William Wordsworth (1770–1850)
Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey, on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye During a Tour July 13, 1798. Extract.
Once again I see
These hedge-rows, hardly hedge-rows, little lines
Of sportive wood run wild: these pastoral farms,
Green to the very door; and wreaths of smoke
Sent up, in silence, from among the trees!
With some uncertain notice, as might seem
Of vagrant dwellers in the houseless woods,
Or of some Hermit’s cave, where by his fire
The Hermit sits alone.
These beauteous forms,
Through a long absence, have not been to me
As is a landscape to a blind man’s eye:
But oft, in lonely rooms, and ’mid the din
Of towns and cities, I have owed to them
In hours of weariness, sensations sweet,
Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart;
And passing even into my purer mind,
With tranquil restoration:—feelings too
Of unremembered pleasure: such, perhaps,
As have no slight or trivial influence
On that best portion of a good man’s life,
His little, nameless, unremembered, acts
Of kindness and of love.
" Hail gentle Shenstone ! Prince of Nambypamby !
Blest be thy lark, thy linnet, and thy lamby!" - POLWHEL.
THE sort of fairy ground, over which Pastoral Poetry leads its readers, has procured this species of composition numberless admirers; and it has enjoyed the additional eclat of employing the classic pens of Theocritus, Virgil, Pope, Gesner, and Guarini, besides various of the inspired bards of the Old Testament. Yet its eternal monotony renders it disgusting to persons of judgment and correct taste. However well executed, it is only fit to be admired by children. (‘On Pastoral Poetry’, The Monthly Magazine, vol., 27, 1809)
Who can with patience bear the unmeaning and endless repetition of faithless nymphs; dying swains; sighing breezes; purling rills; murmuring fountains; cooling grots; listening echoes; enamelled meads; tender lambkins; cooing doves; tuneful reeds; curling vines; perjured shepherds; and the sickening train of Corydons and Daphnes—Strephons and Cloes—Damons and Phillises? There may be occasionally a prettiness, which a man of understanding will be pleased with, as we would with a pretty child; or, to come nearer to the point, a pretty inanimate doll of a woman. It has, however, a fascination for young minds. (‘On Pastoral Poetry’, The Monthly Magazine, vol., 27, 1809)
So absurd is the common fiction in the sentiments and situation of the characters, that Gay’s Shepherds Week, where the nymphs and the swains are mere men and women, employed in common occupations of rustic life, and which was written purposely to exhibit pastorals in a ludicrous view, is, from its adherence to nature more admired by the judicious, than the fine lady and gentlemen shepherds of the great competitors Alexander Pope, and Ambrose Philips. (‘On Pastoral Poetry’, The Monthly Magazine, vol., 27, 1809)
In making these observations, I am far from condemning all pastoral poetry: Shakespeare’s As you like it, his Winter’s Tale, and other of his comedies, likewise Ramsay’s Gentle Shepherd, cannot fail to give the most exquisite pleasure to every person of taste. In these we have natural pictures of country life, interwoven with interesting story, instead of the insipid sing-song, and milk-and-water versification, by which we are surfeited even in the first pastoral writers. (‘On Pastoral Poetry’, The Monthly Magazine, vol., 27, 1809)
PASTORAL POETRY is that kind of poetry which professes to delineate the scenery, sentiment, and incidents of shepherd-life. (Chamber’s Encyclopedia, vol., 7, 1872)
Men were originally shepherds, and their festal songs and hymns would derive at least substance and imagery from their primitive occupations; but as a distinct branch of poetic art, pastoral poetry was not cultivated till a comparatively late period; for although critics are fond of pointing to the lives of the Hebrew patriarchs, and to the story of Ruth, as specimens of the antiquity of the pastoral in the East, yet, as these profess to be history, and not fiction, they can be instanced only to prove that the material for this kind of poetry existed from the earliest ages. (Chamber’s Encyclopedia, vol., 7, 1872)
In point of fact, it was only after innocence and simplicity had passed away, or were thought to have passed away, from real life, that men began, half from fancy, and half from memory, to paint the manners of the past as artless, and the lives of their ancestors as constantly happy. It was thus the Brass Age that made the Golden. (Chamber’s Encyclopedia, vol., 7, 1872)
