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And in I went to here the birdis song
Which on the braunchis both in plaine and vale
There sawe I growing eke the freshe 2 hauthorne
That had his course, as I could wele beholde
2 Mr. Gilpin, in one of his books on Picturesque Painting, condemns the hawthorn; but Chaucer praises it in different parts of his works, and I must own that I agree with our old poet in taste on this occasion.
The gravil gold, the watir pure as glasse,
There shadowe cast, closyng the well arounde
This may seem too long a digression, but these descriptions in Chaucer have given me singular pleasure. I think also he was the only one of our English poets, most likely to have succeeded in pastoral poetry if he had attempted it.' As it is at present, I do not think we have one good pastoral poem in our language, except the Lycidas of Milton, which is indeed a true pastoral of the sublimer kind, in which he expresses Christian reflections under the veil of heathen mythology. When we talk of rich landscapes, and gay descriptions, we ought to rank among the most excellent the Description of May, by that great and ancient Scotish poet, Bishop (Gowen) Douglas, prefixed as a preface to the seventh book (I think) of his celebrated translation of the Eneid, which no man of taste, who understands it, can read without admiration.
But to return to Theocritus. In the Bucoliasta (Idyll. viii.) the effect which the presence of a beautiful and beloved person has on our
'Milton in a glorious passage of his prose works, where he defends his own moral character, says, that he used to rise "with the first lark that rouses," which answers to Theocritus's iyegoμévw xopuda. Chaucer in the Knight's Tale thus describes the approach of morning:
"The besy larke the messager of day
Saleweth in his songe the morrowe gray,
The silver droppes hanging on the leves.
No poet seems to have taken more pleasure in describing the music of birds than Chancer. One would think that the unknown author of a most beautiful copy of verses in the Life of Colonel Gardiner, had this passage of Chaucer in his eye.
"Attend! my soul! the early birds inspire
My groveling thoughts with pure celestial fire:
But man more void of gratitude awakes,
And gives no thanks for the sweet rest he takes," &c. &c.
After all our improvements in our language, we must own that our chief original poets who could create, invent, and describe, are Chaucer, Spenser, Shakspeare, Milton, and Thomson.
feelings with respect to the natural objects with which we are surrounded, is thus beautifully expressed:→
Παντᾷ ἔαρ, παντᾷ δὲ νομοὶ, παντᾷ δὲ γάλακτος
Χὼ ποιμὴν ξηρὸς τηνόθι, χαί βοτάναι.ν. 41.
Parch'd are the meads, the shepherd pines away.-Fawkes. We have immediately afterwards, “ καὶ δρύες ὑψίτεραι, the oaks are higher," where a beloved object is present. That the company of a beloved person heightens the pleasure we receive from the beauties of nature, is certain. The cowherd and shepherd in Theocritus, indeed, seem to carry the matter farther, as if such company absolutely changed the objects themselves for the better. Milton has a beautiful passage of this kind.
"As one who long in populous city pent
Where houses thick and sewers annoy the air,
Milt. Parad. Lost, b. ix. v. 445.
In the same Idyllium we meet afterwards with another very striking passage, not much dissimilar to the last which was mentioned.
Κἄμ' ἐκ τῶ ἄντρω σύνοφρυς κύρα ἐχθὲς ἰδοῖσα
Αδὺ δὲ χὼ μόσχος γαρύεται, ἡδὺ δὲ χὰ βῶς,
'Αδὺ δὲ τῷ θέρεος παρ' ὕδωρ ῥέον αιθριοκοιτεῖν. ν. 72.
A girl with close-join'd eye-brows from the grotto spying me also yesterday,
When driving my cows, said that I was handsome, handsome:
I made her no sharp answer;
But with down-cast looks I crept on my way.
1 Αδεῖ ἡ φωνὰ τῆς πόρτιος, ἡδὺ τὸ πνεῦμα. Theocritus.
Sweet is the voice of the heifer and sweet her breath;
Sweetly the calf lows and sweetly the cow,
And sweet it is in the summer to sleep in the open air by a flowing
The same turn of expression occurs again in the 9th Idyllium at verse 7, and also a third time in the beginning of the 12th Idyllium. Οσσον ἔαρ χειμῶνος, ὅσον μῆλον βραβύλοιο Ηδιον, ὅσσον δις σφετέρης λασιωτέρη ἀρνὸς, Οσσον παρθενικὴ προφέρει τριγάμοιο γυναικός, Οσσον ἐλαφροτέρη μόσχου νεβρὸς, ὅσσον ἀηδὼν Συμπάντων λιγύφωνος ἀοιδοτάτη πετεηνῶν, Τόσσον ἔμ' εὔφρηνας σύ—Idyll. xii. v. 3.
As much as the spring is sweeter than winter, the apple than the plumb:
As much as the sheep has a thicker fleece than the lamb;
As much as a virgin excels a thrice-married woman,
As much as the melodious nightingale is the most musical of birds, So much your presence delights me.
This turn of expression Milton appears to have certainly imitated, but he has greatly improved it by a beautiful repetition with some change.
"Sweet is the breath of morn! her rising sweet,
With this her solemn bird, nor walk by moon
That I may not appear tedious, I shall only add two more instances of beautiful scenery in Theocritus. The first is from the Cyclops (Idyll. xi.): Polyphemus, in his address to the nymph Galatea, thus invites her :
Τὰν γλαυκὰν δὲ θάλασσαν ἔα ποτὶ χέρσον ὀρεχθεῖν.
More pleasantly you will spend the night with me in the cave;
Here are laurels, here are spiry cypresses,
Here is the black ivy, and the vine with sweet fruit;
Pours down from the white snow, as ambrosial drink.
The last instance is the fourth epigram of Theocritus, in which there is a most agreeable assemblage of objects, expressed in the most beautiful language, though it is exceptionable in other respects. A part of it I shall transcribe.
Τήναν τὴν λαύραν τῶς αἱ δρύες, αἰπόλε, κάμψας
Σακὺς δ' εὖ ἱερὸς περιδέδρομεν; αέναον δὲ
Μέλπουσαι στόμασιν τὰν μελίγηρυν ὄπα. &c. &c.
Ædes autem sacra pulchre circumcurrit, et perenne
Lauris et myrtis, et odorata cupresso,
Ubi circumcirca diffusa est racemosa cum capreolis
Vitis; vernæ autem stridulis cantibus
Merulæ modulantur varie sonora carmina :
Flavæ lusciniæ sibiles ex adverso canunt
Cantantes gutture suavissimum sonum.
If any persons, who relish the poets of reason only, such as Boileau and Pope, should blame me for dwelling so much on mere scenery, I will ask them in the words of an elegant French poet;
"Avez-vous donc connu ces rapports invisibles,
Les Jardins, Chant I. par l'Abbé de Lille.