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1911 Encyclopedia Britannica
(from Lat. pastor, a shepherd), the name given to a certain class of modern literature in which the "idyll" of the Greeks and the "eclogue" of the Latins are imitated. It was a growth of humanism at the Renaissance, and its first home was Italy. Virgil had been imitated, even in the middle ages, but it was the example of Theocritus that was originally followed in pastoral. Pastoral, as it appeared in Tuscany in the 16th century, was really a developed eclogue, an idyll which had been expanded from a single scene into a drama. The first dramatic pastoral which is known to exist is the Favola di Orfeo of Politian, which was represented at Mantua in 1472. This poem, which has been elegantly translated by J. A. Symonds, was a tragedy, with choral passages, on an idyllic theme, and is perhaps too grave in tone to be considered as a pure piece of pastoral. It led the way more directly to tragedy than to pastoral, and it is the Il Sagrifizio of Agostino Beccari, which was played at the court of Ferrara in 1554, that is always quoted as the first complete and actual dramatic pastoral in European literature.
In the west of Europe there were various efforts made in the direction of non-dramatic pastoral, which it is hard to classify. Early in the 16th century Alexander Barclay, in England, translated the Latin eclogues of Mantuanus, a scholastic writer of the preceding age. Barnabe Googe, a generation later, in 1563, published his Eglogs, Epytaphes and Sonnettes, a deliberate but not very successful attempt to introduce pastoral into English literature. In France it is difficult to deny the title of pastoral to various productions of the poets of the Pleiade, but especially to Remy Belleau's pretty miscellany of prose and verse in praise of a country life, called La Bergerie (1565). But the final impulse was given to non-dramatic pastoral by the publication, in 1504, of the famous Arcadia of J. Sannazaro, a work which passed through sixty editions before the close of the 16th century, and which was abundantly copied. Torquato Tasso followed Beccari after an interval of twenty years, and by the success of his Aminta, which was performed before the court of Ferrara in 1573, secured the popularity of dramatic pastoral. Most of the existing works in this class may be traced back to the influence either of the Arcadia or of the Aminta. Tasso was immediately succeeded by Alvisio Pasqualigo, who gave a comic turn to pastoral drama, and by Cristoforo Castelletti, in whose hands it grew heroic and romantic, while, finally, Guarini produced in 1590 his famous Pastor Fido, and Ongaro his fishermen's pastoral of Alceo in 1591. During the last quarter of the 16th century pastoral drama was really a power in Italy. Some of the best poetry of the age was written in this form, to be acted privately on the stages of the little court theatres, that were everywhere springing up. In a short time music was introduced, and rapidly predominated, until the little forms of tragedy, and pastoral altogether, were merged in opera.
With the reign of Elizabeth a certain tendency to pastoral was introduced in England. In Gascoigne and in Whetstone traces have been observed of a tendency towards the form and spirit of eclogue. It has been conjectured that this tendency, combined with the study of the few extant eclogues of Clemont Marot, led Spenser to the composition of what is the finest example of pastoral in the English language, the Shepherd's Calendar, printed in 1579. This famous work is divided into twelve eclogues, and it is remarkable because of the constancy with which Spenser turns in it from the artificial Latin style of pastoral then popular in Italy, and takes his inspiration direct from Theocritus. It is important to note that this is the first effort made in European literature to bring upon a pastoral stage the actual rustics of a modern country, using their own peasant dialect. That Spenser's attempt was very imperfectly carried out does not militate against the genuineness of the effort, which the very adoption of such names as Willie and Cuddie, instead of the customary Damon and Daphnis, is enough to prove. Having led up to this work, the influence of which was to be confined to England, we return to Sannazaro's Arcadia, which left its mark upon every literature in Europe. This remarkable romance, which was the type and the original of so many succeeding pastorals, is written in rich but not laborious periods of musical prose, into which are inserted at frequent intervals passages of verse, contests between shepherds on the "humile fistula di Coridone," or laments for the death of some beautiful virgin. The characters move in a world of supernatural and brilliant beings; they commune without surprise with "i gloriosi spiriti degli boschi," and reflect with singular completeness their author's longing for an innocent voluptuous existence, with no hell or heaven in the background.