Among the Latins, the refined and courtly Virgil, in the reign of Augustus, wrote his Bucolica or Eclogues, on the model of his Greek predecessors; but, however beautiful and melodious the verses of these urban writers are, we cannot suppose for a moment that the rude shepherds and shepherdesses of Italy or Sicily indulged in such refined sentiments, or spent their time so poetically as there they are made to do. Virgil, we may rest assured, is as far from giving a genuine picture of pastoral life in his verse, as any modern poet who prates of Chloe and Phyllis. (Chamber’s Encyclopedia, vol., 7, 1872)
During the middle ages, pastoral poetry in this artistic, and therefore conventional sense of the term, was almost unknown; but with the first glimpse of reviving classicism, the pastoral reappears. (Chamber’s Encyclopedia, vol., 7, 1872)
The earliest specimens are afforded by Boccaccio (q. v.), about the first modern Italian who studied Greek. It is to the countrymen of Boccaccio that we owe the creation of the pastoral drama, of which there is no trace in ancient literature. (Chamber’s Encyclopedia, vol., 7, 1872)
England, however, can boast of Spenser’s Shepherd’s Calendar, which is at least full of charming poetry, and is appropriately dedicated to Sir Philip Sidney, whose pastoral romance of Arcadia outstrips in point of literary beauty all other lictions of that class. (Chamber’s Encyclopedia, vol., 7, 1872)
The Germans reckon Shakspeare’s As You Like It in the list of pastoral dramas; but its right to be so classified is by no means clear, although we may admit that it betrays the influence of the pastoral poetry and romance that had just ceased to be the rage among the scholarly geniuses of Europe. (Chamber’s Encyclopedia, vol., 7, 1872)
During the civil wars in the latter half of the 16th c, the pastoral was turned to political uses. In the following century, it continued for some time to be popular, or rather, let us say, fashionable. Even the great Richelieu alleviated the cares of office with the composition of La Grande Pastorale; but here, too, the poem soon gave way to the prose romance, which was hardly less unreal, and far more exciting. (Chamber’s Encyclopedia, vol., 7, 1872)
Perhaps the best pastoral, ancient or modern, is the Gentle Shepherd of Allan Ramsay, published in 1725. ‘It is,’ says Mr Carruthers ‘a genuine picture of Scottish life, but of life pa sed in simple rural employments, apart from the guilt and fever of large towns, and reflecting only the pure and unsophisticated emotions of our nature. The affected sensibilities and feigned distresses of the Corydons and Delias find no place in Ramsay’s clear and manly page. He drew his shepherds from the life, placed them in scenes which he actually saw, and made them speak the language which he every day heard—the free idiomatic speech of his native vales.’ (Chamber’s Encyclopedia, vol., 7, 1872)
[Ramsay’s] English contemporaries, Pope, Ambrose Philips, Gay, and others, who form the ‘Augustan,’ or Queen Anne school of poets, also addicted themselves to the composition of pastoral poetry; but though there is much fine description in the verses, they are, in general, purely conventional performances, in imitation of the classic poets, who, as we have said, did not themselves imitate nature. From this censure, however, must be excepted the six pastorals of Gay, entitled the Shepherd’s Week, which are full of honest country humour, and contain charming pictures of English country life. (Chamber’s Encyclopedia, vol., 7, 1872)
Since the early part of the 18th c, however, pastoral poetry, strictly so called, has ceased to be cultivated in England and almost everywhere else. In the pages of Wordsworth, who lived all his days among the Cumberland shepherds, we indeed find many exquisite glimpses of pastoral life, as it presented itself to the profound and tender imagination of that great poet of nature, but few direct delineations of pastoral manners. (Chamber’s Encyclopedia, vol., 7, 1872)
The general impression appears to lie that the age of pastoral poetry has passed away forever, and that Damon and Chloe will never reappear in verse. (Chamber’s Encyclopedia, vol., 7, 1872)
Alexander Pope, A Discourse on Pastoral Poetry (1717)
The original of Poetry is ascribed to that Age which succeeded the creation of the world: and as the keeping of flocks seems to have been the sirst employment of mankind, the most ancient fort of poetry was probably pastoral. It is natural to imagine, that the leisure of those ancient shepherds admitting and inviting some diversion, none was so proper to that solitary and sedentary life as singing; and that in their songs they took occasion to celebrate their own felicity. From hence a Poem was invented, and afterwards improved to a perfect image of that happy time; which, by giving us an esteem for the virtues of a former age, might recommend them to the present. And since the life of shepherds was attended with more tranquillity than any other rural employment, the Poets chose to introduce their Persons, from whom it received the name of Pastoral.
