I have endeavoured in the above account to do a somewhat tardy justice to the considerable and rather remarkably sustained qualities of Randolph’s play. I do not claim that as poetry it can be compared with the work of Tasso, Fletcher, or Jonson, or that it even rivals that of Guarini or Daniel, though had Randolph lived he might easily have surpassed the latter. But I do claim that the Amyntas is one of the most interesting and important of the experiments which English writers made in the pastoral drama, that it possesses dramatic qualities to which few of its kind can pretend, and that pervading and transforming the whole is the genial humour and the sparkling wit of its brilliant and short-lived author. His pastoral muse was a hearty buxom lass, and kind withal, not overburdened with modesty, yet wholesome and cleanly, and if at times her laugh rings out where the subject passes the natural enjoyment of kind, it is even then careless and merry, and there is often a ground of real fun in the jest. Her finest qualities are a sharp and ready wit and a wealth of imaginative pathos, alike pervaded by her bubbling humour; on the other hand there are moments, if rare, when in an ill-considered attempt to assume the buskin tread she reveals in her paste-board fustian somewhat of the unregeneracy of the plebian trull. The time may yet come when Randolph’s reputation, based upon his other works—the Jealous Lovers, a Plautine comedy, clever, but preposterous in more ways than one, the Muses’ Looking Glass, a perfectly undramatic morality of humours, and the poems, generally witty, occasionally graceful, and more than occasionally improper—will be enhanced by the recognition of the fact that he came nearer than any other writer to reconciling a kind of pastoral with the temper of the English stage. It was at least in part due to a constitutional indifference on the part of the London public to the loves and sorrows of imaginary swains and nymphs, that Randolph’s play failed to leave any appreciable mark upon our dramatic literature.
In Jonson’s Sad Shepherd we find ourselves once again considering a work which is not only one of very great interest in the history of pastoral, but which at the same time raises important questions of literary criticism. So far the most interesting compositions we have had to consider—Daniel’s Hymen’s Triumph, Fletcher’s Faithful Shepherdess, Randolph’s Amyntas—have been attempts either to transplant the Italian pastoral as it stood, or else so to modify and adapt as to fit it to the very different conditions of the English stage. Jonson, on the other hand, aimed at nothing less than the creation of an English pastoral drama. Except for such comparatively unimportant works as Gallathea and the Converted Robber, the spectators found themselves, for the first time,