pastoral(redirected from Bucolic poetry)
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pastoral,literary work in which the shepherd's life is presented in a conventionalized manner. In this convention the purity and simplicity of shepherd life is contrasted with the corruption and artificiality of the court or the city. The pastoral is found in poetry, drama, and fiction, and many subjects, such as love, death, religion, and politics, have been presented in pastoral settings. In music, the pastorale is a piece imitating the simple music of shepherds. "He Shall Feed His Flock" from Handel's Messiah and Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony are superb examples of the pastorale.
In Ancient Greece
The earliest pastoral poetry of which there is record was written by the Greek poet Theocritus in the 3d cent. B.C. It is in his idyls, which celebrate the beauty and simplicity of rustic life in Sicily, that the well-known pastoral characters Daphnis, Lycidas, Corydon, and Amaryllis are first encountered. Theocritus was followed by Bion and Moschus in the 2d cent. B.C. and by Vergil, whose Bucolics appeared in 37 B.C. In these polished and literary verses, which were later called eclogues, Vergil describes an imaginary Arcadia in which the pastoral scenes are allegorical: they celebrate the greatness of Rome, express thanks to the emperor, and prophesy a golden age. In the 3d cent. A.D. a Greek poet, probably Longus, wrote Daphnis and Chloë, a pastoral romance that also influenced later European literature.
During the Renaissance
The pastoral eclogue enjoyed a revival during the Renaissance. Vergil's Bucolics was translated in the 15th cent. in Italy, and pastoral eclogues were written by Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio. The most elaborate pastoral romance was the Arcadia by Jacopo Sannazaro, written partly in prose and partly in verse. Poliziano's Orfeo (c.1471) is one of the earliest pastoral dramas. In France the pastourelle—a short poem in dialogue in which a minstrel courts a shepherdess—appeared as early as the 14th cent. and is exemplified in Le Jeu de Robin et de Marion, a play by Adam de La Halle.
In English literature the pastoral is a familiar feature of Renaissance poetry. Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia (1590) is an epic story in pastoral dress, and in The Shepheardes Calender (1579) Edmund Spenser used the pastoral as a vehicle for political and religious discussion. Many of the love lyrics of Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, and Michael Drayton have a pastoral setting. Christopher Marlowe's "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love" is one of the most famous pastoral lyrics, and Milton's philosophical and deeply felt "Lycidas" is a great pastoral elegy. In drama well-known examples of the pastoral are Shakespeare's As You Like It, the shearers' feast in A Winter's Tale, and Milton's masque Comus.
During the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries
Although poets, novelists, and dramatists of the 19th and 20th cent. have used pastoral settings to contrast simplicity and innocence with the artificiality of the city, they have seldom employed the pastoral conventions of Theocritus and Vergil. Outstanding exceptions are Shelley's Adonais and Matthew Arnold's Thyrsis, both splendid pastoral elegies. Poets such as Wordsworth and Robert Frost, because of their rural subject matter, have also been referred to as "pastoral" poets. In 1935 the English poet and critic William Empson published Some Versions of Pastoral, in which he defined the pastoral as the putting of the complex into the simple, treating the conventionalized bucolic setting as superficial; he then designated various literary works, from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland to the proletarian novel, as offshoots of the pastoral.
See the anthology ed. by T. P. Harrison (1939, repr. 1968); studies by H. E. Toliver (1971), and L. Lerner (1972); L. Metzger (1986); C. M. Schenck (1989).
in literature and the theater:
(1) The ancient classical bucolic, based on the life of shepherds (for example, Daphnis and Chloe, by Longus).
(2) A type of modern European literature associated with a bucolic sense of the world. In general, the pastoral poeticizes the peaceful, simple rural life. Modern pastoral literature emerged in the early Renaissance (G. Boccaccio’s L’Ameto, 1341, and The Nymphs of Fiesole, 1345). It flourished in the 16th and 17th centuries in Italy (J. Sannazzaro, A. Politian, T. Tasso), Spain (J. de Montmajor), England (P. Sidney, E. Spenser), and France, (H. d’Urfé). In Russia the pastoral reached its peak in the mid-18th century (A. S. Sumarokov and various manuscript songbooks).
From classical bucolics, including the idylls of Theocritus, pastoral literature borrowed a love of nature, an interest in the world of feelings and in the everyday life of simple people, and the juxtaposition of the morally pure countryside with the dissolute city. However, the element of conventionality, which had been characteristic even of the classical bucolics, as well as the emphatic stylization of simplicity and artlessness, grew stronger in later pastorals, especially during the 17th century. The conventionality of the pastoral was also manifested in the stiff, traditional masks worn by actors playing the roles of the sensitive shepherd, the hardhearted shepherdess, the wise old man, and the bold rival. In the 17th century the pastoral was the characteristic genre of the aristocratic baroque theater. The shepherds and shepherdesses experienced refined feelings and engaged in elegant disputes against a background of tastefully decorative nature. The plot was complicated by the numerous adventures of the main characters.
The wide variety of pastoral genres includes the eclogue, the narrative poem, and the novel. The dramatic pastoral, an outgrowth of Politian’s drama in verse, The Story of Orpheus (1480), was presented in the 16th and 17th centuries, especially at court festivals. Pastoral images and themes entered the poetry of sentimentalism (the idylls of S. Gessner, J. H. Voss, and F. Müller and the novellas of J.-P. de Florian).
TEXTS AND REFERENCESTasso, T. Aminta: Pastoral’. Moscow-Leningrad, 1937. (Introductory article by M. Eikhengol’ts.)
Boccaccio, G. F’ezolanskie nimfy. Moscow-Leningrad, 1934. (Preface by A. K. Dzhivelegov.)
Marinelli, P. V. Pastoral. London, 1971. (References.)
I. V. SHTAL’