René Rapin.

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Series Two:
_Essays on Poetry_

No. 3

Rapin's _De Carmine Pastorali_,
prefixed to Thomas Creech's translation
of the _Idylliums_ of Theocritus (1684)

With an Introduction by
J.E. Congleton
a Bibliographical Note

The Augustan Reprint Society
July, 1947
Price: 75c

* * * * *


RICHARD C. BOYS, University of Michigan
EDWARD NILES HOOKER, University of California, Los Angeles
H.T. SWEDENBERG, JR., University of California, Los Angeles


EMMETT L. AVERY, State College of Washington
LOUIS I. BREDVOLD, University of Michigan
BENJAMIN BOYCE, University of Nebraska
CLEANTH BROOKS, Louisiana State University
JAMES L. CLIFFORD, Columbia University
ARTHUR FRIEDMAN, University of Chicago
SAMUEL H. MONK, University of Minnesota
JAMES SUTHERLAND, Queen Mary College, London

Lithoprinted from copy supplied by author
Edwards Brothers, Inc.
Ann Arbor, Michigan, U.S.A.

* * * * *


Recent students of criticism have usually placed Rapin in the School
of Sense. In fact Rapin clearly denominates himself a member of that
school. In the introduction to his major critical work, _Reflexions
sur la Poetique d'Aristote_ (1674), he states that his essay "is
nothing else, but Nature put in Method, and good _Sense_ reduced to
Principles" (_Reflections on Aristotle's Treatise of Poesie_, London,
1731, II, 131). And in a few passages as early as "A Treatise de
Carmine Pastorali" (1659), he seems to imply that he is being guided
in part at least by the criterion of "good _Sense_." For example,
after citing several writers to prove that "brevity" is one of the
"graces" of pastoral poetry, he concludes, "I could heap up a great
many more things to this purpose, but I see no need of such a
trouble, since no man can rationally doubt of the goodness of my
Observation" (p.41).

The basic criterion, nevertheless, which Rapin uses in the "Treatise"
is the authority of the Ancients - the poems of Theocritus and Virgil
and the criticism of Aristotle and Horace. Because of his constant
references to the Ancients, one is likely to conclude that he (like
Boileau and Pope) must have thought they and Nature (good sense) were
the same. In a number of passages, however, Rapin depends solely on
the Ancients. Two examples will suffice to illustrate his absolutism.
At the beginning of "_The Second_ Part," when he is inquiring "into
the nature of _Pastoral,_" he admits:
And this must needs be a hard Task, since I have no guide,
neither _Aristotle_ nor _Horace_ to direct me.... And I am of
opinion that none can treat well and clearly of any kind of
_Poetry_ if he hath no helps from these two (p. 16).

In "_The Third_ Part," when he begins to "lay down" his _Rules for
writing_ Pastorals," he declares:
Yet in this difficulty I will follow _Aristotle's_ Example, who
being to lay down Rules concerning _Epicks_, propos'd _Homer_
as a Pattern, from whom he deduc'd the whole Art; So I will
gather from _Theocritus_ and _Virgil_, those Fathers of
_Pastoral_, what I shall deliver on this account (p. 52).

These passages represent the apogee of the neoclassical criticism of
pastoral poetry. No other critic who wrote on the pastoral depends so
completely on the authority of the classical critics and poets. As a
matter of fact, Rapin himself is not so absolute later. In the
section of the _Réflexions_ on the pastoral, he merely states that
the best models are Theocritus and Virgil. In short, one may say
that in the "Treatise" the influence of the Ancients is dominant; in
the _Réflexions_, "good _Sense_."

Reduced to its simplest terms, Rapin's theory is Virgilian. When
deducing his theory from the works of Theocritus and Virgil, his
preference is almost without exception for Virgil. Finding Virgil's
eclogues refined and elegant, Rapin, with a suggestion from Donatus
(p. 10 and p. 14), concludes that the pastoral "belongs properly to
the _Golden Age_" (p. 37) - "that blessed time, when Sincerity and
Innocence, Peace, Ease, and Plenty inhabited the Plains" (p. 5).
Here, then, is the immediate source of the Golden Age eclogue, which,
being transferred to England and popularised by Pope, flourished
until the time of Dr. Johnson and Joseph Warton.

