after touching on a variety of significant topics, cut himself short with the promise of a future extensive treatise on pastoral poetry. In 1933 Mr. H.O. White, unable to discover the treatise, was forced to conclude that it probably had never appeared (The Works of Thomas Purney, ed. H.O. White, Oxford, 1933, p. 111), although it had been advertised at the conclusion of Purney's second volume of poetry as shortly to be printed. A copy, probably unique, of A Full Enquiry into the True Nature of Pastoral (1717) was, however, recently purchased by the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library of the University of California, and is here reproduced. Despite the obvious failure of the essay to influence critical theory, it justifies attention because it is the most thorough and specific of the remarkably few studies of the pastoral in an age when many thought it necessary to imitate Virgil's poetic career, and because it is, in many respects, a contribution to the more liberal tendencies within neoclassic criticism. Essentially, the Full Enquiry is a coherent expansion of the random comments collected in the poet's earlier prefaces.
Purney belongs to the small group of early eighteenth-century critics who tended to reject the aesthetics based upon authority and pre-established definitions of the genres, and to evolve one logically from the nature of the human mind and the sources of its enjoyment; in other words, who turned attention from the objective work of art to the subjective response. These men, such as Dennis and Addison, were not searching for an aesthetics of safety, one that would produce unimpeachable correctness; Purney frequently underscored his preference for a faulty and irregular work that is alive to a meticulous but dull one. This is not to be understood as praise of the irregular: the rules of poetry must be established, but they must be founded rationally on the ends of poetry, pleasure and profit, and the psychological process by which they are received, and not solely on the practices and doctrines of the ancients. Taking his cue from the Hobbesian and Lockian methodology of Addison's papers of the pleasures of the imagination without delving into Addison's sensational philosophy, Purney outlined an extensive critical project to investigate (1) "the Nature and Constitution of the human Mind, and what Pleasures it is capable of receiving from Poetry"; (2) the best methods of exciting those pleasures; (3) the rules whereby these methods may be incorporated into literary form (Works, ed. White, p. 48). It is this pattern of thought that regulates the Full Enquiry. Perhaps more than any other poetic type, the pastoral of the Restoration and the early eighteenth century was dominated by classical tradition; the verse composed was largely imitative of the eclogues of Theocritus and Virgil, especially the latter, and criticism of the form was deduced from their practices or from an assumption that the true pastoral of antiquity was the product of the Golden Age. Of this mode of criticism Rapin and Pope were the leading exemplars. In opposition, Fontenelle, Tickell (if he was the author of the Guardian essays on the pastoral), and Purney developed their theories empirically and hence directed the pastoral away from the classical tradition. (On these two schools see J.E. Congleton, "Theories of Pastoral Poetry in England, 1684-1717," SP, XLI, 1944, pp. 544-575.) Although Purney adopted a modification of Aristotle's critical divisions into Fable, Character, Sentiment, and Diction, and took for granted the doctrine of the distinction of genres, he otherwise rejected traditional formulae and critical tenets, and began with the premise that man is most delighted by the imaginative perception of the states of life for which he would willingly exchange his own. These are "the busy, great, or pompous" (depicted in tragedy and the epic) and "the retir'd, soft, or easy" (depicted in the pastoral). From this analysis of "the Nature of the Human Mind," the characteristics of the true pastoral, such as the avoidance of the hardships and vulgarities of rural life, follow logically. Similarly, since a minutely drawn description deprives the reader's fancy of its naturally pleasurable exercise, pastoral descriptions should only set "the Image in the finest Light." Rapin, on the other hand, had determined the proper length of descriptions by examining Virgil and Theocritus. For the association of the pleasure afforded by the pastoral with the natural human delight in ease, Purney was indebted to the essays on the pastoral in The Guardian (see no. 22), from which he borrowed extensively for many of his principles, and to Fontenelle, who constructed his theory of the pastoral upon the premise that all men are dominated "par une certaine paresse." By contrast, although Pope adopted Fontenelle's premise, he tested its validity by relating it to the accepted definition of the genre.
One of Purney's major purposes in the essay was to dignify the pastoral by demonstrating that it admits all the components generally reserved for tragedy and the epic. Most critics had considered the pastoral a minor form and consequently had narrowed their attention to a few frequently debated questions, mainly the state of rural life to be depicted and the level of the style to be adopted. All agreed that the poem should be brief and simple in its fable, characters, and style. But it was therefore a poetic exercise, no more significant, Purney complained, than a madrigal. He was intent upon investing the pastoral with all the major poetic elements—extended, worthy fable; moral; fully-drawn characters; and appropriate expression. For in his mind the poem best incorporates one of the only two true styles, the tender, and therefore warrants a literary status beneath only tragedy and the epic.
Like his critical method, Purney's decision that the pastoral should depict contemporary rural life divested of what is vulgar and painful in it, rather than either the life of the Golden Age or true rustic existence places him on the side of Addison, Tickell, Ambrose Philips, and Fontenelle (indeed, his statement is a paraphrase of Fontenelle's), and in opposition to the school of Rapin, Pope, and Gay, who argued for a portrait of the Golden Age. Both schools campaigned for a simplicity removed from realistic rusticity (which they detected in Spenser and Theocritus) and refinement (as in Virgil's eclogues); but to one group the term meant the innocence of those remote from academic learning and social sophistication, and to the other the refined simplicity of an age when all men—including kings and philosophers—were shepherds. With reservations, the first group tended to prefer Theocritus and Spenser; and the second, Virgil. Hence, too, the first group approved of Philips' efforts to create a fresh and simple pastoral manner. As a poet, Purney moved sharply away from the classical pastoral by curiously blending an entirely original subject matter with a sentimentalized realism and a naive, diffuse expression; and as a critic he pointed in the direction of Shenstone and Allan Ramsay by emphasizing the tender, admitting the use of earthy realism in the manner of Gay, and recommending for pastoral such "inimitably pretty and delightful" tales as The Two Children in the Wood. Had his contemporaries read the treatise, how they would have been amused to contemplate the serious literary treatment of chapbook narratives, despite Addison's praise of this ballad.
In his usual nervous manner, the critic did not confine himself to his topic, but touched on a number of significant peripheral subjects. He showed the virtue of concrete and specific imagery at a time when most poets sought the sanctuary of abstractions and universals; commented cogently on the styles of Chaucer, Spenser, and Shakespeare; anticipated the later doctrine of the power of the incomplete and the obscure to suggest and therefore to compel the imagination to create; adopted and expanded Addison's distinction between the sublime and the beautiful; and, borrowing a suggestion that he probably found in Dennis (Critical Works, ed. Edward N. Hooker, Baltimore, 1919, I, 47), developed a profitable distinction between the sublime image and the sublime thought by examining their different psychological effects.
But, because they run counter to the accepted opinions of his age, it is Purney's comments on matters of style that are especially striking, although it must be remembered that most of them have to do with the pastoral alone and do not constitute a general theory of poetics. Perhaps his most original contribution is his attack upon the cautious contemporary styles of poetry: "strong lines," a term that originally defined the style of the metaphysical poets, but that now described the compact and pregnant manner of Dryden's satires, for example, and the "fine and agreeable," exemplified, let us say, by Pope's Pastorals or Prior's vers de societe. To these Purney preferred the bolder though less popular styles, the sublime and the tender, corresponding to the two pure artistic manners that Addison had distinguished. How widely Purney intended to diverge from current poetry can be judged by his definition of the sublime image as one that puts the mind "upon the Stretch" as in Lady Macbeth's apostrophe to night; and by his praise of the simplicity of Desdemona's "Mine eyes do itch." Both passages were usually ridiculed by Purney's contemporaries as indecorous.
Equally original is Purney's concept of simplicity, which he insisted should appear in the style and the nature of the characters, not in denuding the fable and in divesting the poem of the ornaments of poetry, as Pope had argued in the preface of his Pastorals. It was this concept that also led Purney to his unusual theory of enervated diction. How unusual it was can be judged by comparing with the then-current practices and theories of poetic diction his recommendation of monosyllables, expletives, the archaic language of Chaucer and Spenser, and current provincialisms—devices that Gay had used for burlesque—as means of producing the soft and the tender.
But it is hardly true that Purney's "true kinship is with the romantics," as Mr. White claims, for there is a wide chasm between a romantic and a daring and extravagant neoclassicist. Rather, Purney's search for a subjective psychological basis for criticism is one of the elements out of which the romantic aesthetics was eventually evolved, and it frequently led him to conclusions that reappear later in the eighteenth century.
* * * * *
In addition to editing Purney's pastorals, Mr. H.O. White has published an exhaustive study of "Thomas Purney, a Forgotten Poet and Critic of the Eighteenth Century" in Essays and Studies by Members of the English Association, XV (1929), 67-97. University of Illinois.
Earl. R. Wasserman
A FULL ENQUIRY INTO THE TRUE NATURE OF PASTORAL.
The PROEME or first Chapter of which contains a SUMMARY of all that the CRITICKS, ancient or modern, have hitherto deliver'd on that SUBJECT. After which follows what the Author has farther to advance, in order to carry the POEM on to its utmost Perfection.
