Pastoral Literature of the English Renaissance
Pastoral Literature of the English Renaissance
The pastoral is a literary style or type that presents a conventionalized picture of rural life, the naturalness and innocence of which is seen in contrast to the corruption and artificiality of city and court. Although pastoral works are written from the point of view of shepherds or rustics, they are always penned by highly sophisticated, urban poets. Some major, related concerns in pastoral works are the tensions between nature and art, the real and the ideal, and the actual and the mythical. English Renaissance pastoral has classical roots, but contains distinctly contemporary English elements, including humanism, sentimentality, depictions of courtly reality, a concern with real life, and the use of satire and comedy.
Pastoralism figured prominently in English poetry, prose, and drama from the mid-sixteenth to the mid-seventeenth century. English pastorals of this period were modeled after classical Italian and Spanish works, which in turn looked back to the ancients, whose pastoral poetry stemmed from the folk songs and ceremonies that honored the pastoral gods. The earliest extant pastoral poetry, the Idylls, was written by Theocritus in the third century b.c. Theocritus's works contain all the elements that were later conventionalized into the pastoral form or style: his rustic characters discuss the pleasures of country life, engage in impromptu singing contests, recount folktales, lament the loss of loved ones, and offer elegies on the deceased. His characters Daphnis and Amaryllis became fixtures of pastoral works. The Roman poet Virgil adopted the pastoral mode in his first-century b.c. Eclogues, adding mythical and political dimensions to his poetry and introducing the self-conscious questioning of the pastoral convention itself, with its tension between the real and the mythical. Few pastorals were written during the Middle Ages, but the form became popular with Italian Renaissance humanists such as Petrarch, Mantuan, and Boccaccio, who experimented with Latin forms. One of the earliest dramatic pastorals is Orfeo, by Politian, performed at the court of Mantua about 1471. Others include Aminta (1573) by Torquato Tasso and Pastor Fido (1590) by Giovanni Guarini. Nondramatic pastorals of sixteenth-century Italy include the romance Arcadia (1504) by Jacopo Sannazzaro. The pastoral also flourished at this time in the poems of the Portuguese writer Gil Vicente and the Spanish writers Juan del Encina, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, and others.
English poets such as Alexander Barclay and Barnabe Googe, who wrote in the first decades of the sixteenth century, were, like the Continental poets, influenced by the Latin eclogues. The first true pastoral work from the pen of an English writer, however, was The Shepheardes Calender (1579) by Edmund Spenser. Spenser used many of the conventions established by Theocritus, Virgil, Mantuan, and Sannazzaro in his twelve eclogues (one for each month of the year) that subtly satirize the political and religious figures of his day and draw attention to the artificiality of the courtly world. The poem has very little real action or narrative progression, but sustains interest as Spenser's shepherds contemplate a number of subjects and use a variety of poetic forms, such as amorous complaints, fables, singing matches and debates, an encomium, a funeral elegy, and a hymn to the god Pan. Spenser also added important innovations to the traditional pastoral form in The Shepheardes Calender, as his eclogues use a wide range of different meters and experiments in prosody and use allegory to discuss political themes. Spenser's other pastoral works include Colin Clouts Come Home Againe (1595), an allegory dealing with a journey to London and the vices of court life, and his unfinished masterpiece The Faerie Queene (1596).
The other great pastoral poet of the Elizabethan period was Philip Sidney, the man to whom Spenser dedicated The Shepheardes Calender. Sidney's Arcadia is a mixed-mode romance that intersperses pastoral lyrics in a tale of courtly love, as two princes set off to find love in Arcadia, fall in love with two princesses, and eventually marry them. Along the way, the major characters must spend much of their time disguised as shepherds. The major theme of the work is the life of action and responsibility versus the life of contemplation and love, a common pastoral motif. Another familiar trope is that of the mythic “Golden Age.” As with other Renaissance pastorals, Arcadia also presents sophisticated ideas in the words of common, rustic characters, thus simplifying difficult concepts and emphasizing the universality of human nature. The eclogue “Ye Goatherd Gods” contained in Arcadia is especially admired for its originality of meter and ornate amplification.
