Pastoral Poetry in England
We have seen how there arose in the Italian songs of the fourteenth century a spontaneous form of pastoral independent of the regular tradition, and somewhat similar examples are furnished by the dramatic eclogues of Spain. In the former case, however, pastoral was never more than a passing note; while in the latter, the impulse, though possessing some vitality, was early overwhelmed by the rising tide of Italian influence. In England it was otherwise. On the one hand the spontaneous and popular impulse towards a form of pastoralism appears to have been stronger and more consistent than elsewhere; on the other the foreign and literary influence never acquired the same supreme importance. As a resuit the earlier native fashion affected in a noticeable degree later pastoral work, colouring and blending with instead of being overpowered by the regular tradition. Thus it is possible to trace two distinct though mutually reacting tendencies far down the stream of English literature, and to this double origin must be referred many of the peculiar phenomena of English pastoral work. There was furthermore a constant struggle for supremacy between the two traditions, in which now one now the other appeared likely to go under. The greatest poets of their day, Spenser and Milton, threw the weight of their authority on to the side of pastoral orthodoxy. Spenser, however, was himself too much influenced by the popular impulse for his example to be decisive in favour of the regular tradition, while, by the time Milton wrote, a hybrid form had established itself on a more or less secure basis and a modus vivendi had already been achieved. Meanwhile the bulk of pastofal poets affected a less weighty and more spontaneous song, whether they wrote in the light fanciful mood of Drayton or the more passionate and romantic spirit of Browne.