* * * * *
Written by Mr. PURNEY.
* * * * *
* * * * *
Printed by H.P. for JONAS BROWN, at the Black Swan without Temple-Bar. 1717.
Cubbin (ye know the Kentish Swain) was basking in the Sun one Summer-Morn: His Limbs were stretch'd all soft upon the Sands, and his Eye on the Lasses feeding in the Shade. The gentle Paplet peep'd at Colly thro' a Hedge, and this he try'd to put in Rhime, when he saw a Person of unusual Air come tow'rd him. Yet neither the Novelty of his Dress, nor the fairness of his Mien could win the Mind of the Swain from his rural Amusement, till he accosted the thoughtful Shepherd thus.
If you are the Cubbin, said he, I enquire for, as by the Peculiarity of your Countenance, and the Firmness of your Look, you seem, young Boy, to be; I would hold some Discourse with you. The Pastorals of your Performance I have seen; and tho' I will not call 'em Perfect, I think they show a Genius not wholly to be overlookt. My Name, continued he, is Sophy, nor is it unknown in the World. In this Book (and here he pluckt it out of his Pocket) I have pen'd some Rules for your future Guidance.
Cubbin was strangely taken with the mild Address and Sweetness of Sophy. A thousand times he thanked him, as often smil'd upon him, and spread his Coat for him to set more soft upon the Sands.
Sophy was a true-born Britton, and admir'd a forward Spirit. The French he little loved; Their Poets dare not (said he) think without the Ancients, and their Criticks make use of their Eyes instead of their Understandings. 'Twas his way to pardon, nay admire a Critick, who for every fifty Errors would give him but one Remark of Use, or good Discovery. But always read one Sheet, then burnt those dull insipid Rogues, who thought that to write a good was to write a faultless Piece. By which means their whole Work becomes one general Fault.
This Censure, I fear, would fall pretty heavy on the [A]Criticks of France; if this were a proper Place to persue the Argument in. But Sophy thus resum'd his Talk.
[Footnote A: In the Preface to the Second Part of our Pastorals, viz. THE BASHFUL-SWAIN, and BEAUTY AND SIMPLICITY, we have shown to what Perfection the whole Science of CRITICISM was brought by the Ancients, then what Progress the French Criticks have further made, and also what remains as yet untouch'd, and uncompleat.]
In this, said he, I like your Temper, Cubbin. By those few Pieces we have seen of your's, and those I hear you have in Manuscript, you seem determin'd to engage in those Kinds of Poetry and those Subjects in Criticism, which the Ancients have left us most imperfect. Here, if you fail, you may be still some help to him who shall Attempt it next; and if all decline it, apprehensive of no fair success, how should it ever attain Perfection.
Then Cubbin told the Critick, that the reason of his entering upon Pastoral, where the Labour was excessive and the Honour gain'd minute, was this; He had unhappily reflected on that thing, we call a Name, so thoroughly, and weigh'd so closely what like Happiness it would afford, that he could now receive no pleasure from the Thoughts of growing famous; nor would write one Hour in any little kind of Poetry, which was not able to take up and possess his Mind with Pleasure, tho' it would procure him the most glaring Character in Christendom. This Temper was especially conspicuous while he tarried at the Fountain where he imbibed the little Knowledge he possesses. He seem'd as out of humour with Applause, and dafted aside the Wreath if ever any seem'd dispos'd to offer it.
I' faith, said Cubbin, I am nothing careful whether any Pastorals be cry'd up or not. Were I dispos'd to write for a Name, no whit would I engage in either the Sublime or Soft in Writing: For as the middle Way, made up of both, is vastly easiest to attain; so is it pleasant to the most Imaginations, and acquires the widest Character.
There are originally, answer'd Sophy, no perfect and real Kinds of Writing but them two. As for the Strong Lines, 'tis supplying the want of the Sublime with the Courtly and Florid Stile; as what we usually call the Fine and Agreeable is but bastard and degenerate from the truly Tender. But yet it must be added that this suits the Populace the best.
Here Cubbin answer'd Sophy, that these were pretty ways of making Verses, but his mind was of such a peculiar Turn, that it requir'd some greater Design, and more laborious to occupy it, or else it would not be sufficiently engag'd to be delighted. Twould not be taken off from reflecting on what a stupid Dream is Life; and what trifling and impertinent Creatures all Mankind. Unless, said He, I'm busy'd, and in a hurry, I can't impose upon my self the Thought that I am a Being of some little significance in the Creation; I can't help looking forward and discovering how little better I shall be if I write well, or ill, or not at all. I would fain perswade my self, continued he, that a Shakespear and a Milton see us now take their Works in hand with Pleasure and read with Applause.
Tis certain, answer'd Sophy, that the less we know of Nature and our Selves, the more is Life delightful. If we take all things as we see 'em, Life is a good simple kind of Dream enough, but if we awaken out of the dull Lethargy, we are so unhappy as to discover, that tis all and every thing Folly, and Nonsense and Stupidity.—But we walk in a vain Shadow and disquiet our selves in vain.
Here Cubbin fell with his Face to the Ground, and said, I prethee now no more of this; your Book you open'd but forgot to give me the Contents.
Sophy recollected him; and told the Swain, That Book contain'd some Rules for his Direction. But as I have not patience, added he, to make a Treatise of some hundred Pages, which consists of other Persons Hints, but flourish'd and dilated on; or the Rules and Observations of the Anciants set in a different Light; I shall first sum up the whole Discoverys the French or any other Criticks yet have made in Pastoral; and where they have left it I shall take the Subject, and try how far beyond I am able to carry it. For after that, every single Thought will be the free Sentiment of my own Mind. And I desire all to judge as freely as I write; and (if, after a strict Examination of the Rules, they see any Reason) to condemn as peremtorily; for we cannot get out of an Error too soon.
RUAEUS say's, The Pastoral Sentiments must have a Connection Plain and Easy. Affirming that tho' Incoherence, may add a neglegence and simple loosness to Pastoral, yet 'tis not such a Negligence or Simplicity as Pastoral delight's in.
DRYDEN observe's, that the Dialect proper for Pastoral, must have a Relish of the Fascion of speaking in the Country.
FONTENELL that most excellent Frenchman takes Notice, that no Passion is so proper for Pastoral as that of Love. He mean's as to what we are to describe in our Swains; not mentioning those Passions that Poem is to raise in the Reader.
RAPIN observe's, The Fable should be One. The Swains not abusive, or full of Raillery. The Sence should not be extended or long. This Author has other Observations new, but you may guess of what a Nature, when he confesses He walk'd but as Theocritus and Virgil lead him. Therefore he cannot have carried the Poem to any Perfection beyond the Condition they left it in; and so much any Reader may see from the Authors themselves, without reading a large Volume to find it out.
Mr. DRYDEN, in another place, has an Observation which carrys the Knowledge of Pastoral still farther. Pastorals, says he, must contain an agreeable Variety after the manner of a Landscape.
But in the GUARDIANS, Vol. I. The Reader may see the Nature of Pastoral more explain'd and enter'd into, in a few Dissertations, than by all these Authors have deliver'd on the Subject. As these are Books in every Bodies Hands, I shall not trouble my self to extract the Summary of 'em. But he will find the Criticism on Phillips and the other Observations are extreamly Ingenious.
Of the Parts of Pastoral; and of the several Sorts of that Poem.
PASTORAL, in it's Imitation of the Lives of Shepherds, makes use of FABLE, CHARACTERS, SENTIMENTS and LANGUAGE; and by these four Parts conjoyntly obtain's it's End; that is, excites our Pity, or our Joy, or both. For in FABLE I include the MORAL; in SENTIMENTS both IMAGE and THOUGHT; and in LANGUAGE I comprehend the HARMONY.
These four Parts of PASTORAL would lead us into an easy and natural enumeration of the several Kinds or Sorts of that Poem: According as they have more or fewer of those Parts; and as they do or do not excite the Pastoral passions. Not that all those Kinds are perfect Pastorals, or even Poems, but only such as Authors have given us Examples of, from THEOCRITUS and VIRGIL.
But I omit this Division for another more material. A Difference more fundamental, arises in the PASTORALS written by different AUTHORS, according to the Age which the Poet chuses to describe, or the different Descriptions which he gives us of the COUNTRY. For he may draw it as 'tis suppos'd to have been in the Golden Age; or be may describe his own COUNTRY, but touching only what is agreable in it; or lastly, may depaint the Life of Swains exactly as it is, their Fatigues and Pleasures being equally blended together. And this, last Kind most Writers have given into; for Theocritus's rude unmanner'd Muse (as many Criticks have stiled it, not much amiss) naturally led him into this Method; and then, tis easy to conceive why the latter Pastoral-Writers chose the same.
But as the second Method is plainly more delightful than the last, as it collect's the most beautiful Images and sweetest Thoughts the Country afford's; so I shall show that 'tis preferable on many other Accounts; and even finer for Pastoral than the Golden Age. But this when I speak of the Characters.
