Pastoral Poetry and Pastoral Drama - A Literary Inquiry, with Special Reference to the Pre-Restoration - Stage in England
by Walter W. Greg
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[Transcriber's Note: Footnotes have been renumbered and moved to the end.]

[Note on characters: There are several MASCULINE ORDINAL INDICATORs ( - U+00BA) used in this book. These should not be confused with the DEGREE SIGN ( deg. - U+00B0).]

Pastoral Poetry and Pastoral Drama

Far, far from here ... The sunshine in the happy glens is fair, And by the sea, and in the brakes The grass is cool, the sea-side air Buoyant and fresh.

Matthew Arnold.

Pastoral Poetry & Pastoral Drama

A Literary Inquiry, with Special Reference to the Pre-Restoration Stage in England.

By Walter W. Greg, M.A.


Oxford: Horace Hart Printer to the University



Some ten years ago, it may be, Mr. St. Loe Strachey suggested that I should write an article on 'English Pastoral Drama' for a magazine of which he was then editor. The article was in the course of time written, and in the further course of time appeared. I learnt two things from writing it: first, that to understand the English pastoral drama it was necessary to have some more or less extensive knowledge of the history of European pastoralism in general; secondly, that there was no critical work from which such knowledge could be obtained. I set about the revision and expansion of my crude and superficial essay, proposing to prefix to it such an account of pastoral literature generally as should make the special form it assumed on the English stage appear in its true light as the reasonable and rational outcome of artistic and historical conditions. Unfortunately perhaps, but at least inevitably, this preliminary inquiry grew to ever greater and more alarming proportions as I proceeded, till at last it swelled to something over half of the whole work. Part of this bulk was claimed by foreign pastoral poetry, the origins of the kind; part by English pastoral poetry, and the introduction of the fashion into this country; part by the pastoral drama of Italy, the immediate parent of that of England. The original title proved too narrow to cover the subject with which I dealt. Hence the rather vague and perhaps ambitions title of the present volume. I make no pretence of offering the reader a general history of pastoral literature, nor even of pastoral drama. The real subject of my work remains the pastoral drama in Elizabethan literature—understanding that term in the wide sense in which, quite reasonably, we have learnt to use it—and even though I may have been sometimes carried away by the interest of the immediate subject of investigation, I have done my best to keep the main object of my inquiry at all times in view. The downward limit of my work is a little vague. The old stage traditions, upon which all the dramatic production of the time was at least in some measure, and in different cases more or less consciously, based, were killed by the act of 1642: the new traditions, created or imported by a company of gentlemen who had come under the influence of the French genius during the eleven years of their exile, first announced themselves authoritatively in 1660. During the intervening eighteen years a number of works were produced, some of which continued the earlier traditions, while some anticipated the later. My treatment has been eclectic. Where a work appeared to me to belong to or to illustrate the older school I have included it, where not, I have refrained from doing so. Fanshawe's Pastor fido (1647) will be found mentioned in the following pages, T. R.'s Berger extravagant (1654) will not.

Some explanation may be advisable with regard to my method of quotation. Where a satisfactory modern edition of the work under discussion was available I have taken my quotations from it, whether the spelling of the text was modernized or not. Where none such existed I have had recourse to the original. This explains the perhaps alarming mixture of old and modern orthographies which appear in my pages. Such inconsistency seemed to me a lesser evil than making nonce texts to suit my immediate purpose. I have, however, exercised the right of following my own fancy in the matter of punctuation throughout, and also in that of capitalization, though I have been chary of alterations in the case of old-spelling texts. This applies to English works. I have found it necessary myself to modernize to some extent the spelling of the quotations from early Italian in order to render it less bewildering to readers who may possibly, like myself, have no very profound knowledge of the antiquities of that tongue. I have been as sparing as possible, however, and trust I may have committed no enormities to shock Romance scholars. Lastly, the italics and contractions which are of more or less frequent occurrence in the original editions have been disregarded, and certain typographical details made to conform to modern practice.

My indebtedness is not small to a number of friends who, during the progress of my work, have helped me more or less directly in a variety of ways. A few have received specific mention in the notes. Alike to those who have, and to the far greater number, I fear me, who have not, I desire hereby to confess my debt, and humbly to beg them to claim their share in the dedication of this volume. More specifically I should mention Mr. R. B. McKerrow, who was the first to read the following pages in manuscript, and to make many useful suggestions, and Mr. Frank Sidgwick, to whose careful revision alike of manuscript and proof and to whose kind and candid criticism I am indebted perhaps more than an author's vanity may readily allow me to acknowledge. Lastly, it would argue worse than ingratitude to pass over my obligation to the admirable readers of the Clarendon Press, whose marvellous accuracy in the most diverse fields and whose almost infallible vigilance form a real asset of English scholarship.

W. W. G. Park Lodge, Wimbledon. December, 1905.


Chapter I. Foreign Pastoral Poetry

Introduction I. The origin and nature of pastoral II. Greek pastoral poetry III. The bucolic eclogue in classical Latin IV. Medieval and humanistic eclogues V. Italian pastoral poetry VI. The Italian pastoral romance VII. Pastoral in Spain VIII. Pastoral in France

Chapter II. Pastoral Poetry in England

I. Early pastoral verse II. Spenser III. Spenser's immediate followers IV. The regular eclogists V. Lyrical and occasional verse VI. Milton's Lycidas and Browne's Britannia's Pastorals VII. The pastoral romances

Chapter III. Italian Pastoral Drama

I. Mythological plays containing pastoral elements II. Evolution of the pastoral drama (see Appendix I) III. Tasso and his Aminta IV. Guarini and the Pastor fido V. Minor pastoral drama

Chapter IV. Dramatic Origins of the English Pastoral Drama

I. Mythological plays II. Translations from the Italian III. Daniel's imitations of Tasso and Guarini

Chapter V. The Three Masterpieces

I. Fletcher's Faithful Shepherdess II. Randolph's Amyntas III. Jonson's Sad Shepherd

Chapter VI. The English Pastoral Drama

I. Plays founded on the pastoral romances II. The English stage pastoral

Chapter VII. Masques and General Influence

I. Pastoral in the masques and slighter dramatic compositions II. Milton's masques: Arcades and Comus III. General influence. Pastoral theory. Conclusion.

Appendix I. On the origin and development of the Italian pastoral drama Appendix II. Bibliography


Pastoral Poetry and Pastoral Drama

Chapter I.

Foreign Pastoral Poetry

In approaching a subject of literary inquiry we are often able to fix upon some essential feature or condition which may serve as an Ariadne's thread through the maze of historical and aesthetic development, or to distinguish some cardinal point affording a fixed centre from which to survey or in reference to which to order and dispose the phenomena that present themselves to us. It is the disadvantage of such an artificial form of literature as that which bears the name of pastoral that no such a priori guidance is available. To lay down at starting that the essential quality of pastoral is the realistic or at least recognizably 'natural' presentation of actual shepherd life would be to rule out of court nine tenths of the work that comes traditionally under that head. Yet the great majority of critics, though they would not, of course, subscribe to the above definition, have yet constantly betrayed an inclination to censure individual works for not conforming to some such arbitrary canon. It is characteristic of the artificiality of pastoral as a literary form that the impulse which gave the first creative touch at seeding loses itself later and finds no place among the forces at work at blossom time; the methods adopted by the greatest masters of the form are inconsistent with the motives that impelled them to its use, and where these motives were followed to their logical conclusion, the resuit, both in literature and in life, became a byword for absurd unreality. To live at all the ideal appeared to require an atmosphere of paradox and incongruity: in its essence the most 'natural' of all poetic forms, pastoralism came to its fairest flower amid the artificiality of a decadent court or as the plaything of the leisure hours of a college of learning, and its insipid convention having become 'a literary plague in every European capital,' it finally disappeared from view amid the fopperies of the Roman Arcadia and the puerile conceits of the Petit Trianon.

Wherein then, it may be wondered, does the pastoral's title to consideration lie. It does not lie primarily, or chiefly, in the fact that it is associated with names of the first rank in literature, with Theocritus and Vergil, with Petrarch, Politian, and Tasso, with Cervantes and Lope de Vega, with Ronsard and Marot, with Spenser, Ben Jonson, and Milton; nor yet that works such as the Idyls, the Aminta, the Faithful Shepherdess, and Lycidas contain some of the most graceful and perfect verse to be found in any language. Rather is its importance to be sought in the fact that the form is the expression of instincts and impulses deep-rooted in the nature of humanity, which, while affecting the whole course of literature, at times evince themselves most clearly and articulately here; that it plays a distinct and distinctive part in the history of human thought and the history of artistic expression. Moreover, it may be argued that, from this point of view, the very contradictions and inconsistencies to which I have alluded make it all the more important to discover wherein lay the strange vitality of the form and its power of influencing the current of European letters.

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.


Some confusion of thought appears to have prevailed among writers as to the origin of pastoral. We are, for instance, often told that it is the earliest of all forms of poetry, that it characterizes primitive peoples and permeates ancient literatures. Song is, indeed, as old as human language, and in a sense no doubt the poetry of the pastoral age may be said to have been pastoral. It does not, however, follow that it bears any essential resemblance to that which subsequent ages have designated by the name. All that we know concerning the songs of pastoral nations leads us to suppose that they bear a close resemblance to the type of popular verse current wherever poetry exists, folk-songs of broad humanity in which little stress is laid on the peculiar circumstances of shepherd life. An insistence upon the objective pastoral setting is of prime importance in understanding the real nature of pastoral poetry; it not only serves to distinguish the pastoral proper from the more vaguely idyllic forms of lyric verse, but helps us further to understand how it was that the outward features of the kind came to be preserved, even after the various necessities of sophisticated society had metamorphosed the content almost beyond recognition. No common feature of a kind to form the basis of a scientific classification can be traced in the spontaneous shepherd-songs and their literary counterpart. What does appear to be a constant element in the pastoral as known to literature is the recognition of a contrast, implicit or expressed, between pastoral life and some more complex type of civilization. At no stage in its development does literature, or at any rate poetry, concern itself with the obvious, with the bare scaffolding of life: whenever we find an author interested in the circle of prime necessity we may be sure that he himself stands outside it. Thus the shepherd when he sang did not insist upon the conditions amid which his uneventful life was passed. It was left to a later, perhaps a wiser and a sadder, generation to gaze with fruitless and often only half sincere longing at the shepherd-boy asleep under the shadow of the thorn, lulled by the low monotonous rustle of the grazing flock. Only when the shepherd-songs ceased to be the outcome of unalloyed pastoral conditions did they become distinctively pastoral. It is therefore significant that the earliest pastoral poetry with which we are acquainted, whatever half articulate experiments may have preceded it, was itself directly born of the contrast between the recollections of a childhood spent among the Sicilian uplands and the crowded social and intellectual city-life of Alexandria[1].

As the result of this contrast there arises an idea which comes perhaps as near being universal in pastoral as any—the idea, namely, of the 'golden age.' This embraces, indeed, a field not wholly coincident with that of pastoral, but the two are connected alike by a common spring in human emotion and constant literary association. The fiction of an age of simplicity and innocence found birth among the Augustan writers in the midst of the complex and luxurious civilization of Rome, as an illustration of the principle enunciated by Professer Raleigh, that 'literature has constantly the double tendency to negative the life around it, as well as to reproduce it.' Having inspired Ovid and Vergil, and been recognized by Lucretius, it passed as a literary legacy to Boethius, Dante, and Jean de Meung; it was incorporated by Frezzi in his strange allegorical composition the Quadriregio, and was thrice handled by Chaucer; it was dealt with humorously by Cervantes in Don Quixote, and became the prey of the satirist in the hands of Juvenal, Bertini, and Hall. The association of this ideal world with the simplicity of pastoral life was effected by Vergil, and in this form it was treated with loving minuteness by Tasso in his Aminta and by Browne in his Britannia's Pastorals[2]. The fiction no doubt answered to some need in human nature, but in literature it soon came to be no more than a polite convention.

The conception of a golden age of rustic simplicity does not, indeed, involve the whole of pastoral literature. It does not account either for the allegorical pastoral, in which actual personages are introduced, in the guise of shepherds, to discuss contemporary affairs, or for the so-called realistic pastoral, in which the town looks on with amused envy at the rustic freedom of the country. What it does comprehend is that outburst of pastoral song which sprang from the yearning of the tired soul to escape, if it were but in imagination and for a moment, to a life of simplicity and innocence from the bitter luxury of the court and the menial bread of princes[3].

And this, the reaction against the world that is too much with us, is, after all, the keynote of what is most intimately associated with the name of pastoral in literature—the note that is struck with idyllic sweetness in Theocritus, and, rising to its fullest pitch of lyrical intensity, lends a poignant charm to the work of Tasso and Guarini. For everywhere in these soft melodies of luscious beauty, even in the studied sketches of primitive innocence itself, there is an undercurrent of tender melancholy and pathos:

Il mondo invecchia E invecchiando intristisce.

I have said that a sense of the contrast between town and country was essential to the development of a distinctively pastoral literature. It would be an interesting task to trace how far this contrast is the source of the various subsidiary types—of the ideal where it breeds desire for a return to simplicity, of the realistic where the humour of it touches the imagination, and of the allegorical where it suggests satire on the corruption of an artificial civilization.

When the kind first makes its appearance in a world already old, it arises purely as a solace and relief from the fervid life of actuality, and comes as a fresh and cooling draught to lips burning with the fever of the city. In passing from Alexandria to Rome it lost much of its limpid purity; the clear crystal of the drink was mixed with flavours and perfumes to fit the palate of a patron or an emperor. The example of adulteration being once set, the implied contrast of civilization and rusticity was replaced by direct satire on the former, and later by the discussion under the pastoral mask of questions of religious and political controversy. Proving itself but a left-handed weapon in such debate, it became a court plaything, in which princes and great ladies, poets and wits, loved to see themselves figured and complimented, and the practice of assuming pastoral names becoming almost universal in polite circles, the convention, which had passed from the eclogue on to the stage, passed from the stage into actual existence, and court life became one continual pageant of pastoral conceit. From the court it passed into circles of learning, and grave jurists and administrators, poets and scholars, set about the refining of language and literature decked out in all the fopperies of the fashionable craze. One is tempted to wonder whether anything more serious than light loves and fantastic amours can have flourished amid eighteenth-century pastoralism. When the ladies of the court began to talk dairy-farming with the scholars and statesmen of the day, the pretence of pastoral simplicity could hardly be long kept up. Nor was there any attempt to do so. In the introduction to his famous romance d'Urfe wrote in answer to objectors: 'Responds leur, ma Bergere, que pour peu qu'ils ayent connoissance de toy, ils scauront que tu n'es pas, ny celles aussi qui te suivent, de ces Bergeres necessiteuses, qui pour gaigner leur vie conduisent les troupeaux aux pasturages; mais que vous n'avez toutes pris cette condition que pour vivre plus doucement et sans contrainte.' No wonder that to Fontenelle Theocritus' shepherds 'sentent trop la campagne[4].' But the hour of pastoralism had come, and while the ladies and gallants of the court were playing the parts of Watteau swains and shepherdesses amid the trim hedges and smooth lawns of Versailles, the gates were already bursting before the flood, which was to sweep in devastation over the land, and to purge the old order of social life.


The Alexandria of the Ptolemies was not the nurse of a great literature, though the age was undoubtedly one of considerable literary activity. Scholastic learning and poetic imitation were rife; the rehandling of Greek masterpieces was a fashionable pastime. For serious and original composition, however, the conditions were not favourable. That the age produced no great epic was less due to the disparagement of the form indulged in by Callimachus, chief librarian and literary dictator, than to the inherent temper of society. The prevailing taste was for an arrogant display of rare and costly pageantry. At the coronation of Ptolemy Philadelphus the brilliant city surfeited on a long-drawn golden pomp, decked out in all the physical beauty the inheritance of Greek thought and memories of Greek mythology could suggest, together with a wealth of gorgeous mysticism and rapture of sensuous intoxication, which was the fruit of its intercourse with the oriental world. The writers of Alexandria lacked the 'high seriousness' of purpose to produce an Aeneid, the imaginative enthusiasm needed for a Faery Queen. What they possessed was delicacy, refinement, and wit; what they created, while perfecting the epigram and stereotyping the hymn, was a form intermediate between epic and lyric, namely the idyl as we find it in the works of Theocritus, Bion, and Moschus.

It is interesting to note that the literary milieu in which Theocritus moved at Alexandria must have abounded in all those temptations which proved the bane of pastoral poetry at Rome, Florence, and Ferrara. There were princes and patrons to be flattered, there were panegyrics to be sung and ancestral feats of arms to be recorded; nor does Theocritus appear to have stood aloof from the throng of court poetasters. In spite of the doubtful authenticity of some of the pieces connected with his name, there appears no sufficient reason to deprive him of the rather conventional hymns and other poems composed with a view to court-favour. These have little interest for us to-day: his fame rests on works which probably gained him little advantage at the time. It was for his own solace, forgetful for a moment of the intrigues of court life and the uncertain sunshine of princes, that he wrote his Sicilian idyls. For him, as at a magic touch, the walls of the heated city melted like a mirage into the sands of the salt lagoon, and he wandered once more amid the green woods and pastures of Trinacria, the noonday sun tempered by the shade of the chestnuts and the babbling of the brook, and by the cool airs that glide down from the white cliffs of Aetna. There once more he saw the shepherds tend their flocks, singing or wrangling with one another, dreamily piping on their wax-stopped reeds or plotting to annex their neighbours' gear; or else there sounded in his ears the love-song or the dirge, or the incantation of the forsaken girl rose amid the silence to the silver moon. Once again he stood upon the shore and watched the fishers cast their nets, while around him the goats browsed on the close herbage of the cliff, and the crystal stream leapt down, and the waves broke upon the rocks below, till he saw the breasts of the nymphs shine in the whiteness of the foam and their hair spread wide in the weed, and the fair Galatea, the enticing and the fickle, mocked the clumsy suit of the Cyclops, as she tossed upward the bitter spray from off her shining limbs. All these memories he recorded with a loving faithfulness of detail that it is even now possible to verify from the folk-songs of the south. To this day in the Isles of Greece ruined girls seek to lure back their lovers with charms differing but little from that sung by the Syracusan to Lady Selene, and the popular poetry alike of Italy and Greece is full of those delicate touches of refined sentiment that in Theocritus appear so incongruous with the rough coats and rougher banter of the shepherds. For though the poet raised the pastoral life of Sicily into the realms of ideal poetry, he was careful not to dissociate his version from reality, and he allowed no imaginary conceptions to overmaster his art. He depicted no age of innocence; his poetry reflects no philosophical illusion of primitive simplicity; he elaborated no imaginary cult of mystical worship. His art, however little it may tempt us to the use of the term realism, is nevertheless based on an almost passionate sympathy with actual human nature. This is the fount of his inspiration, the central theme of his song. The literary genius of Greece showed little aptitude for landscape, and seldom treated inanimate nature except as a background for human action and emotion, or it may be in the guise of mythological allegory. Nevertheless, it is hard to believe that Theocritus, so tenderly concerned with the homely aspects of human life, was not likewise sensitive to the beauties of nature. At least it is impossible to doubt his attachment to the land of his childhood, and it is at worst a welcome dream when we imagine him, as the evening of life drew on, leaving the formal gardens and painted landscapes of Alexandria and returning to Syracuse and his beloved Sicily once more.[5]

The verse of Theocritus was echoed by his younger contemporaries, Bion and Moschus.[6] The former is best known through the oriental passion of his 'Woe, woe for Adonis,' probably written to be sung at the annual festival of Syrian origin commemorated by Theocritus in his fifteenth idyl.[7] The most important extant work of Moschus is the 'Lament for Bion,' characterized by a certain delicate sentimentality alien to the spirit of either of his predecessors. It is perhaps significant that Theocritus appears to have been of Syracusan, Bion of Smyrnian, and Moschus of Ausonian origin.[8] With the exception of this poem, which is modelled on Theocritus' 'Lament for Daphnis,' there is little in the work of either of the younger poets of a pastoral nature. Certain fragments, however, if genuine, suggest that poems of the kind may have perished. Among the remains of Moschus occurs the following:

Would that my father had taught me the craft of a keeper of sheep, For so in the shade of the elm-tree, or under the rocks on the steep, Piping on reeds I had sat, and had lulled my sorrow to sleep;[9]

lines in which we already take leave of the genuine love of the pastoral life, springing from an intimate knowledge of and delight in nature, and see world-weariness arraying itself in the sentimental garb of the imaginary swain.