Most of the other figures writing on pastoral themes in the early Renaissance were lyric poets and dramatists. The most famous of the lyricists were Walter Raleigh, Christopher Marlowe, William Browne, Richard Barnfield, George Wither, and Michael Drayton, many of whom modeled their verses after Spenser's eclogues but treated less weighty themes.
Pastoral themes were also popular in Elizabethan drama, particularly in court masques. These comprised a distinctively courtly form of dramatic spectacle that was characterized by the use of masks and the mingling of actors and spectators, as well as an emphasis on music and dance. Sidney's Lady of May (1578), about a young woman who cannot choose between two men who want to marry her—a rich shepherd of “smale Desertes and no faultes” and a woodsman of “manie Desertes and manie faultes”—has the elements of gaiety and lightness that mark these types of dramas. Dramatists of the later Renaissance, including William Shakespeare, began to react against hackneyed pastoral conventions in their “antipastoral” pastorals. Shakespeare employed and yet overturned pastoral ideas and themes in in As You Like It (1598), The Winter's Tale (1609), and The Tempest (1611). The idea that the bucolic existence of the countryside offers an alternative to the corruption of the courtly life was simply not an economic reality by the end of the Renaissance, and in Ben Jonson's Sad Shepherd (1640) it becomes clear that the material realities of an age of commerce and exploration make it impossible to depict the court in simple terms or to hold up the countryside as a paradisaical world of innocence and harmony.
Many lyric poets of the later Renaissance moved away from the use of pastoral conventions in their verse, or they more self-consciously explored in their work the meaning of pastoral themes for a changing world. Some writers, such as Robert Herrick, with his realistically detailed descriptions of rural festivals and life, did present pastoral idealizations of the country. For other poets, the greater concern was to reflect in their poetry the transformation of the land and changing conditions of the countryside—in which increasingly landowners hired workers to tend their property and contented shepherds did not populate the hillsides. The two great pastoral poets of the later Renaissance, John Milton and Andrew Marvell, used many pastoral elements in their work, often to point to the passing of an age. While the English Renaissance pastoral had always contained an element of self-conscious exploration of its own conventions, Marvell's poetry is deeply self-reflexive and internalized, and in many of his posthumously published poems, such as “The Garden” and “The Mower Against Gardens” (1681), the idealized world he longs for seems to be a state of inner, individual harmony and not the outer, physical retreat of nature. Milton used pastoral elements in several of his works, including the poem “Lycidas” (1638) and Books IV and IX of Paradise Lost (1668). “Lycidas,” a moving pastoral elegy for Milton's acquaintance Edward King, is very close in structure to Virgilian eclogues, but in the poem Milton mingles classical and Christian myths and creates a sense of unrest atypical of pastoral poetry that is quelled only when Lycidas is raised to heaven. Many critics have viewed “Lycidas” as Milton's farewell not only to his friend but to his youth, to the ideas and ideals of a past age, and to pastoralism in general. In Paradise Lost, too, Milton is less concerned with pastoral landscapes and lost paradises than with a “paradise within.” Restoration writers clearly rejected and even ridiculed the pastoral impulse, and it would more than a century before the ideals of the pastoral, again transformed, would again respectibility in the works of Romantic writers.
The Affectionate Shepherd (poem) 1594
Britannia's Pastorals (poem) 1613-16
The Shepheards Pipe (poem) 1614
Idea, the Shepherd's Garland (poem) 1593
The Sad Shepherd (play) 1640
“The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” (poem) 1599
“Ametas and Thestylis Making Hay-Ropes” (poem) 1681
“Bermudas” (poem) 1681
“Damon the Mower” (poem) 1681
“The Garden” (poem) 1681
“The Mower against Gardens” (poem) 1681
“Comus” (poem) 1634
“L'Allegro” (poem) 1634
“Lycidas” (poem) 1637
Paradise Lost (epic poem) 1667
“The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd” (poem) 1600
As You Like It (play) 1598
The Winter's Tale (play) 1609
The Tempest (play) 1611
Lady of May (masque) 1578
Arcadia (epic poem) 1590
Astrophel and Stella (sonnet sequence) 1591
The Shepheardes Calender (eclogues) 1579
The Faerie Queene (epic poem) 1595
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Criticism: Overviews And General Studies
SOURCE: “Proletarian Literature,” in Some Versions of Pastoral, New Directions, 1968, pp. 11-15.