It was in Spain that the influence of the Arcadia made itself most rapidly felt outside Italy. The earliest Spanish eclogues had been those of Juan de Encina, acted in 1492. Gil Vicente, who was also a Portuguese writer, had written Spanish religious pastorals early in the 16th century. But Garcilaso de la Vega is the founder of Spanish pastoral. His first eclogue, El Dulce lamentar de los pastores, is considered one of the finest poems of its kind in ancient or in modern literature. He wrote little, and died early, in 1536. Two Portuguese poets followed him, and composed pastorals in Spanish, Francisco de Sit de Miranda, who imitated Theocritus, and the famous Jorge de Montemayor, whose Diana (1524) was founded on Sannazaro's Arcadia. Gaspar Gil Polo, after the death of Montemayor in 1561, completed his romance, and published in 1564 a Diana enamorada. It will be recollected that both these works are mentioned with respect, in their kind, by Cervantes. The author of Don Quixote himself published an admirable pastoral romance, Galatea, in 1584.
In France there has always been so strong a tendency towards a graceful sort of bucolic literature that it is hard to decide what should and what should not be mentioned here. The charming pastourelles of the 13th century, with their knight on horseback and shepherdess by the roadside, need not detain us further than to hint that when the influence of Italian pastoral began to be felt in France these earlier lyrics gave it a national inclination. We have mentioned the Bergerie of Remy Belleau, in which the art of Sannazaro seems to join hands with the simple sweetness of the medieval pastourelle. But there was nothing in France that cculd compare with the school of Spanish pastoral writers which we have just noticed. Even the typical French pastoral, the Astree of Honore d'Urfe (1610), has almost more connexion with the knightly romances which Cervantes laughed at than with the pastorals which he praised. The famous Astree was the result of the study of Tasso's Aminta on the one hand and Montemayor's Diana on the other, with a strong flavouring of the romantic spirit of the Amadis. To remedy the pagan tendency of the Astree a priest, Camus de Pontcarre, wrote a series of Christian pastorals. Racon produced in 1625 a pastoral drama, Les Bergeries, founded on the Astree of D'Urfe.
In England the movement in favour of Theocritean simplicity which had been introduced by Spenser in the Shepherd's Calendar, was immediately defeated by the success ofSir Philip Sidney's Arcadia, a romance closely modelled on the masterpiece of Sannazaro. So far from attempting to sink to colloquial idiom, and adopt a realism in rustic dialect, the tenor of Sidney's narrative is even more grave and stately than it is conceivable that the conversation of the most serious nobles can have ever been. Henceforward, in England, pastoral took one or other of these forms. It very shortly appeared, however, that the Sannazarian form was more suited to the temper of the age, even in England, than the Theocritean. In 1583 a great impetus was given to the former by Robert Greene, who was composing his Morando, and still more in 1584 by the publication of two pastoral dramas, the Gallathea of Lyly and the Arraignment of Paris of Peele. It is doubtful whether either of these writers knew anything about the Arcadia of Sidney, which was posthumously published, but Greene, at all events, became more and more imbued with the Italian spirit of pastoral. His Menaphon and his Never too Late are pure bucolic romances. While in the general form of his stories, however, he follows Sidney, the verse which he introduces is often, especially in the Menaphon, extremely rustic and colloquial. In 1589 Lodge appended some eclogues to his Scilla's Metamorphosis, but in his Rosalynde (1590) he made a much more important contribution' to English literature in general, and to Arcadian poetry in particular. This beautiful and fantastic book is modelled more exactly upon the masterpiece of Sannazaro than any other in our language. The Sixe Idillia of 1588, paraphrases of Theocritus, are anonymous, but conjecture has attributed them to Sir Edward Dyer. In 1598 Bartholomew Young published an English version of the Diana of Montemayor.
In 1585 Watson published his collection of Latin elegiacal eclogues, entitled Amyntas, which was translated into English by Abraham Fraunce in 1587. Watson is also the author of two frigid pastorals, Meliboeus (1590) and Amyntae gaudia (1592). John Dickenson printed at a date unstated, but probably not later than 1592, a "passionate eclogue" called The Shepherd's Complaint, which begins with a harsh burst of hexameters, but which soon settles down into a harmonious prose story, with lyrical interludes. In 1594 the same writer published the romance of Arisbas. Drayton is the next pastoral poet in date of publication. His Idea: Shepherd's Garland bears the date 1593, but was probably written much earlier. In 1595 the same poet produced an Endimion and Phoebe, which was the least happy of his works. He then turned his fluent pen to the other branches of poetic literature; but after more than thirty years, at the very close of his life, he returned to this early love, and published in 1627 two pastorals, The Quest of Cynthia and The Shepherd's Sirena. The general character of all these pieces is rich, but vague and unimpassioned. The Queen's Arcadia of Daniel must be allowed to lie open to the same charge, and to have been written rather in accordance with a fashion than in following of the author's predominant impulse. The singular eclogue by Barnfield, The Affectionate Shepherd, printed in 1594, is an exercise on the theme "0 crudelis Alexi, nihil mea carmina curas," and, in spite of its juvenility and indiscretion, takes rank as the first really poetical following of Spenser and Virgil, in distinction to Sidney and Sannazaro. Marlowe's pastoral lyric Come live with Me, although not printed until 1599, has been attributed to 1589. In 1600 was printed the anonymous pastoral comedy in rhyme, The Maid's Metamorphosis, long attributed to Lyly.