I would only settle now in short the most compleat Kind of Pastoral; And such, I think, is that which most beautifully draw's the present Life of Shepherds, and raises Pity or Joy, by the four Parts of Pastoral, Fable, Characters, Sentiments, and Language. And since 'tis these which constitute a perfect Pastoral, I shall crave leave to speak separately of 'em all. And first of the Fable.
Of the Fable; and the means of making a perfect One.
A Fable proper for Pastoral, and best adapted to delight, must have these following Qualities to render It compleat.
First, It must be one entire Action, having a Beginning, a Middle, and an End.
Secondly, A perfect Fable must have a due Length. And not consist of only a mournful Speech which a Shepherd find's occasion to make; or the like.
Thirdly, And since all Poetry is an Imitation of the most Considerable, or the most Delightful Actions in the Person's Life we undertake; not any trifling Action can be sufficient to constitute the Fable.
Fourthly, Another Quality which a Pastoral Fable should have to be the most compleat is a Moral Result.
I shall speak to all these Heads, except the first, concerning the Unity; for without that Quality, it's self-evident that 'tis no Fable. By Unity I mean the same with Aristotle.[A]
[Footnote A: See his 6th Chapter.]
What Length a perfect Pastoral should have.
All Pastoral-Writers have used the same Length which Theocritus at first happen'd into. I shall be therefore obliged, I doubt, to dwell longer, on this Head, than the Importance of it may seem to require; and must premise, that tho' a Fable would need, finely carry'd on, to be three or four Hundred Lines, yet let no Writer be under any Concern about this: If a Fable have Unity, shews a delightful story, paints proper Characters, and contains a Moral, I shall not doubt to call the Poem a perfect and compleat Pastoral, tho' the Length exceeds not fifty Lines. But my Reasons for extending it are these:
Some Author I have seen, ingeniously observes, that even in telling common Stories, 'twere best to give some short Account of the Persons first, to be heard with Delight and Attention; For, says he, 'tis not so much this being said, but its being said on such a particular Occasion, or by such a particular Person. As this is true in a common Story, so 'tis more so in a Poem. The strongest Pleasure that the Mind receives from Poetry, flows from its being engaged and concerned in the Progress and Event of the Story. We naturally side in Parties, and interest our selves in their Affairs of one side or the other. Then 'tis, our Care pursues our Favourite Character, where're he goes. We anticipate all his Successes, and make his Misfortunes our own. Were the Catastrophe in a Tragedy to appear in the first Act, but little should we be moved by it, not having as yet imbibed a favourable Opinion of the Hero, nor learn'd to be in Pain as often as he is in Danger.
Now, we may read, I fear, some Number of the Pastorals of the ordinary Length, before we shall meet with this Pleasure. The Truth is, we are commonly past a hundred Lines, the length of these Pieces, before the Mind and Attention is entirely fix'd, and has lost all its former and external Thoughts. All the Pleasure therefore which proceeds from the Story is lost in these short Pieces.
'Tis true Indeed, I think it possible for a Novel, or perhaps a Poem, to contain a Story in a hundred Lines which shall be able to engage the Mind so as to delight it from the fable it self, stript of all its Ornaments. But how few in a hundred Ages have had Genius's capable of this. And if 'tis difficult in a Novel or Poem, which may couch the Circumstances close together, how much more Difficult must it be in Pastoral. In the former Pieces nothing is to be observed but the Story itself, in the latter a thousand Beauties are to be adjoyn'd and as many Rules observ'd.
The proper Length of Pastoral further collected from the Consideration of the Characters.
Another Pleasure which the brevity of these Pieces robs us of, is this. The Characters cannot finely and distinctly be depainted in so short a Compass. And 'tis observable, we are concern'd for the Personages in no Poetry so much as those of Pastoral. Simplicity and Innocence have Charms for every Mind, and we pity most, where most our Pity's wanted.
So that the two noblest Beauties, and which constitute the main Difference between Poetry and Versification, between a perfect Poem and a Madrigal, Epigram or Elegy, are entirely lost in those Pieces, and the only Pleasure they can raise, must proceed alone from Sentiment and Diction.
The Length of Pastoral, yet further shown from the Passions it raises.
In every rational and consistent Piece, the Writer has some Aim in View; as, to work every thing up to one End and a Moral Result; or to excite some Passion, or the like. Otherwise it is but an Assay of Wit, a Flirt of the Imagination, and no more. Too trifling to detain the rational Mind. Now, that these short Pieces are not capable of having a Moral, or raising any Passion, I need trouble my self for no other Proof than there never having been such one produced.
But give me leave to instance in the usual Method of forming a Pastoral. One Shepherd meets another; tells him some body is dead; upon which, they begin the mournful Dialogue, or Elegy. But in such an Elegy, there is but one thing can raise a fine Pleasure; which can be the only solid Reason for the Writers performing such a Work; and that is the raising Pity, without which no End is obtain'd by such a Dialogue. And 'tis only a School-Boy tryal of Wit; like a single Description. Unless the Poet think's it enough that the Scene is laid in the Country, and the very Talk of Shepherds is enough to support a Piece. And the truth is, of a Nature so exceeding pleasant is Pastoral, that a Piece which has but Fields and Hedges repeated pretty often in it, is at least tolerable; whereas in any other Poetry, we see every day far better Poems cast out of the World as soon as they enter into it. But another reason of their Success proceeds from the little Knowledge most People have of Pastoral; all Poets having gone in exactly the same Track, without one endeavouring to raise the Poem to any greater Perfection than they found it in; whereas Epick Poetry, Tragedy, and Comedy, arriv'd by slow degrees to the Perfection they now bear; and this Writer still went beyond the last of an equal Genius.
But I was going to give an Instance how incapable these Pieces are of raising the Passions. A mournful Dialogue, or Elegy is formed upon the Death of some Person. But if this Elegy raises not our Pity, 'tis a Trifle, and only a childish Copy of Verses. But in order to raise that most delightful Passion, should not the Reader be first prepossess'd in favour of the Party dead? Can I pity a Person because deceas'd, without knowing any thing of his while alive?
'Tis the same in that other well-known way of drawing up a Pastoral. I mean, where two Shepherds sing alternately. Theocritus haply light upon this, and every Pastoral Writer since his time, (that I have seen) has been so unfortunate as to happen exactly upon the same. And I believe it has as often been indifferent to the Readers which of the Shepherds overcame. Our Joy in this Case is equal to our Grief in the other.
From the length by Nature prescribed to all Pieces, Epick, Tragick, &c. is shown, That Pastoral will, at least, admit of the Length of three or four hundred Lines.
Thus far of the Necessity of extending a Pastoral to the Length of three or four hundred Lines, if we would not deprive our selves of the Opportunities of being as delightful as Poetry will permit. But if any Commentator, who think's himself oblig'd to defend Theocritus and Virgil in every particular, should not only not allow this Length to be preferable, but even condemn it as faulty, it would oblige us to come more close to the Point, and to take the Question from the bottom. What is the Length by Nature fix'd for all Pieces? And why mayn't an Epick be as short as a Tragick Poem? Methink's a Poet should not be content to take these things on Trust, and tye himself down to Brevity or Length only because Theocritus wrote short and Homer long Pieces.
I have not Leisure to enter fully into this Question, but would recommend it to some Person who has, as a Subject that would prove as Entertaining to the Reader as the Writer. However, I shall speak just what I have at present in my Mind upon it.
Without considering Tragedy as drawn into Representation, it is plain it would not endure the Length of Epick Poetry, without being wearious in the Reading, for these Reasons among others: It's Nature is more heated and violent than the Epick Poem, and consists of only Dialogue; whereas the former has the Variety of Dialogue and Narration both. Besides, the under-actions which work up to the main Action in Heroick Poetry, are each as great and as different from each other, as the main Actions of different Tragedies.
Nor would Pastoral bear the Length of even Tragedy. For it admits not both those two kinds of Writing, the Sublime and the Beautiful, which are the most different of any in Nature, having only the last. But these two give so sweet a variety to the same Piece, when they are artfully blended together, that a good Tragedy or Epick Poem can never tire. Soon as we begin to be sated and cloy'd with Passion and Sublime Images, the Poet changes the Scene; all is, on a sudden soft and beautiful, and we seem in another World.
Yet is Pastoral by no means ty'd down by nature to the Length used by Theocritus and all his Followers. 'Tis only Example has introduc'd that Method. For, 'tis a Poem capable of raising two Passions, and those tho' all consistent with one another, yet what raise Pleasures, the most widely different of any, in the Mind. When we have tir'd the Reader with a mournful and pitious Scene, we may relieve and divert his Mind with agreeable and joyous Images. And these the Poet may diversify and vary as often as he pleases. And so different are the Passions of Pity and Joy, that he may all thro' the Poem please in an equal Degree, yet all thro' the Poem in a different Manner.
Besides, this Poem changes the general Scene, which is more than even Tragedy does. A Poet who has form'd a perfect Notion of the Beautiful, and furnished his Mind with a sufficient number of delightful Images, before he set's down to write a Pastoral, will lead the Reader thro' so sweet a Variety of amusing scenes, and show so many beautiful Pictures to his Imagination, that he will never think the tenth Part of a Tragedy's Length too much for a Pastoral.