[In the following excerpt from a work first published in 1935, Empson contends that pastoral literature reflects an impulse to clarify difficult issues by restating them in terms spoken by common folk, thus emphasizing their universal nature.]
The essential trick of the old pastoral, which was felt to imply a beautiful relation between rich and poor. was to make simple people express strong feelings (felt as the most universal subject, something fundamentally true about everybody) in learned and fashionable language (so that you wrote about the best subject in the best way). From seeing the two sorts of people combined like this you thought better of both; the best parts of both were used. The effect was in some degree to combine in the reader or author the merits of the two sorts; he was made to mirror in himself more completely the effective elements of the society he lived in. This was not a process that you could explain in the course of writing pastoral; it was already shown by the clash between style and theme, and to make the clash work in the right way (not become funny) the writer must keep up a firm pretence that he was unconscious of it. Indeed the usual process for putting further meanings into the pastoral situation was to insist that the shepherds were rulers of sheep, and so compare them to...
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SOURCE: Introduction to English Pastoral Poetry: From the Beginnings to Marvell, edited by Frank Kermode, George Harrap and Company, 1952, pp. 11-44.
[In the following excerpt, Kermode looks at the scope of the pastoral form, especially as it was used by English Renaissance poets; outlines its history and its critical and philosophical background; and discusses the general theory of Imitation as it relates to the pastoral.]
Jove, Jove! this shepherd's passion Is much upon my fashion.
As You Like It, II, iv, 56-57.
Hast any philosophy in thee, shepherd?
Ibid., III, i, 21.
Pastoral is one of the ‘kinds’ of poetry, like Epic, Tragedy, and Satire. We still know what these ‘kinds’ are, though we probably attach less importance to them than earlier readers did. To an Elizabethan critic they were natural; men had discovered, not devised, them. A poet who wrote in some novel form not recognized as a ‘kind’ was liable to be called to account, and accused of a breach of decorum, which is an offence against nature. Pastoral, though it ranked below some of the other ‘kinds’ of poetry, had, during the period which most concerns us, this official protection, and the Elizabethan schoolboy learned its laws as part of his rhetorical training. Yet to Dr Johnson it was a form “easy, vulgar, and therefore disgusting”—he was...
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SOURCE: “The Renaissance Perversion of Pastoral,” in Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 1, No. 2, April-June 1961, pp. 254-61.
[In the following essay, Heninger claims that in the sixteenth century the classical pastoral was “perverted” to express moral, satirical, and sentimental themes, and that this adaptation was the result of a humanist desire to explore real life in a form that was originally developed to reflect the ideal.]
When the youthful Alexander Pope had finished his pastorals, he wrote a “Discourse” which offers both an encomium of the pastoral tradition and an apologia for his interpretation of it. He began with a characteristically waspish declaration, made with the confidence and careful balance of impeccable authority:
There are not, I believe, a greater number of any sort of verses than of those which are called Pastorals, nor a smaller, than of those which are truly so.1
With a neo-classical eye, Pope had surveyed his predecessors in pastoral, using Theocritus and Vergil as norms. Quite rightly he found little genuine pastoral since classical times, because the Renaissance had violently perverted both its purpose and its method, both its content and its form.
Pastoral was rife during the Renaissance, but not as the ancients had practised it. The idyll and eclogue persisted,...
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SOURCE: “The Pastoral World: Arcadia and the Golden Age,” in The Pastoral Mode: A Casebook, edited by Bryan Loughrey, Macmillan Publishers Ltd., 1984, pp. 133-54.
[In the following excerpt from an essay first published in 1972, Lerner argues that the pastoral, as a representation of the provincial mediated by courtly writers seeking relief from the problems of a sophisticated society, is poetry of illusion and thus of wish-fulfillment.]
