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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 509 pages of information about Pastoral Poetry and Pastoral Drama.

From what has already been said it will be apparent that little would be gained by attempting beforehand to give any strict account of what is meant by ‘pastoral’ in literature.  Any definition sufficiently elastic to include the protean forms assumed by what we call the ‘pastoral ideal’ could hardly have sufficient intension to be of any real value.  If after considering a number of literary phenomena which appear to be related among themselves in form, spirit, and aim we come at the end of our inquiry to any clearer appreciation of the term I shall so far have attained my object.  I notice that I have used the expression ’pastoral ideal,’ and the phrase, which comes naturally to the mind in connexion with this form of literature, may supply us with a useful hint.  It reminds us, namely, that the quality of pastoralism is not determined by the fortuitous occurrence of certain characters, but by the fact of the pieces in question being based more or less evidently upon a philosophical conception, which no doubt underwent modification through the ages, but yet bears evidence of organic continuity.  Thus the shepherds of pastoral are primarily and distinctively shepherds; they are not mere rustics engaged in sheepcraft as one out of many of the employments of mankind.  As soon as the natural shepherd-life had found an objective setting in conscious artistic literature, it was felt that there was after all a difference between hoeing turnips and pasturing sheep; that the one was capable of a particular literary treatment which the other was not.  The Maid of Orleans might equally well have dug potatoes as tended a flock, and her place is not in pastoral song.  Thus pastoral literature must not be confounded with that which has for its subject the lives, the ideas, and the emotions of simple and unsophisticated mankind, far from the centres of our complex civilization.  The two may be in their origin related, and they occasionally, as it were, stretch out feelers towards one another, but the pastoral of tradition lies in its essence as far from the human document of humble life as from a scientific treatise on agriculture or a volume of pastoral theology.  Thus the tract which lies before us to explore is equally remote from the idyllic imagination of George Sand, the gross actuality of Zola, and the combination of simple charm with minute and essential realism of Mr. Hardy’s sketches in Wessex.  Nor does the adoption of the pastoral label suffice to bring within the fold the fanciful animalism of Mr. Hewlett.  By far the most remarkable work of recent years to assume the title is Signor d’Annunzio’s play La Figlia di Iorio, a work in which the author’s powerful and delicate imagination and wealth of pure and expressive language appear in matchless perfection.  It is perhaps scarcely necessary to add that there is nothing in common between the ‘pastoral ideal’ and the rugged strength and suppressed fire of the great modern Italian’s portrait of his native land of the Abruzzi.

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