1753
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

A Dissertation upon Pastoral Poetry.

The Works of Virgil, in Latin and English. The original Text correctly printed from the most authentic Editions, collated for this Purpose. The Aeneid Translated By the Rev. Mr. Christopher Pitt, The Eclogues and Georgics, with Notes on the Whole, By the Rev. Mr. Joseph Warton. 4 Vols.

Rev. Joseph Warton


Most of Joseph Warton's Preface is given over to reprinting Samuel Johnson's Rambler No. 37 on pastoral. Both Johnson's and Warton's criticism did much to influence romantic rejections of formal pastoral. Formal eclogues become as scarce a commodity in the second half of the eighteenth century as they were in the second half of the seventeenth, though the innovative elements of formal pastoral as practiced by Ambrose Philips, John Gay, and William Collins migrated into other kinds of romantic verse.

James Hervey: "I have lately read Mr. Warton's Edition of Virgil, and much approve the printing the Latin on one Side, and his poetical Translation on the other: He is a clever Man, but I think he might have enriched his Notes with many more Observations on the Beauties and masterly Strokes of the Poet — I would not for my own Part give a Straw for the most accurate Disputations upon a chronological or geographical Nicety; but I would applaud and thank the Critick who will assist me to see the Art and Address, to feel the Force and Fire, and to enter into the Spirit and Delicacy of such an Author as Virgil" in Collection of Letters of James Hervey (1760) 2:198-99.

John Wooll: "To every classical reader, indeed, Warton's Virgil will afford the richest fund of instruction and amusement; and as a professional man, I hesitate not to declare, that I scarcely know a work, to the upper classes of schools, so pregnant with the most valuable advantages: as it imparts information, without the encouragement of idleness; and crowns the exertions of necessary and laudable industry with the acquisitions of a pure and unadulterated taste. The University of Oxford most handsomely paid their share of the debt due from the republic of letters, by granting, within a very short space of time, the degree of Master of Arts, by diploma, on the editor of Virgil" Biographical Memoirs of Joseph Warton (1806) 28.

Thomas Campbell: "In the year 1748-9 he had begun, and in 1753 he finished and published, an edition of Virgil in English and Latin. To this work Warburton contributed a dissertation on the sixth book of the Aeneid; Atterbury furnished a commentary on the character of Iapis; and the laureate Whitehead, another on the shield of Aeneas. Many of the notes were taken from the best commentators on Virgil, particularly Catrou and Segrais: some were supplied by Mr. Spence; and others, relating to the soil, climate, and customs of Italy, by Mr. Holdsworth, who had resided for many years in that country. For the English of the Aeneid, he adopted the translation by Pitt. The life of Virgil, with three essays on pastoral, didactic, and epic poetry, and a poetical version of the Eclogues and Georgics, constituted his own part of the work. This translation may, in many instances, be found more faithful and concise than Dryden's; but it wants that elastic and idiomatic freedom, by which Dryden reconciles us to his faults; and exhibits rather the diligence of a scholar than the spirit of a poet. Dr. Harewood, in his view of the classics, accuses the Latin text of incorrectness" Specimens of British Poetry (1819; 1845) 664.




Man is not so depraved, but that Representations of Innocence and Tranquility, are still delightful and pleasing to the Mind. The first Employment of our Forefathers was undoubtedly the Tending of Cattle: an Employment which Princes and Patriarchs did not disdain to undertake, however opposite it may appear to the Refinements of modern Life. This Plainness and Simplicity of Manners is highly amusing and captivating to Persons uncorrupted; and, as Shakespear says, unhackney'd in the Ways of Men; who love to be carried back; into that Age of Quiet, of Innocence and Virtue,

What time Dan Abraham left the Chaldee Land,
And pastur'd on from verdant Stage to Stage,
Where Fields and Fountains him could best engage.
Toil was not then. Of nothing took they heed,
But with wild Beasts the Sylvan War to wage,
And o'er vast Plains their Herds and Flocks to feed;
Blest Sons of Nature they, true golden Age indeed!
Thomson's Castle of Indolence.

The Love of the Country is so strong a Passion, that it can hardly be ever obliterated or overcome: tho' Business or Amusements, or criminal Pursuits, or Conveniences, or Courts, carry Men into Cities, yet they still continue fond of Fields and Forests, of Meadows and Rivulets. A very accomplish'd Courtier assures us, that the stateliest Edifices, and the finest Pieces of Architecture would lose their Beauty, if rural Objects were not interspersed among them.

Nempe inter varias nutritur sylva columnas,
Laudaturque domus, longos quae prospicit agros;
Naturam expellas furca tamen usque recurret.
HOR.