With the close of the r6th century pastoral literature was not extinguished in England as suddenly or as completely as it was in Italy and Spain. Throughout the romantic Jacobean age the English love of country life asserted itself under the guise of pastoral sentiment, and the influence of Tasso and Guarini was felt in England just when it had ceased to be active in Italy. In England it became the fashion to publish lyrical eclogues, usually in short measure, a class of poetry peculiar to the nation and to that age. The lighter staves of The Shepherd's Calendar were the model after which all these graceful productions were drawn. We must confine ourselves to a brief enumeration of the principal among these Jacobean eclogues. Nicholas Breton came first with his Passionate Shepherd in 1604. Wither followed with The Shepherd's Hunting in 1615, and Braithwaite, an inferior writer, published The Poet's Willow in 1613 and Shepherd's Tales in 1621. The name of Wither must recall to our minds that of his friend William Browne, who published in1613-1616his beautiful collection of Devonshire idylls called Britannia's Pastorals. These were in heroic verse, and less distinctly Spenserian in character than those eclogues recently mentioned. In 1614 Browne, Wither, Christopher Brook and Davies of Hereford united in the composition of a little volume of pastorals entitled The Shepherd's Pipe. Meanwhile the composition of pastoral dramas was not entirely discontinued. In 1606 Day dramatized part of Sidney's Arcadia in his Isle of Gulls, and about 1625 the Rev. Thomas Goffe composed his Careless Shepherdess, which Ben Jonson deigned to imitate in the opening lines of his Sad Shepherd. In 1610 Fletcher produced his Faithful Shepherdess in emulation of the Aminta of Tasso. This is the principal pastoral play in the language, and, in spite of its faults in moral taste, it preserves a fascination which has evaporated from most of its fellows. The Arcades of Milton is scarcely dramatic; but it is a bucolic ode of great stateliness and beauty. In the Sad Shepherd, which was perhaps written about 1635, and in his pastoral masques, we see Ben Jonson not disdaining to follow along the track that Fletcher had pointed out in the Faithful Shepherdess. With the Piscatory Eclogues of Phineas Fletcher, in 1633, we may take leave of the more studied forms of pastoral in England early in the 17th century.
When pastoral had declined in all the other nations of Europe, it enjoyed a curious recrudescence in Holland. More than a century after date, the Arcadia of Sannazaro began to exercise an influence on Dutch literature. Johan van Heemskirk led the way with his popular Batavische Arcadia in 1637. In this curious romance the shepherds and shepherdesses move to and fro between Katwijk and the Hague, in a landscape unaffectedly Dutch. Heemskirk had a troop of imitators. Hendrik Zoeteboom published his Zaanlandsche Arcadia in 1658, and Lambertus Bos his Dordtsche Arcadia in 1662. These local imitations of the suave Italian pastoral were followed by still more crude romances, the Rotterdamsche Arcadia of Willem den Elger, the Walchersche Arcadia of Gargon, and the Noordwijker Arcadia of Jacobus van der Valk. Germany has nothing to offer us of this class, for the Diana of Werder (1644) and Die adriatische Rosamund of Zesen (1645) are scarcely pastorals even in form.
In England the writing of eclogues of the sub-Spenserian class of Breton and Wither led in another generation to a rich growth of lyrics which may be roughly called pastoral, but are not strictly bucolic. Carew, Lovelace, Suckling, Stanley and Cartwright are lyrists who all contributed to this harvest of country song, but by far the most copious and the most characteristic of the pastoral lyrists is Herrick. He has, perhaps, no rival in modern literature in this particular direction. His command of his resources, his deep originality and observation, his power of concentrating his genius on the details of rural beauty, his interest in recording homely facts of country life, combined with his extraordinary gift of song to place him in the very first rank among pastoral writers; and it is noticeable that in Herrick's hands, for the first time, the pastoral became a real and modern, instead of being an ideal and humanistic thing. From him we date the recognition in poetry of the humble beauty that lies about our doors. His genius and influence were almost instantly obscured by the Restoration. During the final decline of the Jacobean drama a certain number of pastorals were still produced. Of these the only ones which deserve xx. 29 mention are three dramatic adaptations, Shirley's Arcadia (1640), Fanshawe's Pastor Fido (1646), and Leonard Willan's Astraea (1651). The last pastoral drama in the 17th century was Settle's Pastor Fido (1677). The Restoration was extremely unfavourable to this species of literature. Sir Charles Sedley, Aphra Behn and Congreve published eclogues, and the Pastoral Dialogue between Thirsis and Strephon of the first-mentioned was much admired. All of these, however, are in the highest degree insipid and unreal, and partook of the extreme artificiality of the age.