A Pastoral is an imitation of the action of a shepherd, or one considered under that Character. The form of this imitation is dramatic, or narrative, or mixed of bothc; the fable simple, the manners not too polite nor too rustic: the thoughts are plain, yet admit a little quickness and passion, but that short and flowing: the expression humble, yet as pure as the language will afford; neat, but not florid; easy, and yet lively. In short, the fable, manners, thoughts, and expressions are full of the greatest simplicity in nature.
The complete character of this poem consists in simplicity, brevity, and delicacy; the two first of which render an eclogue natural, and the last delightful.
If we would copy Nature, it may be useful to take this Idea along with us, that Pastoral is an image of what they call the golden age. So that we are not to describe our shepherds as shepherds at this day really are, but as they may be conceived then to have been; when the best of men followed the employment.
And an air of piety to the Gods should shine through the poem, which so visibly appears in all the works of antiquity: and it ought to preserve some relish of the old way of writing; the connection should be loose, the narrations and descriptions short and the periods concise.
But with a respect to the present age, nothing more conduces to make these composures natural, than when some Knowledge in rural assairs is discoveredr. This may be made to appear rather done by chance than on design, and sometimes is best shewn by inference; lest by too much study to seem natural, we destroy that easy simplicity from whence arises the delight. For what is inviting in this fort of poetry proceeds not so much from the Idea of that business, as of the tranquillity of a country life.
For the Doric had its beauty and propriety in the time of Theocritus; it was used in part of Greece, and frequent in the mouths of many of the greatest persons: whereas the old English and country phrases of Spenser were either entirely obsolete, or spoken only by people of the lowest condition. As there is a disserence betwixt simplicity and rusticity, so the expression of simple thoughts should be plain, but not clownish. The addition he has made of a Calendar to his Eclogues, is very beautiful; since by this, besides the general moral of innocence and simplicity, which is common to other authors of Pastoral, he has one peculiar to himself; he compares human Life to the several Seasons, and at once exposes to his readers a view of the great and little worlds, in their various changes and aspects.
In defence of Milton’s Lycidas
The superiority of Milton’s Lycidas to all pastoral poems in our language is, I should hope, acknowledged by every man of true classical judgment; and Dr. Johnson’s strange animadversions on it have been thus essectually answered. "Lycidas, (says he,) is filled with the heathen deities; and a long train of mythological imagery, such as a College easily supplies.—But it is also such as even the Court itself could now have easily supplied. The public diversions, and books of all sorts, and from all sorts of writers, more especially compositions in poetry, were at this time over-run with classical pedantries. But what writer, of the fame period, has made these obsolete sictions the vehicle of so much fancy and poetical description? How beautifully has he applied this sort of allusion to the Druidical rocks of Denbighshire, to Mona, and the fabulous banks of Deva! It is objected, that its pastoral form is disgusting. But this was the age of pastoral; and yet Lycidas has but little of the bucolic cant, now so fashionable. The satyrs and fauns are but just mentioned. If any trite rural topics occur, how are they heightened!
"Together both, ere the high lawns appear’d
Under the opening eye-lids of the morn,
We drove afield, and both together heard
What time the gray-fly winds her sultry horn,
Batt’ning our flocks with the fresh dews of night.
"Here the day-break is described by the faint appearance of the upland lawns under the first gleams of light: the sun-set, by the buzzing of the chaffer: and the night sheds her fresh dews on their flocks. We cannot blame pastoral imagery and pastoral allegory, which carry with them so much natural painting. In this piece there is perhaps more poetry than sorrow. But let us read it for its poetry. It is true, that passion plucks no berries from the myrtle and ivy, no calls upon Arethuse and Mincius, nor tells of rough satyrs with cloven heel. But poetry does this; and in the hands of Milton, does it with a peculiar and irresistible charm. Subordinate poets exercise no invention, when they tell how a shepherd has lost his companion, and must feed his flocks alone without any judge of his skill in piping: but Milton dignifies and adorns these common artificial incidents with unexpected touches of picturesque beauty, with the graces of sentiment, and with the novelties of original genius. It is said, "here is no art, for there is nothing new." But this objection will vanish, if we consider the imagery which Milton has raised from local circumstances. Not to repeat the use he has made of the mountains of Wales, the Ifle of Man, and the river Dee, near which Lycidas was ship-wrecked; let us recollect the introduction of the romantic superstition of Saint Michael’s Mount in Cornwall, which overlooks the Irish seas, the fatal scene of his friend’s disaster.