In France the most prominent opponent to the theory formulated by
Rapin is Fontenelle. In his "Discours sur la Nature de l'Eglogue"
(1688) Fontenelle, with studied and impertinent disregard for the
Ancients and for "ceux qui professent cette espèce de religion que
l'on s'est faite d'adorer l'antiquité," expressly states that the
basic criterion by which he worked was "les lumières naturelles de
la raison" (_OEuvres_, Paris, 1790, V, 36). It is careless and
incorrect to imply that Rapin's and Fontenelle's theories of
pastoral poetry are similar, as Pope, Joseph Warton, and many other
critics and scholars have done. Judged by basic critical principles,
method, or content there is a distinct difference between Rapin and
Fontenelle. Rapin is primarily a neoclassicist in his "Treatise";
Fontenelle, a rationalist in his "Discours." It is this opposition,
then, of neoclassicism and rationalism, that constitutes the basic
issue of pastoral criticism in England during the Restoration and the
early part of the eighteenth century.

When Fontenelle's "Discours" was translated in 1695, the first phrase
of it quoted above was translated as "those Pedants who profess a
kind of Religion which consists of worshipping the Ancients" (p.294).
Fontenelle's phrase more nearly than that of the English translator
describes Rapin. Though Rapin's erudition was great, he escaped the
quagmire of pedantry. He refers most frequently to the scholiasts and
editors in "_The First Part_" (which is so trivial that one wonders
why he ever troubled to accumulate so much insignificant material),
but after quoting them he does not hesitate to call their ideas
"pedantial" (p. 24) and to refer to their statements as grammarian's
"prattle" (p. 11). And, though at times it seems that his curiosity
and industry impaired his judgment, Rapin does draw significant ideas
from such scholars and critics as Quintilian, Vives, Scaliger,
Donatus, Vossius, Servius, Minturno, Heinsius, and Salmasius.

Rapin's most prominent disciple in England is Pope. Actually, Pope
presents no significant idea on this subject that is foreign to
Rapin, and much of the language - terminology and set phrases - of
Pope's "Discourse" comes directly from Rapin's "Treatise" and from
the section on the pastoral in the _Reflections_. Contrary to his own
statement that he "reconciled" some points on which the critics
disagree and in spite of the fact that he quotes Fontenelle, Pope in
his "Discourse" is a neoclassicist almost as thoroughgoing as Rapin.
The ideas which he says he took from Fontenelle are either
unimportant or may be found in Rapin. Pope ends his "Discourse" by
drawing a general conclusion concerning his _Pastorals_: "But after
all, if they have any merit, it is to be attributed to some good old
authors, whose works as I had leisure to study, so I have not wanted
care to imitate." This statement is diametrically opposed to the
basic ideas and methods of Fontenelle, but in full accord with and no
doubt directly indebted to those of Rapin.

The same year, 1717, that Pope 'imitated' Rapin's "Treatise," Thomas
Purney made a direct attack on Rapin's neoclassic procedure. In the
"Preface" to his own _Pastorals_ he expresses his disapproval of
Rapin's method, evidently with the second passage from Rapin quoted
above in mind:
_Rapine's_ Discourse is counted the best on this Poem, for 'tis
the longest. You will easily excuse my not mentioning all his
Defects and Errors in this Preface. I shall only say then, that
instead of looking into the true Nature of the Pastoral Poem,
and then judging whether _Theocritus_ or any of his Followers
have brought it to it's utmost Perfection or not. _Rapine_
takes it for granted that _Theocritus_ and _Virgil_ are
infallible; and aim's at nothing beyond showing the Rules which
he thinks they observ'd. Facetious Head! (_Works_, Oxford,
1933, pp. 51-52. The Peroy Reprints, No. XII)

