Pastoral Poetry and Pastoral Drama eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 648 pages of information about Pastoral Poetry and Pastoral Drama.
well as less distinctively lyrical passages, which come within measurable distance even of its perfection.  And yet, with certain noticeable exceptions, there are few passages in which comparison with Milton’s later works will not reveal technical immaturity.  This is no less true of the decasyllabic verse, when compared with the full sonority of Lycidas, than of the shorter measures.  Take, for example, the invocation of Sabrina which follows the song previously quoted—­the speech beginning: 

    Listen and appear to us
    In name of great Oceanus.

In spite of its very great beauty there is observable at the same time a certain monotony of cadence, and an occasional want of success in the attempts to relieve it, which place the passage distinctly below Milton’s best.  And yet it seems almost ungenerous to place Milton even below himself, particularly when in the very speech we are criticizing we are brought face to face with two such flawless lines as those on ’fair Ligea’s golden comb’,

    Wherwith she sits on diamond rocks
    Sleeking her soft alluring locks—­

lines which anticipate and rival the perfection of rhythmic modulation in L’Allegro and Il Penseroso[358].


There remains to inquire what influence of pastoral tradition is traceable in the wider field of the romantic drama, whether in individual scenes and characters, or more vaguely in general tone and sentiment; and, finally, to consider for a moment the critical expression given by writers of various dates to the sentimental philosophy of life which went under the name of pastoralism in fashionable circles.

The number of plays in which definite pastoral elements can be traced is surprisingly small, even when every allowance has been made for the fact that we have already included in our examination several pieces which come but doubtfully within the fold.  The spirit of the romantic drama, instinct with sturdy life, had little in common with the artificial and unreal sentiment of a tradition which had almost ceased to pretend to a basis in the emotions of natural humanity.  The result was, as might be expected, that when the drama introduced characters of a nominally pastoral type, they were either direct transcripts from actual life, deliberately ignoring conventional tradition, or else specifie borrowings from that tradition, introduced with full consciousness of its fashionable unreality, and using that unreality for a definite dramatic purpose.  Thus, although the basis of pastoralism is found in non-traditional garb, and though pastoralism itself is found as the subject of dramatic treatment, yet, so far as the introduction of individual scenes and characters is concerned, it is seldom possible to say that pastoral has influenced the romantic drama in any sensible degree.

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Pastoral Poetry and Pastoral Drama from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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