"But the poetry is not always unconnected with passion. The poet lavishly describes an ancient sepulchral rite, but it is made preparatory to a stroke of tenderness. He calls for a variety of flowers to decorate his friend’s hearse, supposing that his body was present, and forgetting for a while he was drowned; it was some consolation that he was to receive the decencies of burial. This is a pleasing deception: it is natural and pathetic. But the real catastrophe recurs. And this circumstance again opens a new vein of imagination."
See : Poems of Milton, second edition, Robinson, 1791, p. 35.
Pope had not an eye for rural beauty, and for those natural picturesque accompaniments which are essential to the Pastoral Drama. I do not mean, that he had not a taste of rural embellishment—that is a different thing. There are ten thousand appearances in the lights snd shades of Nature, which it requires an habitual converse with rural scenery to delineate accurately; and without these, the Pastoral Drama would lose its distinguisliing and most beautiful features. I should class under this genus of Poetry, though not strictly pastoral, the Philoctetes of Sophocles ; and how interesting are the different views which the landscape presents, as accompanying the dramatic part? From the beginning, where the dwelling of the miserable exile among the rocks is set before us, to the last scene, where he bids adieu to his solitary cave, the nymphs, or fairy beings, of the vallies,— all is in the most exquisite vein of the rural and romantic Drama. But, perhaps, our own Shakespear, in his As you like it, has exhibited the most interesting specimen of the Drama connected with Pastoral Scenery. The works of Alexander Pope. Editor’s Note. vol. 7, 1806.
Alexander Pope’s Letter to Mr. Walsh. Windsor Forest, July 2, 1706.
[...] You have no less right to correct me, than the same hand that raised a tree has to prune it. I am convinced, as well as you, that one may correct too much; for in poetry as in painting, a man may lay colours one upon another till they stiffen and deaden the piece. Besides, to bestow heightening on every part is monstrous: Some parts ought to be lower than the rest; and nothing looks more ridiculous than a work, where the thoughts, however different in their own nature, seem all on a level: ‘Tis like a meadow newly mown, where weeds, grass, and flowers, are all laid even, and appear undistinguished. I believe too that sometimes our first thoughts are the best, as the first squeezing of the grapes makes the finest and richest wine. The works of Alexander Pope, vol. 7, 1806.
I have not attempted any thing of a pastoral comedy, because I think the taste of our age will not relish a poem of that sort. People seek for what they call wit, on all subjects, and in all places; not considering that nature loves truth so well, that it hardly ever admits of flourishing: Conceit is to nature what paint is to beauty; it is not only needless, but impairs what it would improve. There is a certain majesty in simplicity, which is far above all the quaintness of wit; insomuch that the critics have excluded wit from the loftiest poetry, as well as the lowest, and forbid it to the Epic no less than the Pastoral. The works of Alexander Pope, vol. 7, 1806.
If surprising discoveries should have place in the story of a pastoral comedy, I believe it would be more agreeable to probability to make them the effects of chance than of design; intrigue not being very consistent with that innocence, which ought to constitute a shepherd’s character. The works of Alexander Pope, vol. 7, 1806.
I am inclined to think the pastoral comedy has another disadvantage as to the manners: - Its general design is to make us in love with the innocence of rural life, so that to introduce shepherds of a vicious character must in some measure debase it: And hence it may come to pass, that even the virtuous characters will not shine so much, for want of being opposed to their contraries. These thoughts are purely my own, and therefore 1 have reason to doubt them: but I hope your judgment will set me right. The works of Alexander Pope, vol. 7, 1806.
I would beg your opinion too as to another point: it is, how far the liberty of borrowing may extend? I have defended it sometimes by saying, that it seems not so much the perfection of fensed, to say things that had never been said before, as to express those best that have been said oftenest; and that writers, in the case of borrowing from others, are like trees, which of themselves would produce only one sort of fruit, but by being grafted upon others may yield variety. A mutual commerce makes poetry flourish; but then poets, like merchants, should repay with something of their own what they take from others; not, like pirates, make prize of all they meet. I desire you to tell me sincerely, if I have not stretched this licence too far in these pastorals? I hope to become a critic by your precepts, and a poet by your example. The works of Alexander Pope, vol. 7, 1806.