This is owing to the superior Power which the Works of Nature hold above those of Art, to affect and entertain the Imagination. For altho' the latter may sometimes appear very beautiful, or even wonderful, yet they can have nothing in them of that Vastness and Immensity, which afford so great an Entertainment to the Mind of the Beholder. The one may be as polite and delicate as the other (says the inimitable Mr. Addison) but can never appear so august and magnificent in the Design. There is something more bold and masterly, in the rough careless Strokes of Nature, than in the nice Touches and Embellishments of Art. For this Reason is Pastoral Poetry so amusing to the Mind: In her fairy Region are found,

Et secura quies, & nescia fallere vita,
Dives opum variarum: hic latis otia fundis,
Speluncae, vivique lacus, hic frigida Tempe,
Mugistusque boum, mollesque sub arbore somni.
VIRG.

A true Pastoral, says Mr. Pope, is an Imitation of the Action of a Shepherd; the Form of this Imitation is dramatic, or narrative, or mixed of both; the Fable simple, the Manners not too polite, nor too rustic: the Thoughts are plain, but admit a little Quickness and Passion, yet that short and flowing. The Expression humble, yet as pure as the Language will allow; neat, but not florid; easy, and yet lively. In short, the Manners, Thoughts, and Expressions, are full of the greatest Simplicity in Nature. The complete Character of this Poem consists in Simplicity, Brevity, and Delicacy: the two first of which render an Eclogue natural, and the last delightful.

Many laboured and tedious Treatises both of French and Italian Critics, have been written on the Nature of this kind of Poetry; but I have not been able to find any thing on the Subject so rational, so judicious, and yet so new, as a little Piece very lately published, by an excellent Writer of our own Country, in a Paper called the RAMBLER, which is therefore inserted in this Place.

The RAMBLER. Numb. 37.
Tuesday, July 24, 1750.

Canto quae solitus, si quando Armenta vocabat,
Amphion Dicaeus.
VIRG.

"In writing or judging of Pastoral Poetry, neither the Authors nor Critics of latter Times seem to have paid sufficient Regard to the Originals left us by Antiquity; but have entangled themselves with unnecessary Difficulties, by advancing Principles, which, having no Foundation in the Nature of Things, are wholly to be rejected from a Species of Composition in which, above all others, mere Nature is to be regarded.

"It is, therefore, necessary, to enquire after some more distinct and exact Idea of this kind of Writing. This may, I think, be easily found in the Pastorals of Virgil; from whose Opinion it will not appear very safe to depart, if we consider that every Advantage of Nature, and of Fortune, concurred to complete his Productions, that he was born with great Accuracy and Severity of Judgment, enlightened with all the Learning of one of the brightest Ages, and embellished with the Elegance of the Roman Court; that he employed his Powers rather in improving, than inventing; that, taking Theocritus for his Original, he found Pastoral far advanced towards Perfection, if not already Perfect; and that having therefore so great a Rival, he must have proceeded with uncommon Caution.

"If we search the Writings of Virgil, for the true Definition of a Pastoral, it will be found a Poem in which any Action or Passion is represented by its Effects upon a Country Life. Whatsoever, therefore, may, according to the common Course of Things, happen in the Country, may afford a Subject for a Pastoral Poet.

"In this Definition, it will immediately occur, to those who are versed in the Writings of the modern Critick, that there is no Mention of the Golden Age. I cannot indeed easily discover why it is thought necessary to refer Descriptions of a rural State to remote Times, nor can I perceive that any Writer has consistently preserved the Arcadian Manners and Sentiments. The only Reason, that I have read, on which this Rule has been founded, is, that, according to the Customs of modern Life, it is improbable that Shepherds should be capable of harmonious Numbers, or delicate Sentiments; and therefore the Reader must exalt his Ideas of the Pastoral Character, by carrying his Thoughts back to the Age in which the Care of Herds and Flocks was the Employment of the wisest and greatest Men.

"These Reasoners seem to have been led into their Hypothesis, by considering Pastoral, not in general, as a Representation of rural Nature, and consequently as exhibiting the Ideas and Sentiments of those, whoever they are, to whom the Country affords Pleasure or Employment; but simply as a Dialogue, or Narrative of Men actually tending Sheep, and busied in the lowest and most laborious Offices: from whence they very readily concluded, since Characters must necessarily be preserved, that either the Sentiments must sink to the Level of the Speakers, or the Speakers must be raised to the Height of the Sentiments.

"In consequence of these original Errors, a thousand Precepts have been given, which have only contributed to perplex and to confound. Some have thought it necessary that the imaginary Manners of the golden Age should be universally preserved, and have therefore believed, that nothing more could be admitted in Pastoral, than Lilies and Roses, and Rocks and Streams, among which are heard the gentle Whispers of chaste Fondness, or the soft Complaint of amorous Impatience. In Pastoral, as in other Writings, Chastity of Sentiment ought doubtless to be observed, and Purity of Manners to be represented; not because the Poet is confined to the Images of the golden Age, but because, having the Subject in his own Choice, he ought always to consult the Interest of Virtue.

"Yet, these Advocates for the golden Age lay down other Principles, not very consistent with their general Plan; for they tell us, that, to support the Character of the Shepherd, it is proper that all Refinement should be avoided, and that some slight Instances of Ignorance should be interspersed. Thus the Shepherd in Virgil is supposed to have forgot the Name of Anaximander, and in Pope the term Zodiack is too hard for a rustic Apprehension. But if we place our Shepherds in their primitive Condition, we may give them Learning among their other Qualifications; and if we suffer them to allude at all to things of later Existence, which, perhaps, cannot with any great Propriety be allowed, there can be no Danger of making them speak with too much Accuracy, since they conversed with Divinities, and transmitted to succeeding Ages the Arts of life.

"Other Writers, having the mean and despicable Condition of a Shepherd always before them, conceive it necessary to degrade the Language of Pastoral, by obsolete Terms and rustic Words; which they very learnedly call Doric, without reflecting, that they thus become Authors of a mingled Dialect, which no human Being ever could have spoken; that they may as well refine the Speech as the Sentiments of their Personages; and that none of the Inconsistencies which they endeavour to avoid, is greater than that of joining Elegance of Thought with Coarseness of Diction. Spenser begins one of his Pastorals with studied Barbarity,

Diggon Davie, I bid her Good-day:
Or, Diggon her is, or I missay.
Dig. Her was her while it was Day-light,
But now her is a most wretched Wight.

What will the Reader imagine to be the Subject on which Speakers like these exercise their Eloquence? Will he not be somewhat disappointed, when he finds them met together to condemn the corruptions of the Church of Rome? Surely, at the same time that a Shepherd learns Theology, he may gain some Acquaintance with his native Language.

"Pastoral admits of all Ranks of Persons, because Persons of all Ranks inhabit the Country. It excludes not, therefore, on account of the Characters necessary to be introduced, any Elevation or Delicacy of Sentiment; those Ideas only are improper, which, not owing their Original to rural Objects, are not Pastoral. Such is the Exclamation in Virgil,

Nunc scio quid sit Amor, duris in cantibus ilium
Ismarus, aut Rhodope, aut extremi Garamantes,
Nec generis nostri puerum nec sanguinis, edunt.

which Pope endeavouring to copy, was carried to still greater Impropriety,

I know thee, Love, wild as the raging Main,
More fierce than Tygers on the Libyan Plain;
Thou wert from Etna's burning Entrails torn,
Begot in Tempests, and in Thunders born!

Sentiments like these, as they have no ground in Nature, are indeed of little Value in any Poem, but in Pastoral they are particularly liable to Censure, because they are more proper for tragic or heroic Writings.

"Pastoral being the Representation of an Action or Passion, by its Effects upon a Country Life, has nothing peculiar but its Confinement to rural Imagery, without which it ceases to be Pastoral. This is its true Characteristic, and this it cannot lose by any dignity of Sentiment, or Beauty of Diction. The Pollio of Virgil, with all its Elevation, is a Composition truly Bucolic, though rejected by the Critics; for all the Images are either taken from the Country, or from the Religion of the Age common to all Parts of the Empire.

"The Silenus is indeed of a more disputable Kind, because though the Scene lies in the Country, the Song being religious and historical, had been no less adapted to any other Audience or Place: Neither can it well be defended as a Fiction, for the Introduction of a God seems to imply the golden Age, and yet he alludes to many subsequent Transactions, and mentions Gallus, the Poet's Contemporary.

"It seems necessary, to the Perfection of this Poem, that the Occasion which is supposed to produce it, be at least not inconsistent with a Country Life, or less likely to interest those who have retired into Places of Solitude and Quiet, than the more busy Part of Mankind. It is therefore improper to give the Title of a Pastoral to Verses, in which the Speakers, after the slight Mention of their Flocks, fall to Complaints of Errors in the Church, and Corruptions in the Government, or to Lamentations of the Death of some illustrious Person, whom when once the Poet has called a Shepherd, he has no longer any Labour upon his Hands, but can make the Clouds weep, and Lilies wither, and the Sheep hang their Heads, without Art or Learning, Genius or Study.

"It is part of Claudian's Character of his Rustic, that he computes his Time not by the Succession of Consuls, but of Harvests. Those who pass their Days in Retreats distant from the Theatres of Business, are always least likely to hurry their Imagination with public Affairs.