Every culture has one or more centres of social, artistic and moral standards, a place where the educated people live, where the King's English, or its equivalent, is spoken, where the theatres perform and the political decisions are taken. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries this centre was the court; by the nineteenth it was the city; in modern America it is becoming the university. Most literature is written from and for this centre; but there are always corners of society, rural or provincial pockets, lower social levels, with their own less articulate, less sophisticated traditions, sometimes imprinted by old-fashioned court mores, sometimes seeming to live an older, more unchanging life of their own. It used to be true that the literature of the centre was written, that of the corners oral, but literacy and radio have changed that.
To describe this contrast, we can speak of court, or metropolitan or (more generally) centric literature,...
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SOURCE: “The Elizabethan Pastoral,” “The Pastoral Drama,” and “The Seventeenth-Century Pastoral,” in The Penguin Book of English Pastoral Verse, introduced and edited by John Barrell and John Bull, Penguin Books, 1974, pp. 13-20; 107-11; 141-48.
[In the following excerpts, Barrell and Bull trace the development of English pastoral poetry and its relation to the changing social conditions of the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods. The critics examine the relations between the conventions of the pastoral mode and the actuality of rural life as well as the evolving historical reality of gentlemen-poets' connection with the land.]
THE ELIZABETHAN PASTORAL
During the Dark and Early Middle ages, the Pastoral all but disappeared in Europe. It did find some form of expression in the troubadour pastourelles in France, poems which reflect the transition from a popular ballad tradition to a sophisticated court culture—and thus have as their dominant theme the conflict between the two worlds in the attempted seduction of a peasant girl by a courtly knight. But feudal society was too stratified, too static, to allow a proper consideration of pastoral matters. Interest in the Pastoral revives in the Renaissance when the feudal idea of community is first seriously threatened. But the Pastoral offered more than a nostalgic myth. It is the Eclogues of Virgil that are...
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SOURCE: “Of Gentlemen and Shepherds: The Politics of Elizabethan Pastoral Form,” in ELH, Vol. 50, No. 3, Autumn 1983, pp. 415-59.
[In the following excerpt, Montrose offers an historical prologue to reading the Elizabethan pastoral, and claims that the pastoral embodies the contradictory values of Elizabethan social life.]
I SHEPHERDS AND CRITICS
Modern theories of pastoral have a way of turning into theories of literature. Perhaps the most influential of such theories have been those of William Empson and Renato Poggioli. The former isolates the pastoral “process” in verbal strategies for “putting the complex into the simple”; the latter analyzes the pastoral “impulse” as a projective mechanism for the sublimation of civilization's discontents.1 Such generous definitions have encouraged a transformation of virtually every kind of literary text into yet another version of pastoral. Indeed, the rage for pastoral and pastoralization evident in Anglo-American literary studies during the past quarter century seems in itself to constitute a symptomatic pastoral impulse, an exemplary pastoral process: to write about pastoral may be a way of displacing and simplifying the discontents of the latter-day humanist in an increasingly technocratic academy and society; the study of pastoral may have become a metapastoral version of pastoral. The version of...
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SOURCE: Introduction to The Pastoral Mode: A Casebook, edited by Bryan Loughrey, Macmillan Publishers Ltd., 1984, pp. 8-17.
[In the following excerpt, Loughrey discusses the classical European origins of the pastoral form and surveys its embodiment in works by writers of the English Renaissance.]
Pastoral is a contested term which modern critics have applied to an almost bewildering variety of works. In earlier critical discourse, however, it had a fairly limited and stable sense, describing literature which portrayed, often in an idealised manner, ‘the life of shepherds, or of the country’.1 The genre originated with the Greek poet Theocritus (c. 316-260 bc), who entertained the sophisticated Alexandrian court of Ptolemy with a series of vignettes depicting the countryside and peasantry of his native Sicily. His Idylls are not entirely typical of the later tradition, since they contain considerable elements of realism and sometimes dwell on the harsher aspects of the lives led by an entire rural community, consisting not just of shepherds, but of farmers, serfs, goatherds, fishermen, neatherds and housewives. Nevertheless, Theocritus's successors found in the Idylls almost all the motifs which later crystallised into the conventions of formal pastoral: herdsmen find leisure to indulge in impromptu song contests or debates; extravagantly praise the beauty of their coy...