'Tis true indeed that they who make a Pastoral no more considerable than a Song or Ballad (as Theocritus, Virgil, &c.) without Passions, Characters, a delightful Fable, or any Moral, do well to make it of no greater Extent than a Song or Ballad. Where there is nought to delight but the Sentiments, (for they aim at neither the soft nor the sublime Language) a Reader cannot attend to more than a hundred Lines; but where the Mind is engag'd and concern'd for the Issue of the Story, and eager to know the Event, 'tis insensibly drawn on, and haveing some Aim in View, is much less weary'd, tho' led on to a greater Extent.
That the Pastoral Action must not be very little and minute; also that several Under-actions must run thro' the Poem.
A Third Quality, laid down as necessary to constitute a Fable wholly perfect, was this, That as there must be but one Action, that Action may not be any trifling, silly Circumstance of a Shepherd's Life. As one Swain's telling the other how poor and bare he is grown. Or one complaining to the other, that his Flock has had some Mischance, or the like; which is as much as can be gather'd out of the Pastorals form'd after the ordinary Way. For if you take the Actions of any of 'em, divested of the Ornaments of Poetry, and the constant Repetition of the pleasing Words, Grove, Breeze, Mead, &c. you will find nothing, even nothing at all in any of 'em.
So that, tho' these Pastorals mostly may have Actions, nay, and Unity of Action; yet are they Actions no more proper for a Poem, than a Proposition of Euclid, turn'd into Verse, would be. There is nothing, (not even the telling how the Sow and Pigs swallow'd their Wash, and fought the while,) but might be call'd one Action, with a Beginning, Middle and End. So that 'tis nothing to have unity of Fable, if the Fable be not proper.
Shepherds are indeed suppos'd to be happy, and devoid of Stir, and Noise, and Bustle; but does it follow, that there are no Actions or Incidents in a Shepherd's Life? If there are delightful Actions, 'tis plain we don't run counter to a Shepherd's Life in drawing 'em into Poetry; and Poetry imitates the Actions of Men. Which show's that these ordinary Pastorals are no more Poetry, than Lucretius is, or than any other Philosopher, if turn'd into Verse, would be. Sure I think, as we allow an Epick Writer to take his Hero in that Part or Character of his Life, where he will make the best Figure in Poetry, so we should allow a Pastoral-Writer the same Opportunity of pleasing.
'Tis necessary also that several lesser Actions work up to the main One; that the whole Piece may be fill'd with Circumstances. 'Tis the very Soul of Poetry to imitate Actions; to lead the Mind thro' a Variety of Scenes; and to present a Number of Pictures before it.
'Tis plain a Shepherd's Life has as many Incidents, as other Person's; only one Kind are in low Life, the other not. The Simplicity of Pastoral is nothing touch'd by this, if these Incidents are Pastoral: For the difference between Epick or Tragick Poetry, and Pastoral, must not proceed from the One haveing many, the other no Under-Actions, but rather from the different Actions, which a Hero and a Swain are engag'd in. A Shepherd's leading his Lass to a Shade, and there sticking her Bosom with Flowers, is the same in Pastoral, as an Hero's hurling a Javelin, is in Epick Poetry. And a variety of Circumstances and Actions is equally necessary in both Pieces. Or perhaps in Pastoral most; since the Coolness and Sedateness of Pastoral is very apt to sate and tire the Reader, if he dwell's long on one Action; and we can bear a longer Description of a Battle than of two Shepherd's sitting together; because the first fill's and actuate's the Mind the most; and where it is so much employ'd, it cannot so easily flag and grow dull.
Whether the Pastoral Fable should be simple or complex; and how it must differ from the Epick Fable.
The Implex Fables are to me, in all Poetry, the finest. And even Pastoral may receive an additional Beauty from a Change of Fortune in the chief Character, if manag'd with Discretion. 'Tis not easy to give direct Proofs for things of this Nature. But what little I have to offer for Pastoral's requiring an Implex Fable, is as follows.
Pastoral, like all Poetry, should aim at Pleasure and Profit. Pleasure is best produc'd, if the Poem raises Pity, or Joy, or both; and Profit by its having a Moral. Now the Implex Fable attain's it's End the easiest. For we pity Misfortunes no where so much as in one we saw but lately happy: Nor do we joy to see a Man flourish; but to see him rise from Ills to a flourishing Condition, rejoyces the Mind. And as for the other End of Poetry, which is Profit, every one may see that Implex Fables are greatly best for producing a Moral.
But great Care must be taken in this Way. Whereas the Catastrophe in Epick Poetry, is work'd up by violent Means, as Machines, and the like; In Pastoral it must be produced so easy and natural, as to seem to proceed from it self.
Nor must the Change of Fortune be produced by any sudden Contrast, as in most Tragedies it is; since Surprize (unless very weak) is a Fault in Pastoral, tho' a Beauty in other Poetry.
'Tis also evident that the Ills which a Shepherd falls into, from some slight, and almost inevitable Slip (from which the Moral is form'd) must be infinitely less than those which embarrass a Hero; because Ills must be proportion'd to the Fault; and 'tis plain, the Faults of a Swain are suppos'd to be very minute.
A hundred Observations, like this last, might be made, too inconsiderable to enumerate; but the Poet, when he form's his Fable, cannot avoid observing 'em. Otherwise, 'tis best he keep to the Simple Fable; which, tho' a better may, by Industry, be form'd, is far enough from being faulty.
What Circumstances or Actions of a Shepherd's Life are properest for the Poet to go upon.
We cannot be pleas'd with the Description of any State, or Life, which at that time we would not willingly exchange our present State for. Nor is it possible to be pleas'd with any thing that is very low and beggarly. Therefore, methinks, I would raise my Shepherd's Life to a Life of Pleasure; contrary to the usual Method. For when a Citizen or Person in Business divert's himself in the Country, 'tis not from seeing the Swains employ'd or at Labour; he visits the Country for the easy and agreeable Retiredness of it; and I believe the Pleasure of seeing a Shepherd folding his Sheep, proceeds from the Prospect of Evening, of the Woods and Fields, and from the Innocence we conceive in the Sheep, and the like; not from the Action of the Shepherd folding them. So of Reapers, we conceive 'em filling the following Year with Plenty; We have, while we see 'em, the Thought of Fulness, and the time when every thing is brought to Perfection; and these, and the like Thoughts, rather raise the Delight of seeing those particular Labours, than the Actions themselves. For we see, that if we behold Sheep, or the like, in a City, tho' Countrymen are ordering them, we have no such Delight; because there the Silence of Evening, the Prospect of Fields, &c. are not added.
I would therefore omit the Labour of Shepherds, if I could invent a Life more agreeable; but the latter must be form'd from a Man's Imagination, the former from Observation; and Virgil could draw that almost as well as Theocritus. I wonder the Writers of Pastoral should be so fond of showing their Shepherds Beating Their Ronts, or Scolding With each other, or the like; when they might describe 'em sleeping upon Violets; plaiting rosy Chaplets by a lovely Rivulet; getting Strawberries for a Lass, &c.
'Tis observable, that no Tragedy can be well constituted without a mixture of Love; and even Shakespear, (who seem's to have had so little of the Soft or Tender in his Genius) was obliged to have some recourse to that Passion, in forming his most regular Tragedy; I mean Othello. Not that an Hero should be soften'd, much less drawn in his most degenerate Hours, when he is in Love. For, methinks, the French seem a little too fond of introduceing Love, when they draw their greatest Hero's as amorous Love-Sops, and omit all that is truly Great in their Characters.
Now if Love, with Reason manag'd, appear so well in Tragedy, it must sure be extreamly proper for Pastoral. In the first we are to be rais'd and heated; in the latter sooth'd and soften'd: The one has to do with Personages, all gentle and tender; the Subject of the other is Fury and Bravery. I would therefore have, methinks, a Sprinkling of Love thro' all my Pastorals; and 'twill give the Writer an Opportunity of showing the Tenderness, and the Simplicity of his Characters in the finest Manner: Yet must it be so diversify'd and broken, by other Incidents interfering, as not to cloy and nauseate the Reader, with the Repetition of nothing but Love and Love.
The vulgar Notion is, that Wrestling, and such like Incidents are properest for Pastoral; but if a Writer introduces such, he'll find 'em so few, that 'twill be necessary to touch upon Love besides.
But methinks, I would not show my CHARACTERS in so low and clownish a degree of Life; For if I draw 'em so rough, and Porter-like, in one place, I cannot give 'em Tenderness and Simplicity in another; without breaking in upon the Manners.
So that if I was compell'd to put this Circumstance of Wrestling into a Pastoral, I would have recourse, even there, to Love, to render it Pleasurable to the Mind; as thus: A tender-hearted Lass should be plac'd Spectator of her Wrestling Lover: By this means the Poet might make it shine in Poetry; if he described her Behaviour, her soft Concern and joyous Smiles, occasioned by every little Failure, and every Prospect of Success.