The influence of Rapin on the development of the pastoral,
nevertheless, was salutary. Finding the genre vitiated with wit,
extravagance, and artificiality, he attempted to strip it of these
Renaissance excrescencies and restore it to its pristine purity by
direct reference to the Ancients - Virgil, in particular. Though Rapin
does not have the psychological insight into the esthetic principles
of the genre equal to that recently exhibited by William Empson or
even to that expressed by Fontenelle, he does understand the
intrinsic appeal of the pastoral which has enabled it to survive, and
often to flourish, through the centuries in painting, music, and
poetry. Perhaps his most explicit expression of this appreciation is
made while he is discussing Horace's statement that the muses love
the country:
And to speak from the very bottome of my heart... methinks he
is much more happy in a Wood, that at ease contemplates this
universe, as his own, and in it, the Sun and Stars, the
pleasing Meadows, shady Groves, green Banks, stately Trees,
flowing Springs, and the wanton windings of a River, fit
objects for quiet innocence, than he that with Fire and Sword
disturbs the World, and measures his possessions by the wast
that lys about him (p. 4).

René Rapin (1621-1687), in spite of his duties as a Jesuit priest and
disputes with the Jansenists, became one of the most widely read men
of his time and carried on the celebrated discussions about the
Ancients with Maimbourg and Vavasseur. His _chef-d'oeuvre_ without
contradiction is _Hortorum libri IV_. Like Virgil, Spenser, Pope, and
many aspiring lesser poets, he began his literary career by writing
pastorals, _Eclogae Sacrae_ (1659), to which is prefixed in Latin the
original of "A Treatise de Carmine Pastorali."

J.E. Congleton
University of Florida

Reprinted here from the copy owned by the Boston Athenaeum by

* * * * *
* * * *
* * * * *




Written by RAPIN.

_The First Part_.

To be as short as possible in my discourse upon the present Subject,
I shall not touch upon the Excellency of _Poetry_ in general; nor
repeat those high _Encomiums_, (as that tis the most divine of all
human Arts, and the like) which _Plato_ in his _Jone_, _Aristotele_ in
his _Poetica_, and other Learned men have copiously insisted on: And
this I do that I might more closely and briefly pursue my present
design, which, no doubt will not please every man; for since I treat
of that part of _Poetry_, which (to use _Quintilian's_ words,) by
reason of its Clownishness, is affraid of the Court and City; some may
imagine that I follow _Nichocaris_ his humor, who would paint only the
most ugly and deform'd, and those too in the meanest and most
frightful dress, that real, or fancy'd Poverty could put them in.

{2} For some think that to be a Sheapard is in it self mean, base, and
sordid; And this I think is the first thing that the graver and
soberer sort will be ready to object.

But if we consider how honorable that employment is, our Objectors
from that Topick will be easily answer'd, for as _Heroick_ Poems owe
their dignity to the Quality of _Heroes_, so _Pastorals_ to that of

Now to manifest this, I shall not rely on the authority of the
_Fabulous_, and _Heroick_ Ages, tho, in the former, a God fed Sheep in
_Thessaly_, and in the latter, _Hercules_ the Prince of _Heroes_, (as
_Paterculus_ stiles him) graz'd on mount _Aventine_: These Examples,
tis true, are not convinceing, yet they sufficiently shew that the
employment of a Sheapard was sometime look'd upon to be such, as in
those Fabulous times was not alltogether unbecomeing the _Dignity_ of
a _Heroe_, or the _Divinity_ of a _God_: which consideration if it
cannot be of force enough to procure excellence, yet certainly it may
secure it from the imputation of baseness, since it was sometime lookt
upon as fit for the greatest in Earth or Heaven.