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Criticism: Principal Figures Of The Elizabethan Period
SOURCE: “E. K.,” in The Pastoral Mode: A Casebook, edited by Bryan Loughrey, Macmillan Publishers Ltd., 1984, pp. 29-33.
[In the following dedicatory epistle to Gabriel Harvey, which was originally prefixed to the 1579 edition of Edmund Spenser's Shepheardes Calender, the writer “E. K.” (probably Edward Kirke) praises Spenser for dignifying the language with the use of archaisms and for giving his eclogues a particularly English hue.]
Uncouthe unkiste, Sayde the olde famous Poete Chaucer: whom for his excellencie and wonderfull skil in making, his scholler Lidgate, a worthy scholler of so excellent a maister, calleth the Loade-starre of our Language: and whom our Colin [C]lout in his Aeglogue calleth Tityrus the God of shepheards, comparing hym to the worthines of the Roman Tityrus Virgile. Which proverbe … as in that good old Poete it served well Pandares purpose, for the bolstering of his baudy brocage, so very well taketh place in this our new Poete, who for that he is uncouthe (as said Chaucer) is unkist, and unknown to most men, is regarded but of few. But I dout not, so soone as his name shall come into the knowledg of men, and his worthines be sounded in the tromp of fame, but that he shall be not onely kiste, but also beloved of all, embraced of the most, and wondred at of the best. No lesse I thinke, deserveth his wittinesse in devising, his pithinesse in uttering, his complaints of...
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SOURCE: “The Argument of Spenser's Shepheardes Calender,” in ELH, Vol. 23, No. 3, September 1956, pp. 171-82.
[In the following essay, Hamilton explores the larger meaning of Edmund Spenser's Shepheardes Calender—which he claims is the rejection of the pastoral life for the truly dedicated life in the world—by examining not what the poem has in common with other pastoral poetry, as has been the strategy of other critics, but by looking at what is unique in Spenser's re-creation of the pastoral form.]
The critical attention given Spenser's Shepheardes Calender, apart from praise of the work as a brilliant poetical exercise, has mainly been to identify certain historical allusions. While the poem is deliberately designed, so it would seem, to provoke from the reader E. K.'s delighted response to “a prety Epanorthosis in these two verses” or “a very Poeticall πάθοs,” its brilliant rhetorical surface deliberately conceals reference, as E. K. hints many times in his glosses, to certain persons and events. Accordingly, the poem provokes the critic to turn from the display of sheer poetic skill in order to uncover some historical allegory. Yet even a probable identification of Rosalind or Dido or Cuddie does not take one very far into the poem which is read then only as a cipher or intellectual puzzle. The poem was not so read in Spenser's own age. In his...
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SOURCE: “Harmony and Pastoral in the Old Arcadia,” in ELH, Vol. 35, No. 3, September 1968, pp. 309-28.
[In the following essay, Dipple examines Philip Sidney's use of pastoral setting and conventions in the Old Arcadia, and argues that Sidney ironically exploits pastoral connotations to dramatize the fall from harmony to disharmony and to illustrate the ultimate impracticability of the idealized pastoral world.]
Arcadia amonge all the Provinces of Grece was ever had in singuler reputation, partly for the sweetnes of the Aire and other naturall benefittes: But, principally, for the moderate & well tempered myndes of the people, who, (fynding howe true a Contentation ys gotten by following the Course of Nature, And howe the shyning Title of glory somuche affected by other Nacions, dothe in deede help litle to the happines of lyfe) were the onely people, which as by theire Justice and providence, gave neyther Cause nor hope to theyre Neighboures to annoy them, so were they not stirred with false prayse, to truble others quyett. Thincking yt a smalle Rewarde for the wasting of theire owne lyves in ravening, that theire posterity shoulde longe after saye, they had done so: Eeven the Muses seemed to approove theire goode determinacion, by chosing that Contrie as theire cheefest reparing place, and by bestowing theire perfections...