Pastoral came into fashion again early in the 18th century. The controversy in the Guardian, the famous critique on Ambrose Philips's Pastorals, the anger and rivalry of Pope, and the doubt which must always exist as to Steele's share in the mystification, give 1708 a considerable importance in the annals of bucolic writing. Pope had written his idylls first, and it was a source of infinite annoyance to him that Philips contrived to precede him in publication. He succeeded in throwing ridicule on Philips, however, and his own pastorals were greatly admired. Yet there was some nature in Philips, and, though Pope is more elegant and faultless, he is not one whit more genuinely bucolic than his rival. A far better writer of pastoral than either is Gay, whose Shepherd's Week was a serious attempt to throw to the winds the ridiculous Arcadian tradition of nymphs and swains, and to copy Theocritus in his simplicity. Gay was far more successful in executing this pleasing and natural cycle of poems than in writing his pastoral tragedy of Dione or his "tragi-comico pastoral farce" of The What d'ye call it? (1715). He deserves a very high place in the history of English pastoral on the score of his Shepherd's Week. Swift proposed to Gay that he should write a Newgate pastoral in which the swains and nymphs should talk and warble in slang. This Gay never did attempt; but a northern admirer of his and Pope's achieved a veritable and lasting success in Lowland Scotch, a dialect then considered no less beneath the dignity of verse. Allan Ramsay's Gentle Shepherd, published in 1725, was the last, and remains the most vertebrate and interesting, bucolic drama produced in Great Britain. It remained a favourite, a hundred and fifty years after, among Lowland reapers and milkmaids.
With the Gentle Shepherd the chronicle of pastoral in England practically closes. This is at least the last performance which can be described as a developed eclogue of the school of Tasso and Guarini. It is in Switzerland that we find the next important revival of pastoral properly so-called. The taste of the 18th century was very agreeably tickled by the religious idylls of Salomon Gessner, who died in 1787. His Daphnis and Phillis and Der Tod Abels were read and imitated throughout Europe. In German literature they left but little mark, but in France they were cleverly copied by Arnaud Berquin. A much more important pastoral writer is Jean Pierre Clovis de Florian, who began by imitating the Galatea of Cervantes, and continued with an original bucolic romance entitled Estelle. It has always been noticeable that pastoral is a form of literature which disappears before a breath of ridicule. e Neither Gessner nor his follower Abbt were able to survive the laughter of Herder. Since Florian and Gessner there has been no reappearance of bucolic literature properly so-called. The whole spirit of romanticism was fatal to pastoral. Voss in his Luise and Goethe in Hermann and Dorothea replaced it by poetic scenes from homely and simple life.
Half a century later something like pastoral reappeared in a totally new form, in the fashion for Dorfgeschichten. About 1830 the Danish poet S. S. Blicher, whose work connects the grim studies of George Crabbe with the milder modern strain of pastoral, began to publish his studies of out-door romance among the poor in Jutland. Immermann followed in Germany with his novel Der Oberhof in 1839. Auerbach, who has given to the 19th-century idyll its peculiar character, began to publish his Schwarzwalder Dorfgeschichten in 1843. Meanwhile George Sand was writing Jeanne in 1844, which was followed by La Mare au Diable and Francois le Champi, and in England Clough produced in 1848 his remarkable long-vacation pastoral The Bothie of Tober-na-Vuolich. It seems almost certain that these writers followed a simultaneous but independent impulse in this curious return to bucolic life, in which, however, in every case, the old tiresome conventionality and affectation of lady-like airs and graces were entirely dropped. This school of writers was presently enriched in Norway by Bjornson, whose Synnove Solbakken was the first of an exquisite series of pastoral romances. But perhaps the best of all modern pastoral romances is Fritz Reuter's Ut mine Stromtid, written in the Mecklenburg dialect of German. In England the Dorsetshire poems of William Barnes and the Dorsetshire novels of Thomas Hardy belong to the same class. It will be noticed, of course, that all these recent productions have so much in common with the literature which is produced around them that they almost evade separate classification. It is conceivable that some poet, in following the antiquarian tendency of the age, may enshrine his fancy once more in the five acts of a pure pastoral drama of the school of Tasso and Fletcher, but any great vitality in pastoral is hardly to be looked for in the future. (E. G.)
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Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Pastoral'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/bri/p/pastoral.html. 1910.