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Pastoral Poetry
 "Pastoral" (Latin for "shepherd") refers to a literary
work dealing with shepherds and rustic life.
 It presents an idealized rather than realistic view of
rustic life.
 Classical (Greek and Latin) pastoral works date back to
the 3rd century B.C
 Shakespeare's contemporaries revived and imitated
the topics and forms of classical pastoral poetry.
 Drawing a contrast between the innocence and
serenity of a simple life and the misery and corruption
of city and especially court life.
 Naturalness and innocence in contrast to the
corruption and artificiality of city and court.
 The characters in pastoral poetry are often used as
vehicles for the expression of the author’s moral,
social, or literary views.
 Common topics of pastoral poetry include
 love and seduction;
 the value of poetry;
 death and mourning;
 the corruption of the city or court vs. the "purity" of
idealized country life;
 politics (generally treated satirically: the "shepherds"
critique society or easily identifiable political figures).
 A common pastoral poetic genre is the eclogue (a dialogue
between two shepherds).
This conversation may be between a shepherd and the
shepherdess he loves (generally his attempt to seduce her);
a "singing contest" to see which shepherd is the better poet
(a third may act as judge);
lament a dead friend (a eulogy or elegy);
praise a notable individual. Laudatory poems,
songs of courtship and
complaints of a lovesick shepherd
 An important subgroup of the pastoral eclogue or
monologue is the elegy, which expresses the poet's grief at
the loss of a friend or an important person.
 Conventional features of pastoral elegies include:
 the invocation of the Muse;
 expression of the "shepherd"-poet's grief;
 praise of the dead "shepherd";
 invective against death;
 effects of the death upon nature (disruptions in climate etc. as
expressions of a personified Nature's grief and sympathy);
 and ultimately, the poet's acceptance of the inevitability of
death and hope for immortality.
 Renaissance poets expanded the pastoral mode to
include the romance and drama.
 Pastoral dramas first appeared in the 15th and 16th
centuries and pastoral romance novels during the 16th
and 17th centuries.
 The pastoral drama or poem or romance depicted life
far from the city in a countryside that was both idyllic
and ideal. The shepherds and shepherdesses in a
pastoral poem lived an almost perfect existence;
 Pastoral poems first appeared in English in the early
 In pastoral narratives, city dwellers retreat to the
countryside, which turns into a "fantasy paradise"
where shepherds spend their time composing poems
to their sweethearts.
 Recognizable conventions include:
 shepherds who are also poets, writing poems and
playing upon pipes;
 the good old shepherd, poor but eager to give hospitality
to strangers and to those in need;
 the "savage" man or men who lacked courtly upbringing
but possessed an innate gentleness and gentility…;
 the beautiful shepherdess;
 the pastoral elegy, mourning the death of a shepherd or
shepherdess who was often also a poet;
 the pastoral debate, on topics like country versus city
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