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SOURCE: “Some Spenserians,” in English Pastoral Poetry, Twayne Publishers, 1983, pp. 48-58.
[In the following excerpt, Sambrook surveys the eclogues of courtly writers such as Michael Drayton, Richard Barnfield, George Wither, and William Browne, who took Edmund Spenser as their model, and contends that the work of these later poets lacks the symbolic richness and formal complexity of that of their master.]
Allegory became a less potent lure as Elizabethan and Jacobean poets moved further away from Italian models. A late Jacobean critic, Michael Drayton, in the address to the reader of his Pastorals (1619), admits allegory as a possibility rather than a necessity: “the most High, and most Noble Matters of the World may bee shaddowed in them, and for certaine sometimes are.” However, Drayton agrees with his predecessors that among English pastoral poets Spenser stands first: “Master Edmund Spenser had done enough for the immortality of his Name, had he only given us his Shepheards Kalender, a Master-piece if any.”1
The Shepheardes Calender became the principal model for Elizabethan and Jacobean pastoral eclogue, although English translations from both Theocritus and Virgil appeared in the decade following its publication. Sixe Idillia, that is, six small, or petty, poems, or aeglogues, printed at Oxford in 1588 contained translations by an...
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Criticism: Principal Figures Of The Later Renaissance
SOURCE: “On Milton's Lycidas,” in The Pastoral Mode: A Casebook, edited by Bryan Loughrey, Macmillan Publishers Ltd., 1984, pp. 71-3.
[In the following excerpt, originally published in his Lives of the English Poets in 1780, Johnson critcizes what he thinks are the faults of John Milton's poem Lycidas, whose pastoral form he finds vulgar and disgusting.]
… One of the poems on which much praise has been bestowed is Lycidas; of which the diction is harsh, the rhymes uncertain, and the numbers unpleasing. What beauty there is, we must therefore seek in the sentiments and images. It is not to be considered as the effusion of real passion; for passion runs not after remote allusions and obscure opinions. Passion plucks no berries from the myrtle and ivy, nor calls upon Arethuse and Mincius, nor tells of rough satyrs, and fauns with cloven heel. Where there is leisure for fiction, there is little grief.
In this poem there is no nature, for there is no truth; there is no art, for there is nothing new. Its form is that of a pastoral—easy, vulgar, and therefore disgusting; whatever images it can supply are long ago exhausted; and its inherent improbability always forces dissatisfaction on the mind. When Cowley tells of Hervey, that they studied together, it is easy to suppose how much he must miss the companion of his labours, and the partner of his discoveries; but...
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SOURCE: “Literature as Context: Milton's Lycidas,” in The Pastoral Mode: A Casebook, edited by Bryan Loughrey, Macmillan Publishers Ltd., 1984, pp. 205-15.
[In the following excerpt, originally delivered as a lecture in 1958 and published in 20th Century Literary Criticism in 1972, Frye discusses John Milton's Lycidas as a pastoral elegy, noting the four creative principles of convention, genre, archetype, and autonomous form that Milton uses in its composition. The critic also elucidates the poem's classical and Christian mythic dimensions.]
… Lycidas … is an elegy in the pastoral convention, written to commemorate a young man named Edward King who was drowned at sea. The origins of the pastoral are partly classical, the tradition that runs through Theocritus and Virgil, and partly Biblical, the imagery of the twenty-third Psalm, of Christ as the Good Shepherd, of the metaphors of ‘pastor’ and ‘flock’ in the Church. The chief connecting link between the traditions in Milton's day was the Fourth or Messianic Eclogue of Virgil. Hence it is common enough to have pastoral images echoing both traditions at once, and not surprising to find that Lycidas is a Christian poem as well as a humanistic one.
In the classical pastoral elegy the subject of the elegy is not treated as an individual but as a representative of a dying spirit of nature....
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SOURCE: “Robert Herrick's Recreative Pastoral,” in Genre, Vol. VII, No. 2, June 1974, pp. 183-95.
[In the following essay, Gertzman illustrates Robert Herrick's “recreative” (as opposed to didactic) pastoral in several poems in his Hesperides, noting that the “cleanly wanton” poems are marked by playful humor, fancy, naive enthusiasm, and genial humility.]