But this is a Subject of so great Extent, that I have not time to go thro' with it. Take therefore this general Rule for all. Those Circumstances or Actions in the Fable, which show barely the Delightfulness of the Country, are good. Those which give us a Sight of also the Sprightliness and Vigour of it, are better; and those which comprehend further, the Simplicity and the Tenderness of the young Lasses, are best. And from hence a Writer or Reader will be able to make a Judgment of any Circumstance that may occur.
That this Variety of Actions does by no means impair the Simplicity of Pastoral.
There is nothing in Pastoral, of which Persons have a wronger Notion than of the word Simplicity. Because the Poem should be simple, they strip it of all Beauty and Delightfulness; that is, they lay the Simplicity where it should not so much be (in the Fable) and deprive it of all Simplicity, where 'twould be beautiful (in the Sentiments and Diction.)
If all the Incidents or Actions, that are truly simple and delightful, thro' the whole Number of Theocritus's Idylls, were collected into one Pastoral, so as to follow naturally each other, and work up to one general End, I think that Pastoral would be more truly simple than any we have at present. 'Tis true, a Poet may thrust into Pastoral as great a multitude of Actions, and as surprizingly brought about, as we find in Tragedy, but there is no necessity, because he must use a Number sufficient to please, that therefore he must fall into that fault. Yet for mine own part, I had rather see too much, than too little Action, as I cannot help preferring a faulty Writer before a dull One.
But a Poet of Genius will diversify and adorn his Fable, as much as he lawfully may; and as for the Simple, he will draw such soft and tender Characters, as will furnish his Poem with enough of that, and of the most delightful Kind. The generality of Pastoral Writers seem to think they must make their Pieces simple, by divesting them of all the Ornaments of Poetry; and the less and more inconsiderable Sketches they are, the more Simple they are. A strange Conception sure of Simplicity. While their Sentiments are false almost in every Line; either in their own Nature; or with respect to Pastoral; or to the Person speaking; or some other foreign Cause. But I shall always wave the being particular in such Cases as these. To point at Faults directly, I think the Business of a Carper, not a Critick.
Of the Moral; and what kind of Moral Pastoral require's.
The fourth Quality that a Fable ask's, to render it compleat, is a Moral Result. I need not trouble you with a Proof of a Moral's being necessary; 'tis plain that every Poem should be made as perfect as 'tis capable of being, and no one will ever affirm a Moral to be unnatural in Pastoral. But if any one should demand a Proof, 'tis thus: Poetry aim's at two Ends, Pleasure and Profit; but Pastoral will not admit of direct Instructions; therefore it must contain a Moral, or lose one End, which is Profit. We might as easy show that the other End of Poetry, viz. Pleasure, is also impair'd, if the Moral be neglected; but the thing is plain.
To hasten therefore to enquire what kind of Moral is proper for Pastoral, we must look back into the Reasons prescribed by Nature for the Morals in all Sorts of Poetry.
Epick Poetry and Tragedy are conversant about Hero's, Kings, and Princes, therefore the Morals there, should be directed to Persons engaged in Affairs of State, and at the Helm, and be of such a Nature as these; A Crown will not render a Person Happy, if he does not pursue his Duty towards God and Man; the best Method of Securing a Government, is to occasion Unity in it, and the like.
Again, Comedy's Subject is to expose the Ill Habits in low Life. It's moral therefore should contain Instructions to the middle Sort of People: As, What Ills attend on Covetousness. Or, On a Parent's being too Severe, or the like.
* * * * *
But so easy and gentle a kind of Poetry is Pastoral, that 'tis not very pleasant to the busy Part of the World. Men in the midst of Ambition, delight to be rais'd and heated by their Images and Sentiments. Pastoral therefore addresses it self to the Young, the Tender, and particularly those of the SOFT-SEX. The Characters also in Pastoral are of the same Nature; An Innocent Swain; or Tender-Hearted Lass. From such Characters therefore we must draw our Morals, and to such Persons must we direct them; and they should particularly aim at regulating the Lives of Virgins and all young Persons.
* * * * *
What Nature I would have a Moral of, cannot so well be explain'd as by Examples; but I do not remember at present any such Pastoral. You are not widely deficient, Cubbin, I think, in this particular. Your first show's us, that the best Preservative a young Lass can have against Love and our deluding Sex, is, to be wholly unacquainted therewith. Little Paplet is eager of Listning to Soflin's Account of Men and Love; but that first set's her Heart on the Flutter; then she is taken with Soflin's SWEET-HEART; tho' all the while she is ignorant of the Cause of her Uneasiness.
The Moral to your second Pastoral, which contain's Instructions to COQUETTS, warning them not to take pleasure in giving Pain, is, I think, not worst than this.
But the Moral to your Third (call'd the Bashful Swain), methinks, is not so good. It is also directed to the COQUETTS; and instruct's 'em not to give a Lover any Hopes, whom they do not intend to make happy. If the young Lass there, had jilted Cuddlett, she had mist of her good Fortune; and her Unwillingness to encrease the Number of her Admirers, is the Cause of her Happiness. But, I know not how, this like's me not so well as the other Three; or, perhaps it is not produced so naturally by the Fable, and that may prevent it's pleasing.
How to form the most regular kind of Moral.
If a Writer's only Aim was the preserving Poetical Justice in his Moral, he would have nothing to do but to show a Person defective in some slight Particular, and from thence Unhappy; but as a Poet always reaches at Perfection, these following Rules are to be observ'd.
The Inadvertency or Fault which the Character commit's, must be such a Fault as is the natural or probable Consequence of his Temper. And his Misfortune such an one as is the natural or probable Consequence of his Fault. As in Othello: (For how can I instance in Pastoral.) I rather suppose the Moor's Fault, to be a too rash and ungrounded Jealousy; than that Fault, common to almost all our Tragedies, of marrying without the Parent's Consent. A rash Jealousy then, is the natural consequence of an open and impetuous Temper; and the Murder of his Wife is a probable Consequence of such a Jealousy, in such a Temper. So that the Hero's Temper naturally produces his Fault, and his Fault his Misfortunes.
If you allow that the fault should be the natural or probable Consequence of the Temper; let me ask you then, if those Tragedies or Pastorals can be so perfect, where the original natural Temper of the Hero or Heroine is not drawn into the Piece. I mean, where all that we see of the Mind of the Chief Character, is his Mind or Temper, as alter'd entirely, by some foreign or accidental Means. As, Who will tell me what Hamlet's natural Temper was? Throughout that admirable Tragedy, we see not his bare Temper once; but before he appear's, he's in wild Distraction, which proceed's from former Accidents. This Method Mr. Row too has taken, especially in that ingenious Tragedy, call'd JANE SHORE. We do not see any thing of her Temper but Grief and Sorrow; but Grief cannot be natural to any Person's Mind, but must be accidental. However, I think, this Method may be, at least, very good; whether 'tis the best, I leave others to determine.
But as to the Fault, whether 'tis in the Action, or out of it, is of no moment to the Perfectness of a Pastoral. Tho' I must needs say, I am for what Aristotle call's the Peripatie, or change of Fortune in Pastoral; but I think the Action that produces the Change may be either in the Poem, or have happen'd some time before, but so that it's Influence does not reach the Persons till they have been a while engaged in the Actions of the Tragedy or Pastoral.
Here Sophy closed his Book; for the Heat of the Day came on, and an House or an Arbour began to be more agreeable than the open Fields. Sophy told the Swain he would meet him there agen in the Evening, and read him some more of the Minutes he had put down for his Direction, and withdrew; and the Shepherd drove his Lambs to the Covert of the Shades.
Accordingly, as the day began to decline, the Critick again appear'd; and opening his Book, pursued the Argument he had made some Progress in.
The End of the first Part.
Of the Pastoral CHARACTERS or MANNERS, in general.
I should but tire the Reader, if I endeavour'd to prove that Pastoral does require the Manners, or Characters to be preserved. If our Method of ordering Pastoral be admitted, the Necessity thereof will be easily perceived. But If any one prefer's the ordinary Method, I must tell him, that 'tis not proper to draw Characters in a Piece of an hundred Lines.
It is to be observ'd, that tho' a Fable and Moral are essential to every Poem; yet a Poem may subsist without the Manners. In Epick Poetry the Machinery, the sublime Descriptions, &c. are such strong and Poetical Ornaments, that a very fine Piece of the Heroick kind, might be form'd without the Ornament of Characters. But Pastoral is in it self, (if I may so speak) less Poetical; and therefore more want's the additional Ornaments of Art. 'Tis naturally low and mean, and therefore should be as much rais'd as possible. Whereas Epick-Poetry is of a Nature so warm and heated, that it's own proper Strength and Violence is able to support it. If this could want a Proof, I might say in short, That we can bear with Epick-Poetry, even without any kind of Verse, and Cambray has succeeded in such; but every one will judge that should a Pastoral appear in Prose, nay even without the Feminine Ornament of Jangle, 'twould not be born with; which show's that Epick Poetry can support it self with fewer foreign Assistances than Pastoral.