But not to insist on the authority of _Poets_, _Sacred Writt_ tells
us that _Jacob_ and _Esau_, two great men, were Sheapards; And _Amos_,
one of the Royal Family, asserts the same of himself, for _He was_
among _the Sheapards of Tecua_, following that employment: The like by
Gods own appointment {3} prepared _Moses_ for a Scepter, as _Philo_
intimates in his life, when He tells us, _that a Sheapards Art is a
suitable preparation to a Kingdome_; the same He mentions in the Life
of _Joseph_, affirming that the care a Sheapard hath over his Cattle,
very much resembles that which a King hath over his Subjects: The same
_Basil_ in his Homily de _S. Mamm. Martyre_ hath concerning _David_,
who was taken from following the Ews great with young ones to feed
_Israel_, for He says that the Art of feeding and governing are very
near akin, and even Sisters: And upon this account I suppose twas,
that Kings amongst the _Greeks_ reckoned the name of Sheapard one of
their greatest titles, for, if we believe _Varro_, amongst the
Antients, the best and bravest was still a Sheapard: Every body knows
that the _Romans_ the worthiest and greatest Nation in the World
sprang from _Sheapards_: The Augury of the Twelve Vulturs plac't a
Scepter in _Romulus's_ hand which held a Crook before; and at that
time, as _Ovid_ says,

His own small Flock each Senator did keep.

_Lucretius_ mentions an extraordinary happiness, and as it were
Divinity in a _Sheaperd's_ life,

Thro Sheapards ease, and their Divine retreats.

And this is the reason, I suppose, why the solitude of the Country,
the shady Groves, and security of that happy Quiet was so grateful to
the Muses, for thus _Horace_ represents them,

{4} The Muses that the Country Love.

Which Observation was first made by _Mnasalce_ the _Sicyonian_ in his
Epigram upon _Venus_

The Rural Muse upon the Mountains feeds.

For sometimes the Country is so raveshing and delightful, that twill
raise Wit and Spirit even in the dullest Clod, And in truth, amongst
so many heats of Lust and Ambition which usually fire our Citys, I
cannot see what retreat, what comfort is left for a chast and sober

And to speak from the very bottome of my heart, (not to mention the
integrity and innocence of Sheapards upon which so many have
insisted, and so copiously declaimed) methinks he is much more happy
in a Wood, that at ease contemplates this universe, as his own, and
in it, the Sun and Stars, the pleasing Meadows, shady Groves, green
Banks, stately Trees, flowing Springs, and the wanton windings of a
River, fit objects for quiet innocence, than he that with Fire and
Sword disturbs the World, and measures his possessions by the wast
that lys about him: _Augustus_ in the remotest East fights for peace,
but how tedious were his Voyages? how troublesome his Marches? how
great his disquiets? what fears and hopes distracted his designs?
whilst _Tityrus_ contented with a little, happy in the enjoyment of
his Love, and at ease under his spreading Beech.

Taught Trees to sound his _Amaryllis_ name.

{5} On the one side _Meliboeus_ is forc't to leave his Country, and
_Antony_ on the other; the one a Sheapard, the other a great man, in
the Common-Wealth; how disagreeable was the Event? the Sheapard could
endure himself; and sit down contentedly under his misfortunes, whilst
lost _Antony_, unable to hold out, and quitting all hopes both for
himself and his Queen, became his own barbarous Executioner: Than
which sad and deplorable fall I cannot imagine what could be worse,
for certainly nothing is so miserable as a Wretch made so from a
flowrishing & happy man; by which tis evident how much we ought to
prefer before the gaity of a great and shining State, that Idol of the
Crowd, the lowly simplicity of a Sheapards Life: for what is that but
a perfect image of the state of Innocence, of that golden Age, that
blessed time, when Sincerity and Innocence, Peace, Ease, and Plenty
inhabited the Plains?

Take the Poets description

Here Lowly Innocence makes a sure retreat,
A harmless Life, and ignorant of deceit,
and free from fears with various sweet's encrease,
And all's or'e spread with the soft wings of Peace:
Here Oxen low, here Grots, and purling Streams,
And Spreading shades invite to easy dreams.

