That the pastoral should flourish by the side of the romantic drama was not to be expected. It was impossible in England, as it was impossible in Spain. In either case it might now and again achieve a mild success at court, or under some exceptional conditions of representation; it never held the popular stage. No literature based on the accidents of a special form of civilization, or upon a set of artificially imagined conditions, can ever hope to outlive the civilization or the fashion that gave it birth. ‘Love in vacuo’ failed to arouse the interest of general mankind. Every literature of course wears the livery of its age, but where the body beneath is instinct with human life it can change its dress and pass unchanged itself from one order of things to another; where the livery is all, the form cannot a second time be galvanized into life. Pastoral, relying for its distinctive features upon the accidents rather than the essentials of life, failed to justify its pretentions as a serious and independent form of art. The trivial toy of a courtly coterie, it attempted to arrogate to itself the position of a philosophy, and in so doing exposed itself to the ridicule of succeeding ages. Men with a stern purpose in life turned wearily from the sickly amours of romantic poets who dreamed that human happiness found its place in the economy of the world. They left it to a rout of melodious idlers to imagine unto themselves a state in which serious importance should attach to the gracious things of sentiment and the loves of youth and maiden.
Page 19.—Even apart from the evidence of the Bucolica Quirinalium, it is, of course, clear that Vergil’s eclogues were familiar to the writers of the early middle ages. How far their interest in them was literary, and how far, like that of the mystery-writers, it was theological, may, however, be questioned. It is worth noticing in this connexion that a German translation was projected by no less a person than Notker, and since they are coupled by him with the Andria, we may reasonably infer that in this case at least the writer’s concern, if not distinctively literary, was at any rate educational. (See W. P. Ker, The Dark Ages, p. 317.)