Pastoral (The New Critical Idiom)


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Pastoral | Deakin University

Thus, pastoral as a mode occurs in many types of literature poetry, drama, etc. Terry Gifford, a prominent literary theorist, defines pastoral in three ways in his critical book Pastoral. The first way emphasizes the historical literary perspective of the pastoral in which authors recognize and discuss life in the country and in particular the life of a shepherd. Hesiod 's Works and Days presents a 'golden age' when people lived together in harmony with nature.

This Golden Age shows that even before the Alexandrian age , ancient Greeks had sentiments of an ideal pastoral life that they had already lost. This is the first example of literature that has pastoral sentiments and may have begun the pastoral tradition.

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Ovid's Metamorphoses is much like the Works and Days with the description of ages golden, silver, bronze, iron, and human but with more ages to discuss and less emphasis on the gods and their punishments. In this artificially constructed world, nature acts as the main punisher. Another example of this perfect relationship between man and nature is evident in the encounter of a shepherd and a goatherd who meet in the pastures in Theocritus ' poem Idylls 1.

Traditionally, pastoral refers to the lives of herdsmen in a romanticized, exaggerated, but representative way. In literature , the adjective 'pastoral' refers to rural subjects and aspects of life in the countryside among shepherds , cowherds and other farm workers that are often romanticized and depicted in a highly unrealistic manner. The pastoral life is usually characterized as being closer to the Golden age than the rest of human life. The setting is a Locus Amoenus , or a beautiful place in nature, sometimes connected with images of the Garden of Eden.

The speaker of the poem, who is the titled shepherd, draws on the idealization of urban material pleasures to win over his love rather than resorting to the simplified pleasures of pastoral ideology. This can be seen in the listed items: "lined slippers," "purest gold," "silver dishes," and "ivory table" lines 13, 15, 16, 21, The speaker takes on a voyeuristic point of view with his love, and they are not directly interacting with the other true shepherds and nature.

Pastoral shepherds and maidens usually have Greek names like Corydon or Philomela, reflecting the origin of the pastoral genre. Pastoral poems are set in beautiful rural landscapes, the literary term for which is "locus amoenus" Latin for "beautiful place" , such as Arcadia , a rural region of Greece , mythological home of the god Pan , which was portrayed as a sort of Eden by the poets. The tasks of their employment with sheep and other rustic chores is held in the fantasy to be almost wholly undemanding and is left in the background, leaving the shepherdesses and their swains in a state of almost perfect leisure.

This makes them available for embodying perpetual erotic fantasies. The shepherds spend their time chasing pretty girls — or, at least in the Greek and Roman versions, pretty lads as well. The eroticism of Virgil 's second eclogue , Formosum pastor Corydon ardebat Alexin "The shepherd Corydon burned with passion for pretty Alexis" is entirely homosexual [5]. Pastoral literature continued after Hesiod with the poetry of the Hellenistic Greek Theocritus , several of whose Idylls are set in the countryside probably reflecting the landscape of the island of Cos where the poet lived and involve dialogues between herdsmen.

He wrote in the Doric dialect but the metre he chose was the dactylic hexameter associated with the most prestigious form of Greek poetry, epic. This blend of simplicity and sophistication would play a major part in later pastoral verse. Theocritus was imitated by the Greek poets Bion and Moschus. The Roman poet Virgil adapted pastoral into Latin with his highly influential Eclogues. Virgil introduces two very important uses of pastoral, the contrast between urban and rural lifestyles and political allegory [7] most notably in Eclogues 1 and 4 respectively. In doing so, Virgil presents a more idealized portrayal of the lives of shepherds while still employing the traditional pastoral conventions of Theocritus.

He was the first to set his poems in Arcadia, an idealized location to which much later pastoral literature will refer. Horace 's The Epodes , ii Country Joys has "the dreaming man" Alfius, who dreams of escaping his busy urban life for the peaceful country. But as "the dreaming man" indicates, this is just a dream for Alfius. He is too consumed in his career as a usurer to leave it behind for the country. Later Silver Latin poets who wrote pastoral poetry, modeled principally upon Virgil's Eclogues, include Calpurnius Siculus and Nemesianus and the author s of the Einsiedeln Eclogues.

Italian poets revived the pastoral from the 14th century onwards, first in Latin examples include works by Petrarch , Pontano and Mantuan then in the Italian vernacular Sannazaro , Boiardo.


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The fashion for pastoral spread throughout Renaissance Europe. In Spain, Garcilaso de la Vega was an important pioneer and his motifs find themselves renewed in the 20th-century Spanish-language poet Giannina Braschi. Leading French pastoral poets include Marot and Ronsard. The first pastorals in English were the Eclogues c. Spenser's work consists of twelve eclogues, one for each month of the year, and is written in dialect. It contains elegies , fables and a discussion of the role of poetry in contemporary England.

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Spenser and his friends appear under various pseudonyms Spenser himself is "Colin Clout". During this period of England's history, many authors explored "anti-pastoral" themes. Additionally, he wrote Arcadia which is filled with pastoral descriptions of the landscape. In the 17th century came the arrival of the Country house poem. In , Ben Jonson wrote To Penshurst, a poem in which he addresses the estate owned by the Sidney family and tells of its beauty.

The basis of the poem is a harmonious and joyous elation of the memories that Jonson had at the manor. It is beautifully written with iambic pentameter, a style that Jonson so eloquently uses to describe the culture of Penshurst. It is very important to note the insertion of Pan and Bacchus as notable company of the manor.

Pan, Greek god of the Pastoral world, half man and half goat, was connected with both hunting and shepherds; Bacchus was the god of wine, intoxication and ritual madness. This reference to Pan and Bacchus in a pastoral view demonstrates how prestigious Penshurst was, to be worthy in the company with gods, notions of just how romanticized the estate was.

Philips focuses on the joys of the countryside and looks upon the lifestyle that accompanies it as being "the first and happiest life, when man enjoyed himself.

Critical Idiom Reissued: Pastoral (Hardcover)

The poem is very rich with metaphors that relate to religion, politics and history. Similar to Jonson's "To Penshurst", Marvell's poem is describing a pastoral estate. It moves through the house itself, its history, the gardens, the meadows and other grounds, the woods, the river, his Pupil Mary, and the future. Marvell used nature as a thread to weave together a poem centered around man. We once again see nature fully providing for man.

Marvell also continuously compares nature to art and seems to point out that art can never accomplish on purpose what nature can achieve accidentally or spontaneously. In this pastoral work, he paints the reader a colorful picture of the benefits reaped from hard work. This is an atypical interpretation of the pastoral, given that there is a celebration of labor involved as opposed to central figures living in leisure and nature just taking its course independently.

This acknowledgment of Herrick's work is appropriate, as both Williams and Herrick accentuate the importance of labor in the pastoral lifestyle. The pastoral elegy is a subgenre that uses pastoral elements to lament a death or loss. The most famous pastoral elegy in English is John Milton 's " Lycidas " , written on the death of Edward King, a fellow student at Cambridge University.

Pastoral (The New Critical Idiom)
Pastoral (The New Critical Idiom)
Pastoral (The New Critical Idiom)
Pastoral (The New Critical Idiom)
Pastoral (The New Critical Idiom)
Pastoral (The New Critical Idiom)
Pastoral (The New Critical Idiom)
Pastoral (The New Critical Idiom)

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