And thus Horace,

Happy the man beyond pretence
Such was the state of Innocence, &c.

{6} And from this head I think the dignity of _Bucolicks_ is
sufficiently cleared, for as much as the Golden Age is to be preferred
before the _Heroick_, so much _Pastorals_ must excell _Heroick_ Poems:
yet this is so to be understood, that if we look upon the majesty and
loftiness of _Heroick_ Poems, it must be confest that they justly
claim the preheminence; but if the unaffected neatness, elegant,
graceful smartness of the expression, or the polite dress of a Poem be
considered, then they fall short of _Pastorals_: for this sort flows
with Sweet, Elegant, neat and pleasing fancies; as is too evident to
every one that hath tasted the sweeter muses, to need a farther
explication: for tis not probable that _Asinius Pollio_, _Cinna_,
_Varius_, _Cornelius Gallus_, men of the neatest Wit, and that lived
in the most polite Age, or that _Augustus Cæsar_ the Prince of the
_Roman_ elegance, as well as of the common Wealth, should be so
extreamly taken with _Virgils Bucolicks_, or that _Virgil_ himself a
man of such singular prudence, and so correct a judgment, should
dedicate his Eclogues to those great Persons; unless he had known that
there is somewhat more then ordinary Elegance in those sort of
Composures, which the wise perceive, tho far above the understanding
of the Crowd: nay if _Ludovicus Vives_, a very learned man, and
admired for politer studies may be believed, there is somewhat more
sublime and excellent in those _Pastorals_, than the Common {7} sort
of Grammarians imagine: This I shall discourse of in an other place,
and now inquire into the Antiquity of Pastorals.

Since _Linus_, _Orpheus_, and _Eumolpus_ were famous for their Poems,
before the _Trojan_ wars; those are certainly mistaken, who date
Poetry from that time; I rather incline to their opinion who make it
as old as the World it self; which Assertion as it ought to be
understood of Poetry in general, so especially of _Pastoral_, which,
as _Scaliger_ delivers, was the most antient kind of Poetry, and
resulting from the most _antient_ way of Liveing: _Singing first began
amongst Sheapards as they fed their Flocks, either by the impulse of
nature, or in imitation of the notes of Birds, or the whispering of

For since the first men were either _Sheapards_ or _Ploughmen_, and
_Sheapards_, as may be gathered out of _Thucydides_ and _Varro_, were
before the others, they were the first that either invited by their
leisure, or (which _Lucretius_ thinks more probable) in imitation of
Birds, began a tune.

Thro all the Woods they heard the pleasing noise
Of chirping Birds, and try'd to frame their voice,
And Imitate, thus Birds instructed man,
And taught them Songs before their Art began.

In short, tis so certain that Verses first began in the Country that
the thing is in it self evident, and this _Tibullus_ very plainly

{8} First weary at his Plough the labouring Hind
In certain feet his rustick words did bind:
His dry reed first he tun'd at sacred feasts
To thanks the bounteous Gods, and cheer his Guests.

_In certain feet_ according to _Bern Cylenius_ of _Verona_ his
interpretation _in set measures_: for _Censorinus_ tells us, that the
antient Songs were loose and not ty'd up to any strict numbers, and
afterwards by certain laws and acknowledged rules were confin'd to
such and such measures: for this is the method of Nature in all her
works, from imperfect and rude beginnings things take their first
rise, and afterwards by fit and apposite additions are polish't, and
brought to perfection: such were the Verses which heretofore the
_Italian_ Sheapards and Plough-men, as _Virgil_ says, sported amongst

Italian Plough-men sprung from antient _Troy_
Did sport unpolish't Rhymes -

_Lucretius_ in his Fifth Book _de Natura Rerum_, says, that Sheapards
were first taught by the rushing of soft Breezes amongst the Canes to
blow their Reeds, and so by degrees to put their Songs in tune.