The pastoral poetry of the Renaissance has received a great deal of critical attention in recent years. Of special interest have been the uses to which great poets such as Spenser, Milton and Marvell have put the genre. The moral and spiritual depths beneath the physically delightful surface have been well documented. But the attractiveness of pastoral for some minor poets, especially lyric poets, has been less fully considered. Of these poets Robert Herrick is an interesting example, especially because of his Hesperides, in which we find a very definite pastoral sensibility, but one in which mood predominates over didactic intent, and in which Christian ceremonies are used to suggest the goodness of sensual pleasure. This kind of recreative pastoral is very different from that which aims at speaking covertly of postlapsarian realities, or of Arcadian retirement as a way of refreshing the will for a renewed struggle against the fallen world.1
Herrick obviously thought the pastoral concept to be...
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SOURCE: “The Epic as Pastoral: Milton, Marvell, and the Plurality of Genre,” in New Literary History, Vol. 30, No. 1, 1999, pp. 143-57.
[In the following essay, Weller maintains that Andrew Marvell's poetry rehearses the pastoral motifs that inform John Milton's epic poem Paradise Lost, and he examines how the lyric mode is used in the expansive form of the epic.]
When Milton begins Paradise Regained by defining himself as “I who erewhile the happy garden sung,”1 he is echoing the lines—possibly discarded by Virgil, possibly even non-Virgilian—which prefaced Renaissance editions of The Aeneid:
Ille ego, qui quondam gracili modulatus avena carmen, et egressus silvis vicina coegi ut quamvis avido parerent arva colono, gratum opus agricolis; at nunc horrentia Martis
[I am he who once tuned my song on a slender reed, then, leaving the woodland, constrained the neighbouring fields to serve the husbandman, however grasping—a work welcome to farmers; but now of Mars' bristling (arms and the man I sing)](2)
Virgil here is of course defining the shape of a canonical poetic career, moving from pastoral to georgic to epic, which his own works established. Later poets imitated both this progress of poetic ambition and these lines. Spenser's version of this gesture is the most familiar:...
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Criticism: Pastoral Drama
SOURCE: “The Pastoral Element in the English Drama Before 1605,” in Modern Language Notes, Vol. 14,No. 4, April 1899, pp. 114-23.
[In the following essay, Thorndike examines the development of the English pastoral drama, noting the introduction of particularly English elements—such as the appearance of comic characters and the satyr type—into the literary form.]
Most accounts of the English pastoral drama have begun with Fletcher's Faithful Shepherdess or Daniel's Queen's Arcadia. There have been references, of course, to some of Lyly's plays, Peele's Arraignment of Paris and Sidney's May Lady, but there has been no recognition of a continuous and considerable development of the pastoral drama before Daniel and Fletcher introduced the genre already highly developed by Tasso and Guarini.
It is the purpose of this paper to present evidence of such a development before 1605, the date of Daniel's Arcadia; and this evidence will fall naturally into two divisions. First, we shall consider evidence of a pastoral element in entertainments and shows presented to the queen; and secondly, we shall consider plays and allusions to plays which show that pastorals were not uncommon on the London stage. The evidence under the first head has for the most part not been presented before, and that under the second has not all been previously utilized....
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SOURCE: “The Three Masterpieces,” in Pastoral Poetry and Pastoral Drama, A. H. Bullen, 1906, pp. 264-316.
[In the following excerpt, Greg examines what he judges the two greatest English dramatic pastoral romances, John Fletcher's Faithful Shepherdess and Ben Jonson's Sad Shepherd. He notes Fletcher's greater indebtedness to Italian pastoral dramas than to English courtly-chivalric pieces and finds Jonson's work—the first truly English pastoral—to be a fine achievement despite its several weaknesses. Greg compares these two pieces to Thomas Randolph's Amyntas, a work that, despite its “inferior” merit, shares with the other dramas certain characteristics of form.]
