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"bandry put into a pleafing dress, and set off with all "the beauties and embellishments of poetry." Now fince this science of husbandry is of a very large extent, the poet fhews his skill in fingling out fuch precepts to proceed on, as are useful, and at the fame time moft capable of ornament. Virgil was fo well acquainted with this fecret, that to fet off his firft Georgic, he has run into a fet of precepts, which are almost foreign to his fubject, in that beautiful account he gives us of the figns in nature, which precede the changes of the weather.
And if there be fo much art in the choice of fit precepts, there is much more required in the treating of them; that they may fall-in after each other by a natural unforced method, and fhew themselves in the best and most advantageous light. They should all be fo finely wrought together in the fame piece, that no coarse seam may discover where they join; as in a curious brede of needle-work, one colour falls away by fuch just degrees, and another rises so insensibly, that we see the variety, without being able to diftinguish the total vanishing of the one from the first appearance of the other. Nor is it fufficient to range and difpofe this body of precepts into a clear and eafy method, unless they are delivered to us in the most pleasing and agreeable manner; for there are feveral ways of conveying the fame truth to the mind of man; and to choose the pleasantest of these ways, is that which chiefly distinguishes poetry from profe, and makes Virgil's rules of hufbandry pleasanter to read than Varro's. Where the
profe writer tells us plainly what ought to be done, the poet often conceals the precept in a description, and reprefents his countryman performing the action in which he would inftruct his reader. Where the one fets out, as fully and distinctly as he can, all the parts of the truth, which he would communicate to us; the other fingles out the moft pleafing circumftance of this truth, and fo conveys the whole in a more diverting manner to the understanding. I fhall give one inftance out of a multitude of this nature that might be found in the Georgics where the reader may fee the different ways Virgil has taken to express the same thing, and how much pleasanter every manner of expreffion is, than the plain and direct mention of it would have been. It is in the fecond Georgic, where he tells us what trees will bear grafting on each other. "Et fæpe alterius ramos impune videmus "Vertere in alterius, mutatamque infita mala "Ferre pyrum, et prunis lapidosa rubescere corna. Steriles platani malos geffere valentes,
"Caftaneæ fagos, ornufque incanuit albo "Flore pyri : glandemque fues fregere fub ulmis. Nec longum tempus: & ingens
"Exiit ad cœlum ramis felicibus arbos;
"Miraturque novas frondes et non fua poma."
Here we fee the Poet confidered all the effects of this union between trees of different kinds, and took notice of that effect which had the most surprize, and by confequence the most delight in it, to exprefs the capacity that was in them of being thus united. This way of writing
writing is every where much in use among the Poets, and is particularly practifed by Virgil, who loves to fuggeft a truth indirectly, and without giving us a full and open view of it, to let us fee juft fo much as will naturally lead the imagination into all the parts that lie concealed. This is wonderfully diverting to the understanding, thus to receive a precept, that enters as it were through a by-way, and to apprehend an idea that draws a whole train after it. For here the mind, which is always delighted with its own difcoveries, only takes the hint from the Poet, and feems to work out the reft by the ftrength of her own faculties.
But, fince the inculcating precept upon precept will at length prove tiresome to the reader, if he meets with no entertainment, the Poet must take care not to incumber his poem with too much business; but fome. times to relieve the fubject with a moral reflexion, or let it reft a while for the fake of a pleasant and pertinent digreffion. Nor is it fufficient to run out into beautiful and diverting digreffions (as it is generally thought) unless they are brought in aptly, and are fomething of a piece with the main defign of the Georgic for they ought to have a remote alliance at least to the fubject, that fo the whole poem may be more uniform and agreeable in all its parts. We fhould never quite lofe fight of the country, though we are fometimes entertained with a diftant profpect of it. Of this nature are Virgil's defcription of the original of Agriculture, of the fruitfulness of Italy, of a country life, and the like; which are not brought in by force,
force, but naturally rife out of the pricipal argument and defign of the poem. I know no one digression in the Georgics that may feem to contradict this obfervation, befides that in the latter end of the first book, where the Poet launches out into a difcourfe of the battle of Pharfalia, and the actions of Auguftus: but it is worth while to confider how admirably he has turned the course of his narration into its proper channel, and made his husbandman concerned even in what relates to the battle, in thofe inimitable lines;
Scilicet et tempus veniet, cum finibus illis "Agricola incurvo terram molitus aratro, “Exefa inveniet scabrâ rubigine pila : "Aut gravibus raftris galeas pulfabit inanes, "Grandiaque effoffis mirabitur offa fepulchris." And afterwards, fpeaking of Auguftus's actions, he still remembers that Agriculture ought to be fome way hinted at throughout the whole poem.
"Non ullus aratro
"Dignus honos: fqualent abductis arva colonis : "Et curvæ rigidum falces conflantur in enfem." We now come to a style which is proper to a Georgic; and indeed this is the part on which the Poet muft lay out all his ftrength, that his words may be warm and glowing, and that every thing he describes may immediately prefent itself, and rife up to the reader's view. He ought in particular to be careful of not letting his fubject debase his ftyle, and betray him into a meannefs of expreffion; but every where to keep up his verse in all the pomp of numbers, and dignity of words.
I think nothing which is a phrafe or faying in common talk fhould be admitted into a ferious Poem: because it takes off from the folemnity of the expreffion, and gives it too great a turn of familiarity: much less ought the low phrafes and terms of art, that are adapted to husbandry, have any place in fuch a work as the Georgic, which is not to appear in the natural fimplicity and nakedness of its subject, but in the plea-· fanteft drefs that poetry can beftow on it. Thus Virgil, to deviate from the common form of words, would not make use of tempore but fydere in his first verfe; and every where else abounds with Metaphors, Græcifms, and Circumlocutions, to give his verse the greater pomp, and preserve it from finking into a plebeian style. And herein confifts Virgil's mafterpiece, who has not only excelled all other Poets, but even himself in the language of his Georgics; where we receive more strong and lively ideas of things from his words, than we could have done from the objects themselves and find our imaginations more affected by his descriptions, than they would have been by the very fight of what he describes.
I fhall now, after this fhort fcheme of rules, confider the different fuccefs that Hefiod and Virgil have met with in this kind of poetry, which may give us fome further notion of the excellence of the Georgics. To begin with Hefiod; if we may guess at his character from his writings, he had much more of the husbandman than the Poet in his temper: he was wonderfully grave, discreet, and frugal, he lived al