For Whilst soft Evening Gales blew or'e the Plains
And shook the sounding Reeds, they taught the Swains,
And thus the Pipe was fram'd, and tuneful Reed,
And whilst the Flocks did then securely feed,
The harmless Sheapards tun'd their Pipes to Love,
{9} And Amaryllis name fill'd every Grove.

From all which tis very plain that _Poetry_ began in those days, when
Sheapards took up their employment: to this agrees _Donatus_ in his
Life of _Virgil_, and _Pontanus_ in his Fifth Book of Stars, as
appears by these Verses.

Here underneath a shade by purling Springs
The Sheapards Dance, whilst sweet _Amyntas_ sings;
Thus first the new found Pipe was tun'd to Love,
And Plough-men taught their Sweet hearts to the Grove,

Thus the _Fescennine_ jests when they sang harvest-home, and then too
the Grape gatherers and Reapers Songs began, an elegant example of
which we have in the Tenth _Idyllium_ of _Theocritus_.

From this birth, as it were, of _Poetry_, Verse began to grow up to
greater matters; For from the common discourse of _Plough-men_ and
_Sheapards_, first _Comedy_, that Mistress of a private Life, next
_Tragedy_, and then _Epick Poetry_ which is lofty and _Heroical_
arrose, This _Maximus Tyrius_ confirms in his Twenty first
dissetation, where he tells us that Plough-men just comeing from their
work, and scarce cleansed from the filth of their employment, did use
to flurt out some sudden and _extempore_ Catches; and from this
beginning Plays were produc'd and the Stage erected: Thus {10} much
concerning the _Antiquity_, next of the _Original_ of this sort.

About this Learned men cannot agree, for who was the first Author, is
not sufficiently understood; _Donatus_, tis true, tells us tis proper
to the Golden Age, and therefore must needs be the product of that
happy time: but who was the Author, where, what time it was first
invented hath been a great Controversy, and not yet sufficiently
determined: _Epicharmus_ one of _Pythagoras_ his School, in his
*alkyoni* mentions one _Diomus_ a _Sicilian_, who, if we believe
_Athænæus_ was the first that wrote _Pastorals: those that fed Cattle
had a peculiar kind of Poetry, call'd Bucolicks, of which Dotimus a
Sicilian was inventer:_

_Diodorus Siculus_ *en tois mythologoumenois*, seems to make
_Daphnis_ the son of _Mercury_ and a certain _Nymph_, to be the
Author; and agreeable to this, _Theon_ an old _scholiast_ on
_Theocritus_, in his notes upon the first _Idyllium_ mentioning
_Daphnis_, adds, _he was the author of Bucolicks_, and _Theocritus
himself_ calls him _the Muses Darling_: and to this Opinion of
_Diodorus Siculus Polydore Virgil_ readily assents.

But _Mnaseas_ of _Patara_ in a discourse of his concerning _Europa_,
speaks thus of a Son of _Pan_ the God of Sheapards: _Panis Filium
Bubulcum à quo & Bucolice canere:_ Now Whether _Mnaseas_ by that
_Bubulcum_, means only a _Herds-man_, or one skilled in _Bucolicks_,
is uncertain; but if _Valla's_ {11} judgment be good, tis to be taken
of the latter: yet _Ælian_ was of another mind, for he boldly affirms
that _Stesichorus_ called _Himeræus_ was the first, and in the same
place adds, that _Daphnis_ the Son of _Mercury_ was the first Subject
of _Bucolicks_.

Some ascribe the Honor to _Bacchus_ the President of the _Nymphs,
Satyrs_, and the other Country Gods, perhaps because he delighted in
the Country; and others attribute it to _Apollo_ called _Nomius_ the
God of Sheapards, and that he invented it then when he served
_Admetus_ in _Thessaly_, and fed his Herds: For, tis likely, he to
recreate himself, and pass away his time, applied his mind to such

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