Among English pastorals there are two plays, and two only, that can be said to stand in the front rank of the romantic drama as a whole. The first of these is, of course, Fletcher's Faithful Shepherdess. In the case of the second the statement would perhaps be more correctly put in the conditional mood, for whatever might have been its importance had it reached completion, the fragmentary state of Jonson's Sad Shepherd has prevented its taking the place it deserves in the history of dramatic literature. With these two productions may for the purposes of criticism be classed Thomas Randolph's Amyntas, which, however inferior to the others in poetic merit, yet like...
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SOURCE: “The Tempest as Pastoral Romance,” in Shakespeare Quarterly, Vol. 10, No. 4, Autumn 1959, pp. 531-39.
[In the following essay, Gesner argues that William Shakespeare's The Tempest is primarily a pastoral play, and that in composing the work Shakespeare used the Greek pastoralist Longus's Daphnis and Chloe as an immediate source.]
The problem of the source of The Tempest has long intrigued scholars, because a single entirely satisfactory work has never been uncovered to account for its origin. Many significant contributions to the solution of the problem have, however, been offered. In 1817 Ludwig Tieck pointed to Die schöne Sidea, a play by Jacob Ayrer, as a source or close analogue. Its plot parallels The Tempest in that it centers on a prince-magician, served by a spirit, father of a daughter whose hand is won when the son of an enemy carries logs. Die schöne Sidea was surely written before 1605, the date of Ayrer's death, but since it went unpublished until 1618, seven years after the composition of The Tempest, a common ancestor is conjectured for the two.1 The Italian commedia dell' arte, a form of entertainment very popular in Shakespeare's England, is also thought to have been a suggestive force for The Tempest. Several of the comedies dealt with the theme of men shipwrecked on an island ruled by a...
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SOURCE: “The Winter's Tale and the Pastoral Tradition,” in Shakespeare Quarterly, Vol. 14, No. 4, Autumn 1963, pp. 537-98.
[In the following essay, Bryant notes the indebtedness of William Shakespeare's The Winter's Taleto the classical European and English pastoral traditions and argues that with this subtle dramatized commentary on appearance and reality Shakespeare brought freshness to the pastoral mode and transformed its hackneyed conventions.]
It is curious that no appraiser or appreciator seems to have puzzled over the kinship of The Winter's Tale with the pastoral tradition. Most commentators tacitly assume the connection, then abandon it to court other features. Some explain the drama as tragicomedy, some as one of the “last plays”. Others see it against the background of Elizabethan thought. Still others, lately, have examined the grammar, the vocabulary, and the reverberations of the imagery. All these approaches are good, cogent, helpful; but the pastoral element has gone begging for an analyst. For that matter, Sir Walter Greg once went so far as to say that “it is characteristic of the shepherd scenes in that play, written in the full maturity of Shakespeare's genius, that, in spite of their origins in Greene's romance of Pandosto, they owe nothing of their treatment to pastoral tradition, nothing to convention, nothing to aught save life. …”1...
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Alpers, Paul. “Pastoral and the Domain of Lyric in Spenser's Shepheardes Calender.” Representations 12 (Autumn 1985): 83-100.
Discusses the influence of Spenser's Shepheardes Calender on English poetry, arguing that in composing the first set of English pastorals in the European tradition Spenser helped himself—and English poetry in general—to overcome the difficulties of writing lyric verse.
Bernard, John D. “Spenserian Pastoral and the Amoretti.” ELH 47, No. 3 (Autumn 1980): 419-32.
Argues that the pastoral is a major factor that shapes Edmund Spenser's conception of his subject in the love poems of the Amoretti.
Blanchard, J. Marc. “The Tree and the Garden: Pastoral Poetics and Milton's Rhetoric of Desire.” Modern Language Notes 91, No. 6 (1976): 1540-68.
Examines “Comus” and Paradise Lost in the context of the pastoral and the masque, and seeks to understand the relationship of mimesis, or literary imitation, to language and desire.
Buxton, John. “Michael Drayton.” In A Tradition of Poetry. London: Macmillan, 1967.
Examination of Drayton's work, emphasizing his interest in pastoral themes.
Cheney, Patrick. “Career Rivalry and the Writing of Counter-Nationhood: Ovid,...
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