"The Facility of treating Actions or Events in the Pastoral Stile has incited many Writers, from whom more Judgment might have been expected, to put the Sorrow or the Joy which the Occasion required into the Mouth of Daphne or of Thyrsis; and as one Absurdity must naturally be expected to make way for another, they have written with an utter Disregard both of Life and Nature, and filled their Productions with mythological Allusions, with incredible Fictions, and with Sentiments which neither Passion nor Reason could have dictated, since the Change which Religion has made in the whole System of the World."

Thus far the learned and judicious Mr. JOHNSON.

If I might now venture to speak the Merits of the several Pastoral Writers, I would say, that in Theocritus we are charm'd with a certain Sweetness, a romantic Rusticity and Wildness, heighten'd by the Doric Dialect, that are certainly inimitable. 'Tis worth remarking, that he hath borrowed many beautiful Images from the most exquisite Pastoral now extant, I mean the Song of Solomon; which he had undoubtedly read with Pleasure in the Greek Translation of the Seventy Interpreters, who were his Cotemporaries in the polite Court of Ptolomy. Several of his Pieces indicate a Genius of a higher Class, far superior to Pastoral, and equal to the sublimest Species of Poetry. Such are particularly, his Panegyric on Ptolomy, the Fight between Amyeus and Pollux, the Epithalamium of Helen, the Europa, the young Hercules, the Grief of Hercules for Hylas, the Death of Pentheus, and the Killing the Nemean Lion. Which of these Compositions is most spirited and exalted, 'tis impossible to determine: and I must here apply a noble Simile of his own, which he uses on a like Difficulty [Greek characters].

The sweet and pathetic Lamentation of Moschus on the Death of Bion, and of Bion on the Death of Adonis, are Pieces of Pastoral Grief,

—quae Venus
Quinta parte sui nectaris imbuit;

and oblige us to lament the Loss of the rest of their Works with sincere Concern. We know of no other Greek Pastoral Writer.

Virgil, who comes next to be considered, has excelled his Master Theocritus in these Particulars, in Decency, in Delicacy, and in the Variety of his Subjects.

We have seven Eclogues remaining of Titus Calpurnius, a Native of Sicily, who flourish'd under the Emperor Carus and his Son. Some of them are prettily fancied, and conduced with Judgment, but the Stile favours of the Barbarism and corrupted Taste, that long before his Age infected the Roman Poetry.

Mantuan is full of the most absurd Allegories, and of Allusions to Christianity ridiculously mixed and blended with the Gods and Customs of the Heathens. In one of his Eclogues you have a Catalogue of all the Virgin Mary's Holidays; in another an Apparition of the Virgin, who promises a Shepherd, that when he shall have passed his Life in Mount Carmel, she will convey him to a far more delicious Place, and will make him dwell in Heaven with the Dryades and Hamadryades, a Sort of new Saints, whom we had not been accustomed to hear of as Inhabitants of Heaven.

The Aminta of Tasso, the celebrated Pastoral Comedy of which the Italians boast so much, is not free from the common Vice of all their Compositions, false Thoughts, and glittering Conceits, quite contrary to Nature and Truth. Sylvia, seeing the Reflexion of her face in a Fountain, and adorning herself with Flowers, tells them she does not wear them to mend her Beauty, but to lessen theirs, and disgraces them by being placed near her brighter Charms. All Critics of a truly classical Taste will be disgusted at such far-fetch'd Prettinesses. But the Pastoral Pieces of Guarini, of Bonarelli, and Marino, are infinitely more unnatural and forced, crowded to the last Degree, with little Points of Wit, with Epigrammatic Turns, with affected Conceits, and with every Instance of false Glitter and Ornament, that can dazzle superficial Readers.

The Pastorals of the ingenious Fontenelle, are too polite and refin'd in their Sentiments. His Shepherds are all Courtiers; and are better suited to the Toilettes of Paris, than the Forests of Arcadia. Instead of ridiculing Theocritus and Virgil, he had better have followed the Precepts of his judicious Countryman, the best Defender, Judge, and Imitator, of the Ancients; who gives the following Advice to Pastoral Writers

Telle au'une bergere, au plus beau jour de feste,
De superbe rubis ne charge point sa teste,
Et sans meler a l'or eclat de diamans,
Cueille en un champ voisin ses plus beaux ornemens,
Telle, amiable en son air, mais h umble dans son stile,
Doit eclater sans pompe une elegante Idylle;
Son tour simple & naif n'a rien de fasteux,
Et n'aime point l'orgeuil d'un vers presompteux:
If fait que ce douceur flate, chatouille, eveille,
Et jamais de grands mots n'epouvante l'oreille.
BOILEAU, l'Art Poetique, c. 2.

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