Another Observation I shall make, relating to the Manners or Characters in general, is this; and 'tis equally applicable to Epick Poetry, Tragedy, and Pastoral: There are three different ways of drawing Characters; which in Tragedy form the Poem, as 'twere, of three different Kinds or Natures.
The first, and finest is, where the Natural Temper of the Hero's Mind is drawn in the former Part of the Poem, but after the Peripatie alter's. As Timon of Athens is drawn at first all free and well-natur'd to a Fault; but after his change of Fortune, is described as a quite different Man; morose, and in hatred with himself and all the World. And so in other Tragedies.
The second Sort is, where the Temper of Mind is the same in the former and latter Part of the Play; but all along forced from it's Natural Bent. Every where inclin'd and leaning to a different Temper; yet is no where wholly carry'd off, or alter'd, as in Venice-Preserv'd; Jaffeir's Temper is generous, faithful, and tender, but thro' Want and Enticement being drawn into a Conspiracy, this Temper is half effac'd in him: But the Strugglings which the Poet has so fine an Opportunity of describing, between his present Actions and his natural Temper, are carry'd thro' the whole Piece; and he condemn's himself the same for ungenerously betraying his Friend at the End, as for entring into the Conspiracy against his Country, at the beginning of the Play.
The last kind of Character is, where the Natural Temper of the Mind is neither drawn in the latter Part of the Poem; nor retain'd thro' the whole, but clouded and broken; but instead thereof some casual and accidental Humour, which from some Misfortune, or the like, has quite changed the Natural Temper before the Person appear's on the Stage, or in the Poem. As in the Distress'd-Mother, the Character that give's name to the Tragedy, is all along in Tears and Grief for Hector; and what her Temper was before his Death, does not appear, that is, what her Natural Temper was.
I need not detain you to apply what I have here observ'd to Pastoral in particular; 'tis enough to affirm, that the Method which appears most beautiful in Tragedy, will be equally finest in Pastoral Poetry.
What Condition of Life our Shepherds should be supposed in. And whether the Golden-Age, or the present state of the Country should be drawn.
There are three different Methods, (as we hinted in the first Chap. of the first Book) of describing the Country. For it may be drawn, as 'tis suppos'd to have been in the Golden-Age; or, as 'tis now, but only the pleasant and delightful Images extracted, and touch'd upon; or, lastly, we may draw the Country in it's true and genuine Colours, the Deformities as well as the Beauties having admittance into our Poem.
This last sort run's upon the Labours and fatigues of the Rusticks; and gives us direct Clowns and Country-Folk. We alway see 'em sweating with a Sicle in their Hands; beating their Cows from the Corn; or else at Scolding. Yet doubtless a kind of Pastorals of this Nature might be made extreamly delightful, if the Writer would dare to write himself, and not be lead so much by Theocritus and Virgil.
But a Method preferable to this, I think, is a Description of the Golden-Age; and there is very little difference between this, and that which we hold the best. It draw's the Swains, all Innocent and tender. Show's us Shepherds, who are so, not for their Poverty, but their Pleasure; or the Custom of those unrefin'd Ages, when the Sons and Daughters of Kings were of that Employ, as we read in the Scripture of the Ladies of greatest Quality, drawing Water for their Flocks, and the like. I am therefore nothing averse to this kind of Pastoral. It draw's such a Life as we could easily wish our selves in; and such, and only such, can bear a pleasurable Description.
But all the Opportunities that the supposition of the Golden-Age gives the Reader of the Beautiful in his Descriptions, and being Entertaining in his Characters; In short, all the delightful Scenes, Arborets and Shades, as well as all the gentleness and simplicity of that Age, may be drawn into the other, namely the middle state, which we prefer; if the Characters be proper.
Besides, I should not be fond of describing the Golden-Age, because we are not so much interested and concern'd in what was only some thousand Years ago, and ne're will be again. If the Poet possesses us with agreeable Sentiments of our own Country (by describing it, but omitting all that is not delightful in it) we are doubly pleas'd with the Consideration that it may be in our own Power to enjoy the sweet Amusement: and we are apt to fancy while we are reading, that were we among those Swains, we could solace our selves in their easy Retirements, and on their tender Banks in the same manner that they do.
And since Poetry, the more naturally it deceives, the more fully it pleases; I should be very desirous, methinks, of giving my Pieces as great an Appearance of Probability, as possible. And in our way, the Poet may, to add yet more to the Probability, mention several Places in the Country, which actually are to be found there; and will have several Opportunities of giving his Stories an Air of Truth.
The Method of Theocritus, and all his followers, shown to be inferiour, from the Nature of the Human Mind.
But further, to shew that we should not describe the Country in it's Fatigues, it's Roughness, or it's Meanest, take these Few Considerations. For, as no Writer whom I have read (but that excellent Frenchman FONTENEL,) has raised his Shepherds and Shepherdesses above the vulgar and common sort of Neat-herds and Ploughers, I am oblig'd to dwell a little the longer on this Head.
It may be observ'd, I think, that there are but two States of Life which are particularly pleasant to the Mind of Man; the busy, great, or pompous; and the retir'd, soft, or easy. More are delighted with the former than with the latter kind, which affoard's a calm Pleasure, that does not strike so sensibly, but proceeds much from the Imagination. Perhaps this may be the reason why Epick and Tragick Poetry are more universally pleasing than Pastoral; for they describe the Actions of such Persons, as most Men are dazled and enamour'd with; and would willingly quit their own Stations in Life for.
But tho' this State of Life may perhaps be more generally engaging than the soft and retir'd; 'tis certain the soft is the next eligible, and consequently will shine the most next in Poetry. As no one would much desire to be one of Theocritus's Shepherds, so 'tis plain, no one can be much delighted with being concern'd, as 'twere, with such; of having their Actions take up our Minds, and their Manner of Life set before us.
As a love of Grandeur, Show and Pageantry is implanted naturally in our Minds, so we cannot be pleas'd with any thing that is mean, low and beggarly; and as we dislike what is mean and beggarly, How can we love to have our Minds conversant about, direct Ploughmen, &c? We love the Country for it's soft Retirements, it's Silence, and it's Shades, and can we love a Description of it that sets none of these before us? If I read a Pastoral, I would have it give me such a Prospect of the Country, and stop me upon those Objects, where I should myself stay, were I there; but would not that be (at least generally) upon the most beautiful Images. If the Toils of the Country-Folk took my Observance, 'twould only be for Variety, because those Images which a Poet can so plentifully raise out of his own Brain, can hardly be met with in Reality. But methinks were I determin'd to describe the Labours and Hardships of the Country, and not to collect the Beauties; I would e'en observe the Manner of the Fellows and Wenches in the Country, and put down every thing that I observ'd them act; as Mr. Gay has very well done; and than we shall have at least this Pleasure, of seeing how exactly the Copy and the Original agree; which is the same that we receive from such a Picture as show's us the face of a Man we know.
Again, 'tis natural to the Mind of Man to delight in the Happiness of it's Fellow-Creatures; and no Pleasure can be imbibed from the Prospect of another's Misery; unless it is so calculated as to excite Pity. The Pleasure, that comes the nearest such of any, is a Comick one, which delight's to see the human Form distorted and debased, and turn'd into that of a Beast.
And as for Pity, the most delightful Passion of all, it can't be excited by this Means. For those Swains are inured to Labour, and acquainted with Fatigue; but we pity those who fall from Greatness to a State of Hardships.
What Personages are most proper for Pastoral. And what Passions we may allot our Shepherds; and what degree of Knowledge.
Since Simplicity and Tenderness are universally allow'd to constitute the very Soul and Essence of Pastoral, there la nothing scarce in the Proceedings of Pastoral-Writers more surprizing to me, than that no one has allotted any Part of Characters in their Pieces to the SOFT-SEX: But have, to a Writer, introduc'd only Men, and even the roughest of that Sex.
I can no otherways account for that their Conduct, but that Theocritus happen'd not to make any true Female Characters, nor to introduce any such of the Fair-Sex, as would shine in Pastoral, and they pretend to nothing farther than the Copying after him.
This is the more strange, since even Epick-Poetry and Tragedy, whose Nature is Violence and Warmth, cannot well subsist without the tender Characters. 'Tis they that sprinkle so sweet a Variety thro' those Pieces, and relax the Minds of the Readers, with the Beautiful and Soft, after it is sated with the Sublime.
Now if even the warmest Kinds of Poetry delight in Female Personages, How much more Pastoral, which is all Tenderness and Simplicity? Whose design is to sooth and spread a Calm over the Mind, as the higher Poems are to elevate and strike It.
But 'tis not enough that we introduce some Characters drawn from the SOFT-SEX: our Male Characters must be also of the same Nature, far from rough or unmanner'd. Every Character must also be of such a Kind as will be entertaining to the Mind. For there are some more, some less delightful, among those Female Characters, which at first sight seem equally proper to Pastoral. Of this kind is a Prudish Character, or excessively reserv'd. For, besides that frankness and Openness of Heart, is what we imagine natural to Shepherds, a Poet can never raise Delight from such a Character. Her fault is too hateful to excite Pity in her Punishment; and too small to raise Joy in beholding bar Unfortunate. Besides that such a Joy were not proper for Pastoral. Of the same Nature is a Finical, or Squeamish Character, and many others, at first sight agreeable to Pastoral.