LETTER FROM MR. WALSH to Alexander Pope, July 20, 1706.
I think you are perfectly in the right in your notions of Pastoral; but I am of opinion, that the redundancy of Wit you mention, though it is what pleases the common people, is not what ever pleases the best judges. The works of Alexander Pope, vol. 7, 1806.
As for what you ask of the liberty of borrowing; it is very evident the best Latin Poets have extended this very far; and none so far as Virgil, who was the best of them. As for the Greek Poets, if we cannot trace them so plainly, it is perhaps because we have none before them; it is evident that most of them borrowed from Homer, and Homer has been accused of burning those that wrote before him, that his thefts might not be discovered. The best of the modern Poets in all languages are those that have the nearest copied the Ancients. Indeed, in all the common subjects of Poetry, the thoughts are so obvious (at least if they are natural), that whoever ever writes last, must write things like what have been said before. But they may as well applaud the Ancients for the arts of eating and drinking, and accuse the Moderns of having stolen those inventions, from them; it being evident in all such cases, that whoever lived first, must, first find them out. It is true, indeed, when when there are one or two bright thoughts stolen, and all the rest is quite different from it, a poem makes a very foolish figure: But when it is all melted down together, and the gold of the Ancients so mixed with that of the Moderns, that none can distinguish the one from - the other, I can never find fault with it. The works of Alexander Pope, vol. 7, 1806.
Letter from Mr. Walsh to Alexander Pope. Sept. 9, 1706
[...] Having been absent about six weeks, I read over your Pastorals again, with a great deal of pleasure, and to judge the better, read Virgil’s Eclogues, and Spenser’s Calendar, at the fame time; and, I assure you, I continue the fame opinion I had always of them. By the little hints you take upon all occasions to improve them, it is probable you will make them yet better against winter; though there is a mean to be kept even in that too, and a man may correct his verses till he takes away the true spirit of them; especially if he submits to the correction of some who pass for great Critics, by mechanical rules, and never enter into the true design and Genius of an author. I have seen some of these that would hardly allow any one good Ode in Horace, who cry Virgil wants fancy, and that Homer, is very incorrect. While they talk at this rate, one would think them above the common rate of mortals: But generally they are great admirers of Ovid and Lucan; and when they write themselves, we find out all the mystery. The works of Alexander Pope, vol. 7, 1806.
Robert Burns (1759–1796).
‘Poem on Pastoral Poetry’
HAIL, Poesie! thou Nymph reserv’d!
In chase o’ thee, what crowds hae swerv’d
Frae common sense, or sunk enerv’d
’Mang heaps o’ clavers:
And och! o’er aft thy joes hae starv’d,
’Mid a’ thy favours!
Say, Lassie, why, thy train amang,
While loud the trump’s heroic clang,
And sock or buskin skelp alang
To death or marriage;
Scarce ane has tried the shepherd-sang
But wi’ miscarriage?
In Homer’s craft Jock Milton thrives;
Eschylus’ pen Will Shakespeare drives;
Wee Pope, the knurlin’, till him rives
In thy sweet sang, Barbauld, survives
Even Sappho’s flame.
But thee, Theocritus, wha matches?
They’re no herd’s ballats, Maro’s catches;
Squire Pope but busks his skinklin’ patches
O’ heathen tatters:
I pass by hunders, nameless wretches,
That ape their betters.
In this braw age o’ wit and lear,
Will nane the Shepherd’s whistle mair
Blaw sweetly in its native air,
And rural grace;
And, wi’ the far-fam’d Grecian, share
A rival place?
Yes! there is ane; a Scottish callan!
There’s ane; come forrit, honest Allan!
Thou need na jouk behint the hallan,
A chiel sae clever;
The teeth o’ time may gnaw Tantallan,
But thou’s for ever.
Thou paints auld Nature to the nines,
In thy sweet Caledonian lines;
Nae gowden stream thro’ myrtle twines,
While nightly breezes sweep the vines,
Her griefs will tell!
In gowany glens thy burnie strays,
Where bonie lasses bleach their claes,
Or trots by hazelly shaws and braes,
Wi’ hawthorns gray,
Where blackbirds join the shepherd’s lays,
At close o’ day.
