Page images
PDF
EPUB

.Pastor is Latin for shepherd,” said Mr. C. Pastoral originally signified relating to the employ of a shepherd; it is now of more extensive signification, and relates to rural life in general.” : “ Well, dear papa, I am really become so fond of the country, that I do not know but what I shall henceforth prefer pastoral poetry to poetry of any other description."

“A delightful evening walk, picturesque scenery, and rural objects, have produced this novel effect, I imagine, Clara," said Mr. C. laughing. “How

er, you may be sure that I shall not object to it."

“ I suppose,” continued Clara, “ that as this peculiar species of poetry is the most simple and the most natural, it was one of the earliest sorts of poetical composition."

. . “So far from it,” said her father, “ that

SU

I am inclined to think it was not considered as a distinct species, nor, indeed, employed as a subject of writing at all, until society had advanced in cultivation and refinement, although it is a general opinion, that because our forefathers led so rural a life, their first poetry was necessarily pastoral, or employed in commemoration of its simple pleasures. From the metaphorical allusions of savage tribes, we may easily imagine that mankind, in the primitive ages, borrowed those images from natural objects, with which their auditors were best acquainted; but I am fully persuaded, that the peaceful scenes of rural happiness, and the rustic occupations of pastoral life, were by no means the first objects which gave rise to that peculiar kind of composition we now term poetry.”

“Ah, I recollect, papa, that when we were talking about the poetry of the an

[ocr errors]

cients you remarked, that in the earlier stages of society it was inspired, not by the calm delights of rural life, but, by such events and objects as were calculated to awaken a spirit of enterprise the glories of their heroes slain in battle

the exploits of their illustrious warriors, and their own victorious contests! These, you told me, were the first themes of bards and poets !"

“ Yes: if any thing of a pastoral kind occurred in their poetry, it was incidental only. They did not think of choosing for their theme the mountains, rivers, meadows, hills, flocks, and herds, whistling ploughmen, rosy milkmaids, and happy shepherds, together with all the tranquil pleasures of the country, so long as these were daily and familiar objects to them. It is said that simplicity is the result of excessive refinement, and is to be found only in highest

perfection among the most cultivated and polite society : this remark holds good with respect to poetry, for it was not until mankind became refined and cultivated, until the distinctions of rank and station were formed, and the splendour of courts and animation of large societies was known, that the beauty of pastoral poetry was discovered and the happiness connected with pastoral occupations duly appreciated. “People, as Dr. Blair remarks, then began to look back upon the more simple and innocent life which their forefathers led, or which at least they fancied them to have ledthey looked back upon it with pleasure; and in those rural scenes and pastoral occupations imagining a degree of felicity to take place superior to what they now enjoyed, conceived the idea of celebrating it in poetry.' Simplicity, indeed, has charms that cannot fail of affording de

light to highly-cultivated and unsophisticated minds, though it is to be regretted that the lustre of this precious gem should so frequently be impaired by an over tenacious observance of those rules which, in moderation, purify the language and chasten the style, but which often destroy the pristine energy of the mind, substituting a few sickly ornaments for natural force and power.

“It was in the court of Ptolemy, King of Egypt, that Theocritus wrote the first pastorals, and in the court of Augustus, the Roman Emperor, he was followed by Virgil.

« One of the prettiest pastorals in the English language, that I recollect just now, is by Cunningham. I will repeat it, as some of the objects it describes bear a resemblance to those we have this evening been admiring.”

was

« PreviousContinue »