What Passions we may allot our Shepherds.
Although I am for raising the Characters in Pastoral somewhat above the degree of Boors and Clowns; yet no one is more for retaining the Pastoral Simplicity. Our Characters of young and tender Innocents, give, I think, a better Opportunity of introducing the true Pastoral Simplicity, than those very mean and low Personages, which rather lead us to an unmanner'd Clownishness, than an agreeable Simplicity.
To preserve this Simplicity, we must avoid attributing to our Swains, any of those Passions or Desires, which engage busy and active part of Mankind; as Ambition, and the like. Theocritus therefore, and Virgil, and the generality of his Followers, have rather made their Shepherds sing alternately for a Leathern Pouch, or a Goat, than for the Desire of Praise. And nothing, I believe, but his being unwilling to make his Swains sing for exactly the same Reward, that all since Theocritus, have done, could have made our excellent Phillips alter the Pouch and the Kid, for Praise, in his sixth Pastoral.
Let others meanly stake upon their Skill. Or Kid, or Lamb, or Goat, or what they will; for praise we sing, nor Wager ought beside; And, whose the Praise, let Geron's, Lips decide.
There are few of even the most violent passions but may be introduc'd into Pastoral, if artfully manag'd and qualify'd by the Poet: As Hatred, if it be not carried to it's height; which is an Excess in Pastoral. And I observe, Cubbin, you make your Shepherd Colly, inconstant; and have an Aversion to his former Sweet-heart Soflin, on account of her Frankness, and too great Forwardness. But yet I think it is not faulty, because you make his Affections vary, against his Inclination, and he is angry with himself for his dislike to Soflin; but no Reason can stop unruly Love.
So Revenge, if admitted, must be very ingeniously manag'd, or 'twill be intolerable. There is a cunning Thought in Tasso, that may perhaps let the Reader something into the Manner in which I would have it order'd. A Female Warriour, opposed to her Lover in Aims, for his Inconstancy shoot's a Dart at him, yet wishes it may not strike him.
But what comes nigher to the explaining the manner of introducing Revenge into Pastoral, is what we find in the sixth Idyll of Theocritus. Polyphemus's Mistress had been unkind; and how do's he propose to take Revenge: Why, he will not take notice of her as she walk's before his Cave to be seen, and pelt's his flock. After which follow's the most simple, and I had almost said, finest Thought in any Pastoral-Writer. The whole Beauty of which no one will conceive, but who has a Soul as tender as Theocritus had, and could touch the Soft as well. Poliphemus threaten's several Punishments, after which, follows this. 'Tis as fine in Creech's Version as the Original.
Besides, my Dog, he is at my Command, Shall bark at her, and gently bite her Hand.
What I have said of this, might be said of the other Passions; but I shall insist no longer on this Head. As for the Passions most proper for Pastoral, they are discuss'd elsewhere.
What degree of Knowledge we may attribute to our Swains.
The difference between the Knowledge of our Shepherds, and that of politer Persons, must not proceed in the least from any difference in their Natural Endowments, but entirely from the manner of their Educations. The Poet therefore, has nothing to do in this Case, but to consider what is most probable for Nature to effect, unassisted by Art.
As for a Shepherd's knowing what the ancient Poets have deliver'd, concerning the different Ages, and other things, I shall not determine whether 'tis natural or not: because not only Theocritus, whose Shepherds are as well vers'd in History as other Men, and Virgil, whose Shepherds are often Philosophers, have gone in this way, but our Countryman Mr. Phillips also, whose excellency is his Correctness.
(Lang.) Thrice happy Shepherds now! for Dorset loves The Country Muse, and our delightful Groves. While Anna reigns. O ever may she reign! And bring on Earth a Golden-Age again. Pastor. 6. I shall leave the Reader also to determine concerning the following piece of Knowledge.
(Hob.) Full fain, O blest Eliza! would I praise Thy Maiden Rule, and Albion's Golden Days. Then gentle Sidney liv'd, the Shepherds Friend: Eternal Blessings on his Shade descend!
The same is to be said of other the like Passages, but the most ordinary Capacity may judge what Knowledge is, or is not, consistent with the Banner of a Shepherd's Education.
How to form the Pastoral Characters, and the great Difficulty of doing it.
A Poet, who would write up to the Perfection of Pastoral, will find nothing more difficult (unless the Dialect) than the inventing a sufficient Number of Pastoral Characters; such as are both faultless and beautiful. That difficulty proceeds from hence.
In Epick and Tragick Poetry we have the whole scope of all Men's Tempers and Passions to draw; which are widely various and different: As, the Savage and Wild; the Ambitious; the Simple and Tender-hearted; the Subtle, &c. Thus in the Epick and Tragick Poems, you draw the general Qualities of all Men's Minds. But in Pastoral, you are pinn'd down to one of these common qualities (which is Simplicity and Tenderness.) And laying that as a Foundation, from thence draw your particular Characters. In every Character still supposing that at the bottom of it, and to accompany it. But Rules of this Nature, are like Mathematical Assertions, not easily explain'd, but by Examples. Tho' I think, Cubbin, I need not insist long on this to you; for your Characters are not much faulty in this particular. If I remember aright; some of your Characters are these:
Paplet has Simplicity and Tenderness: But her distinguishing Character is, that she is a May, so young, as to be entirely ignorant of Love; but extreamly Curious to be let into the Nature of Men and Lovers.
Collikin has Simplicity and Tenderness: But withal a Tincture of Inconstancy in his Nature.
Soflin, with her Simplicity and Tenderness, is excessive Easy, and Complying, to a Fault; open and too free-hearted.
Florey has Simplicity; and Tenderness for his Lass; but he is almost out of Humour with himself for being so soft. He is suppos'd to be brought up in the lonely Cave with Paplet; and his natural Tamper is wild and excessive brisk; hating the House, and delighting in Hunting. But you show, I see, only a Glimpse of his Natural Temper, which breaks out at times; but he is drawn as tender, being all the Time in Love with Poppit.
The rest of your Characters have the same Foundation; nor break in, I think, upon Simplicity and Tenderness.
'Tis true indeed, as to the Difficulty of forming Pastoral Characters, beyond those of Epick Poetry; That even there, one general Character should diffuse it self thro' all the rest, and that is Bravery. (For Homer might, I think, as well have brought in a Baboon, or a Hedge-hog, for Heroick Characters, as a Vulcan and a Thirsites.) But Bravery will coincide with greatly more Tempers than Pastoral Simplicity and Tenderness; nor does it lay the Poet under a Restraint comparably so great.
'Tis farther observable, as to the Difficulty of forming the Pastoral Characters, that if we wou'd write up to the Perfection of Pastoral, 'tis necessary that whatever habit or temper of Mind distinguishes any CHARACTER in the first Pastoral, wherever that CHARACTER afterwards appears, thro' the whole set of Pastorals, it must appear with the same Temper as before; that is, 'tis not enough to have the Characters uniform and just thro' one and the same Pastoral, but what is the Character of any Swain or Lass in the first and second Pastoral, that must be their Character in all the rest, if they are nam'd or introduc'd, tho' never so slightly. For by this means, not only every single Pastoral will make a regular Piece, but the whole set of Pastorals also constitute together one uniform and ample Poem; if the Reader delights to fill his Mind with a large and ample Scheme.
The set of Pastorals would be still more perfect, if the Characters were also all continued on from the first to the last Pastoral, and none drop'd, as 'twere, in silence; but in the Pastorals which draw towards the End, the Characters should be all disposed of in Pastoral, and after an entertaining Manner; so that the two or three last Pastorals will be like the fifth Act in a Tragedy, where the Catastrophe is drawn up. The reasonableness of this appear's from hence. I suppose the Poet to form his Story so, and so to draw his Characters, that the Reader's Mind may be engag'd and concern'd for the Personages. Now the Mind is uneasy if 'tis not let into the issue of the Affairs of the Person it has been long Intent upon, and given to know whether he is finally Unfortunate, or Happy.
Thus far proceeded Sophy, when Night drew on. He shut his Book; and Cubbin told him, he had not pass'd many days with so much Delight as that. If you have found my Discourse, said Sophy, entertaining, do not fail of being here again early to morrow Morning, and I will continue it to you. The Shepherd express'd his Satisfaction, and they hasted home together.
The following Morn was fair and inviting; they both appear'd when the Lark began his Mattin Song; and Sophy thus proceeded.
The End of the Second Part.
P A R T III.
Of the Sentiments in general.
I must crave leave to extend the Signification of the Word Sentiment, to the including tooth IMAGE and THOUGHT. For I think the Criticks should by all means have, before now, made that Division, and the omission has occasion'd the greatest Obscurity and Confusion in the Writings of those who have discours'd on any particular Kind of Sentiment. But that the Reader may take the more Care to keep this Distinction in his Head, we will give one Instance of the Confusion it occasion'd in the Mind of Longinus, who treated the Sublime, and certainly ought to have had a clear Notion of the Subject he wrote so largely, and so floridly upon.
