Gambar halaman

together in the country, and was probably for his great prudence the oracle of the whole neighbourhood. These principles of good husbandry ran through his works, and directed him to the choice of tillage and merchandize, for the fubject of that which is the most celebrated of them. He is every where bent on inftruction, avoids all manner of digreffions, and does not ftir out of the field once in the whole Georgic His method in describing month after month, with its proper feasons and employments, is too grave and fimple; it takes off from the furprize and variety of the Poem, and makes the whole look but like a modern almanack in verfe. The reader is carried throngh a courfe of weather; and may before-hand guess whether he is to meet with fnow or rain, clouds or funfhine, in the next defcription. His defcriptions indeed have abundance of nature in them, but then it is nature in her fimplicity and undrefs. Thus when The fpeaks of January, "The wild beafts, fays he, run fhivering through the woods with their heads ftooping to the ground, and their tails clapt be"tween their legs; the goats and oxen are almost "flead with cold; but it is not fo bad with the sheep, "because they have a thick coat of wool about them. "The old men too are bitterly pinched with the "weather; but the young girls feel nothing of it, "who fit at home with their mothers by a warm fire"fide." Thus does the old gentleman give himself up to a loose kind of tattle, rather than endeavour after a juft poetical defcription. Nor has he fhewn

[ocr errors]


more of art or judgment in the precepts he has given us; which are fown fo very thick, that they clog the Poem too much, and are often fo minute and full of circumstances, that they weaken and unnerve his verse. But, after all, we are beholden to him for the firft rough sketch of a Georgic: where we may ftill difcover fomething venerable in the antiqueness of the work; but, if we would fee the defign enlarged, the figures, reformed, the colouring laid on, and the whole piece finished, we must expect it from a greater master`s hand.

Virgil has drawn out the rules of tillage and planting into two Books, which Hefiod has dispatched in half a one; but has fo raised the natural rudeness and fimplicity of his subject, with such a fignificancy of expreffion, fuch a pomp of verfe, fuch variety of tranfitions, and fuch a folemn air in his reflexions, that, if we look on both Poets together, we fee in one the plainness of a downright countryman; and in the other, fomething of ruftic majefty, like that of a Roman dictator at the plough-tail. He delivers the

meanest of his precepts with a kind of grandeur; he breaks the clods and toffes the dung about with an air of gracefulness. His prognoftications of the weather are taken out of Aratus, where we may fee how judiciously he has picked out thofe that are most proper for his husbandman's obfervation; how he has enforced the expreffion, and heightened the images which he found in the original.

The Second Book has more wit in it, and a greater boldness in its metaphors, than any of the reft. The Poet, with great beauty, applies oblivion, ignorance, wonder, defire, and the like, to his trees. The laft Georgic has indeed as many metaphors, but not so daring as this; for human thoughts and paffions may be more naturally afcribed to a bee, than to an inanimate plant. He who reads over the pleasures of a country life, as they are defcribed by Virgil in the latter end of this Book, can fcarce be of Virgil's mind in preferring even the life of a philofopher to it.

We may, I think, read the Poet's clime in his defcription, for he feems to have been in a fweat at the writing of it :

"O quis me gelidis fub montibus Hæmi

"Siftat, et ingenti ramorum protegat umbra !" and is every where mentioning, among his chief pleafures, the coolness of his fhades and rivers, vales and grottoes, which a more Northern Poet would have omitted for the description of a funny hill, and fire-fide.

The Third Georgic feems to be the most laboured of them all, there is a wonderful vigour and spirit in the description of the horfe and chariot-race. The force of love is reprefented in noble inftances, and very fublime expreffions. The Scythian winter-piece appears fo very cold and bleak to the eye, that a man can scarce look on it without fhivering. The murrain at the end has all the expreffivenefs that words can give. It was here that the Poet ftrained hard to out-do Lucretius in the defcription of his plague; and



if the reader would fee what fuccefs he had, he may find it at large in Scaliger.

But Virgil feems no where fo well pleased, as when he is got among his bees in the Fourth Georgic: and ennobles the actions of fo trivial a creature, with metaphors drawn from the most important concerns of mankind. His verfes are not in a greater noife and hurry in the battles of Æneas and Turnus, than in the engagement of two fwarms. And as in his Aneis he compares the labours of his Trojans to thofe of bees and pifmires, here he compares the labours of the bees to thofe of the Cyclops. In fhort, the last Georgic was a good prelude to the Æneis and very well fhewed what the Poet could do in the description of what was really great, by his describing the mock-grandeur of an infect with so good a grace. There is more pleafantnefs in the little platform of a garden, which he gives us about the middle of this Book, than in all the fpacious walks and water-works of Rapin. The speech of Proteus at the end can never be enough admired, and was indeed very fit to conclude fo divine a work.

After this particular account of the beauties in the Georgics, I fhould in the next place endeavour to point out its imperfections, if it has any. But though I think there are fome few parts in it that are not fo beautiful as the reft, I fhall not prefume to name them; as rather fufpecting my own judgment, than I can believe a fault to be in that Poem, which lay fo long under Virgil's correction, and had his last hand


[ocr errors]

put to it. The firft Georgic was probably burlesqed in the author's lifetime; for we still find in the fcholiasts a verse that ridicules part of a line tranflated from Hefiod, "Nudus ara, fere nudus"-And we may eafily guess at the judgment of this extraordinary critic, whoever he was, from his cenfuring this particular precept. We may be fure Virgil would not have tranflated it from Hefiod, had he not difcovered fome beauty in it; and indeed the beauty of it is what I have before obferved to be frequently met with in Virgil, the delivering the precept fo indirectly, and fingling out the particular circumstance of sowing and plowing naked, to suggest to us that these employments are proper only in the hot season of the year.

I fhall not here compare the ftyle of the Georgics with that of Lucretius, which the reader may fee already done in the preface to the fecond volume of Mifcellany Poems*; but fhall conclude this Poem to be the most complete, elaborate, and finished piece of all antiquity. The Æneis indeed is of a nobler kind, but the Georgic is more perfect in its kind. The Aneis has a greater variety of beauties in it, but those of the Georgic are more exquifite. In fhort, the Georgic has all the perfection that can be expected in a poem written by the greatest Poet in the flower of his age, when his invention was ready, his imagination warm, his judgment fettled, and all his faculties in their full vigour and maturity.

[ocr errors]

*The Collection published by Mr. Dryden.

P 2


« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »