Pastoral Poetry and Pastoral Drama eBook

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

Of far greater importance for our present purpose is the pastoral interlude in the quest of Sir Calidore, which occupies the last four cantos of the sixth book of the Faery Queen.[107] Here is told how Sir Calidore, the knight of courtesy, in his quest of the Blatant Beast came among the shepherd-folk and fell in love with the fair Pastorella, reputed daughter of old Meliboee; how he won her love in return through his valour and courtesy; how while he was away hunting she was carried off by a band of robbers; how he followed and rescued her; and finally, how she was discovered to be the daughter of the lord of Belgard—­at which point the poem breaks off abruptly.  The story has points of resemblance with the Dorastus and Fawnia, or Florizel and Perdita, legend; but it also has another and more important claim upon our attention.  For as Shakespeare in As You Like It, so Spenser in this episode has, as it were, passed judgement upon the pastoral ideal as a whole.  He is acutely sensitive to the charm of that ideal and the seductions it offers to his hero—­

    Ne, certes, mote he greatly blamed be,

says the poet of the Faery Queen recalling the days when he was plain Colin Clout—­but the

perfect pleasures, which do grow
Amongst poore hyndes, in hils, in woods, in dales,

are not allowed to afford more than a temporary solace to the knight; the robbers break in upon the rustic quietude, rapine and murder succeed the peaceful occupations of the shepherds, and Sir Calidore is driven once again to resume his arduous quest.  The same idea may be traced in the knight’s visit to the heaven-haunted hill where he meets Colin Clout.  In the

         hundred naked maidens lilly white
    All raunged in a ring and dauncing in delight

to the sound of Colin’s bagpipe, and who, together with the Graces and their sovereign lady, vanish at the knight’s approach, it is surely not fanciful to see the gracious shadows of the idyllic poet’s vision trooping reluctantly away at the call of a more lofty theme.  With this sense of regret at the vanishing of an ideal long cherished, but at last deliberately abandoned for matters of deeper and more real import, we may turn from the work of the most important figure in English pastoral poetry to his less famous contemporaries.

III

Besides its wider influence on English verse, and the stimulus it gave to pastoral composition as a whole, the Shepherd’s Calender called forth a series of direct imitations.  Of these the majority are but of accidental and ephemeral interest and of inconspicuous merit; and it is probable that Spenser himself lived to see the end of this over-direct school of discipleship.  Several examples appeared in Francis Davison’s famous miscellany known as the Poetical Rhapsody, the first edition of which, though it only appeared in 1602, contained

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