Thy rural loves are Nature’s sel’;
Nae bombast spates o’ nonsense swell;
Nae snap conceits, but that sweet spell
O’ witchin love,
That charm that can the strongest quell,
The sternest move.
J.W. von Goethe (1749–1832).
Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship.
Book I, Chapter XV
HAPPY season of youth! Happy times of the first wish of love! A man is then like a child, that can for hours delight itself with an echo, can support alone the charges of conversation, and be well contented with its entertainment, if the unseen interlocutor will but repeat the concluding syllables of the words addressed to it. 1
So was it with Wilhelm in the earlier and still more in the later period of his passion for Mariana: he transferred the whole wealth of his own emotions to her, and looked upon himself as a beggar that lived upon her alms; and as a landscape is more delightful, nay is delightful only, when it is enlightened by the sun, so likewise in his eyes were all things beautified and glorified which lay round her or related to her. 2
Often would he stand in the theatre behind the scenes, to which he had obtained the freedom of access from the manager. In such cases, it is true, the perspective magic was away; but the far mightier sorcery of love then first began to act. For hours he could stand by the sooty light-frame, inhaling the vapour of tallow lamps, looking out at his mistress; and when she returned and cast a kindly glance upon him, he could feel himself lost in ecstasy, and though close upon laths and bare spars, he seemed transported into paradise. The stuffed bunches of wool denominated lambs, the waterfalls of tin, the paper roses and the one-sided huts of straw, awoke in him fair poetic visions of an old pastoral world. Nay, the very dancing-girls, ugly as they were when seen at hand, did not always inspire him with disgust: they trod the same floor with Mariana. So true is it, that love, which alone can give their full charm to rose-bowers, myrtle-groves and moonshine, can also communicate, even to shavings of wood and paper-clippings, the aspect of animated nature. It is so strong a spice, that tasteless, or even nauseous soups are by it rendered palatable. 3
So potent a spice was certainly required to render tolerable, nay at last agreeable, the state in which he usually found her chamber, not to say herself.
Extract from ‘Yarrow Visited’ (1814), by William Wordsworth (1770–1850)
Delicious is the Lay that sings
The haunts of happy lovers,
The path that leads them to the grove, 35
The leafy grove that covers:
And pity sanctifies the verse
That paints, by strength of sorrow,
The unconquerable strength of love;
Bear witness, rueful Yarrow! 40
But thou that didst appear so fair
To fond imagination
Dost rival in the light of day
Her delicate creation:
Meek loveliness is round thee spread, 45
A softness still and holy:
The grace of forest charms decay’d,
And pastoral melancholy.
Sidney’s literary work was all published after his death, some of it against his express desire. The “Arcadia,” an elaborate pastoral romance written in a highly ornate prose mingled with verse, was composed for the entertainment of his sister, the Countess of Pembroke. The collection of sonnets, “Astrophel and Stella,” was called forth by Sidney’s relation to Penelope Devereux, daughter of the Earl of Essex. While they were both little more than children, there had been some talk of a marriage between them; but evidence of any warmth of feeling appears chiefly after Penelope’s unhappy marriage to Lord Rich. There has been much controversy over the question of the sincerity of these remarkable poems, and over the precise nature of Sidney’s sentiments toward the lady who inspired them, some regarding them as undisguised outpourings of a genuine passion, others as mere conventional literary exercises. The more recent opinion is that they express a platonic devotion such as was common in the courtly society of the day, and which was allowed by contemporary opinion to be compatible with the marriage of both parties.
‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’
John Keats (1795–1821)
THOU still unravish’d bride of quietness,
Thou foster-child of Silence and slow Time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
What leaf-fringed legend haunts about thy shape 5
Of deities or mortals, or of both
In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy? 10
Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear’d,
Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone:
Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave 15
Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;
Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal—yet, do not grieve;
She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,
For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair! 20
Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed
Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu;
And, happy melodist, unwearièd,
For ever piping songs for ever new;
More happy love! more happy, happy love! 25
For ever warm and still to be enjoy’d,
For ever panting and for ever young;
All breathing human passion far above,
That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy’d,
A burning forehead, and a parching tongue. 30
Who are these coming to the sacrifice?
To what green altar, O mysterious priest,
Lead’st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,
And all her silken flanks with garlands drest?