Now in his sixth Section, he make's it a Question, and discourses largely, whether Passion can go along with a Sublime SENTIMENT. But any one who has divided Sentiment into Image and Thought would laugh at this Question; it being so plain that passion is consistent with a Sublime Thought, and is not with a Sublime Image.
Would not any person who desired to acquire a true and thorough Notion of a sublime Sentiment, so as to know one, wherever met, be puzzled at Longinus's telling him, Homer's Sentiment is sublime, where he make's the Giant's heap Ossa on Olympus, and on Ossa Wood-top'd Pelion; and a little after telling him that Alexander's to Parmeno is a sublime Sentiment. Parmeno say's, Were I Alexander, I would embrace these Proposals of Peace. Alexander reply'd, And I, by the Gods, were I Parmeno. These Sentiments of Homer and Alexander (tho' equally sublime) are as different as a Bright and a Tender Sentiment. If then I have settled one in my Mind, as sublime, How shall I conceive the other as such?
But there is no other way of avoiding this Confusion, and of being equally certain of all sublime Sentiments, but by knowing that the first of these is a sublime Image, and the last a sublime Thought or Sentiment. And you will find, if you consider the Nature of Homer's Image, all sublime Images are like it; and the same of Alexander's sublime Thought. Altho' the sublime Sentiments in general are so different.
But since we are accidentally engag'd in considering the Sublime; I will endeavour to show you how to judge infallibly of a Sublime SENTIMENT. For I think it cannot be gotten from Longinus; or at least, I could never learn it from that most Florid and Ingenious author. And it may be shown in three Lines, as well as in so many Volumes.
A Sublime Image always dilate's and widen's the Mind, and put's it upon the Stretch. It comprehends somewhat almost too big for it's Reach; and where the Mind is most stretch'd, the Image is most Sublime; if we consider no foreign Assistances. As Homer say's, The Horses of the Gods, sprung as far at every Stride, as a Man can see who sit's upon the Sea-shore. But foreign Assistances, as a figurative Turn, &c. may raise a passage to an equal degree of Sublimity, which yet does not so largely dilate the Mind; as this of Shakespear's is more Sublime than that of Homer's.
—Heaven's Cherubs, hors'd Upon the sightless Curriers of the Air, Shall blow the horrid Deed in every Eye.
Macbeth. Act. 1. Scen. 7
The not having a perfect Idea of the Sentiment, make's us conceive something the greater of it.
A Sublime Thought always gives us a greater and more noble Conception of either the Person speaking; the Person spoken of; or, the Thing spoken of. I need not instance; but if you apply this to any of the Thoughts of Homer, or Shakespear, generally call'd Sublime, you'll find it will always square.
Here let me make one Observation: That you may never be mistaken in judging of a Sublime Passage, Cubbin, take notice; that there are some Thoughts so much imaged in the Turn that is given to 'em, by the figurative Expression, that they lose the name of Thoughts, and commence Images. I will mention one out of Shakespear, (who uses this Method the most of any Author, and 'tis almost the only thing that raises his Language) I will mention it, because, being in it self a low and common Sentiment, he has made it the most Sublime, I think, of any he has. Macbeth's Lady say's, before the Murther of the King.
—Come, thick Night. And pall thee in the dunnest Smoak of Hell, That my keen Knife see not the Wound it makes Nor Heav'n peep thro' the Blanket of the Dark, To cry, Hold! Hold!
Macbeth Act. 1. Scen. 5.
But I run the Digression too far.
Of the Images. And which are proper for Pastoral, which not.
Let us proceed to consider what Images will shine most in PASTORAL. And here I shall not consider all kinds of Images, both good and vicious, but only those which are in their own nature good; and among those show which may, and which may not, be introduc'd into Pastoral.
Of Images, in their own Nature good, only the BEAUTIFUL, and the [A]GLOOMY are, properly speaking, fit for Pastoral. The Uncommon, the Terrible, and the Sublime, being improper.
[Footnote A: The Division of the Images and Thoughts is made, and the nature of the GLOOMY consider'd, in the Critical Preface to the Second Part of our Pastorals.]
If any other kinds of Images are introduced, they must be artfully qualify'd, or else be faulty; the Methods to be used in so qualifying them, are too numerous to recount. But give me leave to put down one, which relates to the Language.
Suppose you was to describe some LOVELADS and LASSES roving a little by the Sea-shore in a guilded Boat; when, on a sudden, the Wind arises, drives 'em into the middle of the Main at once, and dashes the Gondola on a Rock. Might you not describe such a boistrous Circumstance in an easy and Pastoral manner.
Sore raven the fell Sea (Oh sorry Sight!) And strait (most wofull Word) the Boat doth split.
But these are things which are better left to the Writer's own Genius, than to Rule and Criticism.
As to the gloomy Images, I shall only caution the Pastoral Writer, that they must be of a very different Nature from those in Epick Poetry or Tragedy: That is, the gloomy must not be so strong; but the Images must rather contain a pleasing Amusement. And that they'll do, if they are drawn from the Country: As Fairies; Will-o'-Wisps; the Evening; falling Stars; and the like, will all furnish Images exactly agreeable to Pastoral.
Having made this Observation on the Gloomy Images, let us now proceed to the Consideration of the Beautiful, which will detain us somewhat longer.
Of Beautiful Images. And of those; which are more, which less fine.
In my usual way of considering Beautiful Images; for the greater Clearness, I rank 'em into three several Classes. This division I do not desire to impose on any one else; but the mentioning it, cannot be amiss.
Of the three sorts or kinds of Beautiful Images, the first, and least delightful is, where only a simple Image is exhibited to the Reader's Mind. As of a Fair Shepherdess.
The second Sort is, where there is the Addition of the Scene; as suppose we give the Picture of the fair Shepherdess, sitting on the Banks of a pleasant streamlet.
The third, and finest kind of Beautiful Images is, where the Picture contain's a still further Addition of action. As, the Image of a fair Shepherdess, on the Banks of a pleasant Stream asleep, and her innocent Lover harmlessly smoothing her Cloaths as flutter'd by the Wind. And the most beautiful Image in Phillips, or I think any Pastoral-Writer, is of this Nature.
Once Delia lay, on easy Moss reclin'd; Her lovely Limbs half bare, and rude the Wind. I smooth'd her Coats, and stole a silent Kiss; Condemn me, Shepherds, if I did amiss.
The last Line contains a Pastoral Thought, of the best Sort; as the three first a Pastoral Image.
The middle of this last Pastoral is full of beautiful Images, and has therefore proved so Entertaining to all Readers, that I wonder Mr. Phillips would not give us the Beautiful in his four first Pieces also.
Of all the Persons who have written in the English Language, no one ever had a Mind so well form'd by Nature for Pleasurable Writing, as Spencer. Yet as he wrote his Pastorals when very Young, this does not appear so much from them, as from his Fairy Queen; thro' which, (like Ovid, in his Metamorphoses) he has perpetually recourse to Pastoral. Especially in his Second Book; in which there are more pleasurable Pastoral Images in every eight Lines, than in all his Pastorals. We have Knights basking in the Sun by a pleasant Stream, rambling among the Shepherdesses, entering delightful Groves surrounded with Trees, or the like, almost in every Stanza; but thro' all his Pastorals, we have not half a dozen beautiful Images. 'Tis therefore the Pastoral Language that support's 'em, which he took excessive pains about.
Of Pastoral Descriptions. And what Authors have the finest.
Of Images are form'd Descriptions, as by a Combination of Thoughts a Speech is composed. And a Description is good or bad, chiefly as the Images or Circumstances are judiciously, or otherwise, chosen; and artfully put together.
As to the putting them together, I shall only observe, that in Descriptions of the Heat of Love, not in Pastoral, but in such Pieces as Sapho's, or the like, the Circumstances should be couch'd extreamly close; in Epick Poetry the Circumstances should be somewhat less closely heap'd together; and that Pastoral requires 'em the most diffuse of any; being of a Nature extreamly calm and sedate.
Hence we may learn what Length Pastoral will admit of in it's Descriptions. And certain it is, that as we are easily wearied by a cold Speech, so are we by a cold Description, unless very concise.
But as those Poets whose Minds have delighted in Pastoral Images have always been Men of Pleasurable Fancies, and who never would bring their Minds under the Regulation of Art; all who have touch'd Pastoral the finest have egregiously offended in this Particular. The only Writers, I think, who have ever had Genius's form'd for Pastoral Images, are Ovid and Spencer; which appear's from the Metamorphoses of the first, and the Fairy-Queen of the latter. As for Theocritus, he seem's to me to be better in the Pastoral Thought than Image; and as I rank together Ovid and Spencer, so I put Theocritus in the same Class with Otway. And I think any one of these Four, if he had form'd his Mind aright by Art, (that is, had either thoroughly understood Criticism in all it's Branches, or else never vitiated his natural Genius by any Learning) was capable of giving the World a perfect Sett of Pastorals. The former two would have run most upon beautiful Images, and the latter two upon Agreeable Thoughts.