What little town by river or sea-shore, 35
Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel,
Is emptied of its folk, this pious morn?
And, little town, thy streets for evermore
Will silent be; and not a soul, to tell
Why thou art desolate, can e’er return. 40
O Attic shape! fair attitude! with brede
Of marble men and maidens overwrought,
With forest branches and the trodden weed;
Thou, silent form! dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity. Cold Pastoral! 45
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st,
‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.’ 50
‘Kinds of Poetry’
Narrative thus stories forth the doings of others; the lyric rises out of oneself. And here again the scope is limitless. A lyric may phrase emotion in its purest essence: it is then the absolute lyric or song. The emotion, gathering about a simple little scene in nature, may utter itself briefly and beautifully in an idyl; conceived on a more extensive scale, a poem of rustic life, actual or feigned, becomes a pastoral. The passion of grief finds voice in the elegy.A lyric may mirror the large aspects of nature as colored by the poet’s feeling, and so it passes over into descriptive poetry. Sensuous elements may be subordinated to thought or to sympathy; and the poem so inspired expresses reflection and sentiment. Exaltation of thought and mood, moving through sustained and complex metrical form, finds a fitting medium in the ode.
Carleton Noyes, ‘The English Anthology’, The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.
Extract: David Copperfield. By Charles Dickens. (1812–1870).
Chapter XXXIX. Wickfield and Heep
Coming into Canterbury, I loitered through the old streets with a sober pleasure that calmed my spirits, and eased my heart. There were the old signs, the old names over the shops, the old people serving in them. It appeared so long, since I had been a schoolboy there, that I wondered the place was so little changed, until I reflected how little I was changed myself. Strange to say, that quiet influence which was inseparable in my mind from Agnes, seemed to pervade even the city where she dwelt. The venerable Cathedral towers, and the old jackdaws and rooks whose airy voices made them more retired than perfect silence would have done; the battered gateways, once stuck full with statues, long thrown down, and crumbled away, like the reverential pilgrims who had gazed upon them; the still nooks, where the ivied growth of centuries crept over gabled ends and ruined walls; the ancient houses, the pastoral landscape of field, orchard, and garden; everywhere—on everything—I felt the same serener air, the same calm, thoughtful, softening spirit.
Don Quixote . By Miguel de Cervantes (1547–1616).
The Fourth Book. Chapter XXIV.
Relating That Which the Goatherd Told to Those That Carried Away Don Quixote
To be brief, Anselmo and myself resolved to abandon the village and come to this valley, where, he feeding a great flock of sheep of his own, and I as copious a herd of goats of mine, we pass our lives among these trees, giving vent to our passions, either by singing together the beautiful Leandra’s praises or dispraises, or by sighing alone, and alone communicating our quarrelsome complaints with Heaven. Many others of Leandra’s suitors have since, by our example, come to these intricate woods, where they use our very exercise; and they are so many as it seems that this place is converted into the pastoral Arcadia; it is full of shepherds and sheepfolds, and there is no one part thereof wherein the name of the beautiful Leandra resoundeth not. There one doth curse her, and termeth her humours inconstant and dishonest; another condemns her of being so facile and light; some one absolves and pardons her; another condemns and despises her, and celebrates her beauty; another execrates her disposition; and finally, all blame, but yet adore her; and the raving distraction of them all doth so far extend itself, as some one complains of disdain that never spoke word unto her, and some one laments and feels the enraged fits of jealousy though she never ministered any occasion thereof; for, as I have said, her sin was known before her desires. There is no cleft of a rock, no bank of a stream, nor shadow of a tree, without some shepherd or other, that breathes out his misfortunes to the silent air. The echo repeats Leandra’s name wheresoever it can be formed; the woods resound Leandra; the brooks do murmur Leandra; and Leandra holds us all perplexed and enchanted, hoping without hope, and fearing without knowledge what we fear. 3
‘And among all this flock of frantic men, none shows more or less judgment than my companion, Anselmo, who, having so many other titles under which he might plain him, only complains of absence, and doth to the sound of a rebec (which he handles admirably well) sing certain doleful verses, which fully discover the excellency of his conceit. I follow a more easy and, in mine opinion, a more certain way—to wit, I rail on the lightness of women, on their inconstancy, double-dealing, dead promises, cracked trust, and the small discretion they show in placing of their affections; and this, sir, was the occasion of the words and reasons I lately used to this goat, whom I do esteem but little because she is a female, although she be otherwise the best of all my herd. And this is the history which I promised to tell you, wherein, if I have been prolix, I will be altogether as large in doing you any service; for I have here at hand my cabin, and therein store of fresh milk and savoury cheese, with many sorts of excellent fruit, no less agreeable to the sight than pleasing to the taste.’
John Milton. (1608–1674). Comus, a Mask
The TWO BROTHERS.
Eld. Bro. Unmuffle, ye faint stars; and thou, fair Moon,
That wont’st to love the travailler’s benison,
Stoop thy pale visage through an amber cloud, 335
And disinherit Chaos, that reigns here
In double night of darkness and of shades;
Or, if your influence be quite dammed up
With black usurping mists, some gentle taper,
Though a rush-candle from the wicker hole 340
Of some clay habitation, visit us
With thy long levelled rule of streaming light,
And thou shalt be our star of Arcady,
Or Tyrian Cynosure.
Sec. Bro. Or, if our eyes 345
Be barred that happiness, might we but hear
The folded flocks, penned in their wattled cotes,
Or sound of pastoral reed with oaten stops,
Or whistle from the lodge, or village cock
Count the night-watches to his feathery dames, 350
’Twould be some solace yet, some little cheering,
In this close dungeon of innumerous boughs.
But, Oh, that hapless virgin, our lost sister!
Where may she wander now, whither betake her
From the chill dew, amongst rude burs and thistles? 355
Perhaps some cold bank is her bolster now,
Or ’gainst the rugged bark of some broad elm
Leans her unpillowed head, fraught with sad fears.
What if in wild amazement and affright,
Or, while we speak, within the direful grasp 360
Of savage hunger, or of savage heat!
Samuel Johnson, Preface to Shakespeare, (1765)
He [Shakespeare] had no regard to distinction of time or place, but gives to one age or nation, without scruple, the customs, institutions, and opinions of another, at the expence not only of likelihood, but of possibility. These faults Pope has endeavoured, with more zeal than judgment, to transfer to his imagined interpolators. We need not wonder to find Hector quoting Aristotle, when we see the loves of Theseus and Hippolyta combined with the Gothick mythology of fairies. Shakespeare, indeed, was not the only violator of chronology, for in the same age Sidney, who wanted not the advantages of learning, has, in his Arcadia, confounded the pastoral with the feudal times, the days of innocence, quiet and security, with those of turbulence, violence, and adventure. 36
In his comick scenes he is seldom very successful, when he engages his characters in reciprocations of smartness and contests of sarcasm; their jests are commonly gross, and their pleasantry licentious; neither his gentlemen nor his ladies have much delicacy, nor are sufficiently distinguished from his clowns by any appearance of refined manners. Whether he represented the real conversation of his time is not easy to determine; the reign of Elizabeth is commonly supposed to have been a time of stateliness, formality and reserve; yet perhaps the relaxations of that severity were not very elegant. There must, however, have been always some modes of gayety preferable to others, and a writer ought to chuse the best.
William Wordsworth (1815)
Essay Supplementary to Preface
The arts by which Pope, soon afterwards, contrived to procure to himself a more general and a higher reputation than perhaps any English Poet ever attained during his lifetime, are known to the judicious. and as well known is it to them, that the undue exertion of those arts is the cause why Pope has for some time held a rank in literature, to which, if he had not been seduced by an over-love of immediate popularity, and had confided more in his native genius, he never could have descended. He bewitched the nation by his melody, and dazzled it by his polished style and was himself blinded by his own success. Having wandered from humanity in his Eclogues with boyish inexperience, the praise, which these compositions obtained, tempted him into a belief that Nature was not to be trusted, at least in pastoral Poetry. to prove this by example, he put his friend Gay upon writing those Eclogues which their author intended to be burlesque. The instigator of the work, and his admirers, could perceive in them nothing but what was ridiculous. Nevertheless, though these Poems contain some detestable passages, the effect, as Dr. Johnson well observes, ‘of reality and truth became conspicuous even when the intention was to show them grovelling and degraded.’ The Pastorals, ludicrous to such as prided themselves upon their refinement, in spite of those disgusting passages, ‘became popular, and were read with delight, as just representations of rural manners and occupations.’