Once again, five centuries later,[10] the spirit of Greece shone for one brief moment in a work of pastoral elegance that has survived the changing tastes of succeeding generations. The 'romance of Daphnis and Chloe is the last word of a world of sensuous enervation toying with the idea of vernal freshness and virginity. It is a genuine picture of the purity of awakening love, wrought with every delicacy of sentiment and expression, and yet in such manner as by its very naivete and innocence to serve as a goad to satiated appetite. It has been suggested that the work should properly be styled the Lesbiaca, a name which recalls the Aethiopica and Babylonica, and reminds us that the author, though a student of Alexandrian literature, belonged to the school of the erotic romanciers and traditional bishops, Heliodorus and Achilles Tatius. Of his life we know nothing, and even his name—Longus—has been called in question. The story, unlike those of most later pastoral romances, is of the simplest. The author, however, was no longer satisfied with the natural refinement of popular love poetry; the central characters are represented as foundlings nurtured by the shepherds of Lesbos, and are ultimately identified, on much the same conventional evidence as Ion and others had been before, as the children of certain rich and aristocratie families.[11] The interest of the story lies in the growth of their unconscious love, which constitutes the central theme of the work, though relieved here and there by wholly colourless adventure.

A Latin translation made the book popular after the introduction of printing, and the renaissance saw the French version by Amyot, a work of European reputation. This was translated into English under Elizabeth; an Italian translation followed in the seventeenth century,[12] and a Spanish is also extant. There is no doubt that it was widely read throughout the sixteenth and following centuries, but it exercised little influence on the development of pastoral literature. By the time it became generally known the main features of renaissance pastoral were already fixed, and in motive and treatment alike it was alien to the spirit that animated the fashionable masterpieces. The modern pastoral romance had already evolved itself from a blending of the eclogue with the mythological tale. The drama was developing on independent lines. Thus although, like the other romances of the late Greek school, it supplied many incidents and descriptions to be found in later works, it played no vital part in the history of pastoral, and left no mark either on the general form or on the spirit that animated the kind. Longus' romance finds its true descendant, as well as its closest imitation, in a work that achieved celebrity on the eve of the French revolution, that masterpiece of unreal and sentimental simplicity, Saint-Pierre's Paul et Virginie.


A faithful reproduction of the main conditions of actual life was the characteristic of Theocritus' poetry. It was subject to this ever-present limitation that his graceful fancy exercised its power of idealization. He took the singing match, the dirge, and the love-song or complaint as he found them among the shepherd-folk of Sicily, and gave them that objective setting which is as necessary to pastoral as to every other merely accidental form of poetry; for the true subjective lyric is independent of circumstances. The first of his great successors made the bucolic eclogue what, with trifling variation, it was to remain for eighteen centuries, a form based upon artificiality and convention. I have already pointed out that the literary conditions at Alexandria did not differ materially from those of Rome; it follows that the change must have been due to the character of Vergil himself. That intense love of beauty for its own sake which characterized the Greek mind had little hold over the Roman. Nor did the latter understand the charm of untaught simplicity. It is true that to the Roman poets of the Augustan period we owe the conception of the golden age, but it remained with them rather a philosophical mythus than the dream of an idyllic poet. To writers of the stamp of Ovid, Lucretius, and Vergil the Idyls of the Syracusan poet can have possessed but little meaning, and in his own Bucolics the last named seems never to have regarded the pastoral form as anything but a cloak for matters of more pith and moment. Although he followed Theocritus in his use of the several types of song and stamped them to all future ages in pastoral convention, though he may have begun with fairly close imitation of his model and only gradually diverged into a more independant style, he at no time showed himself content with the earlier poet's simplicity of motive.[13] The eclogue in which he followed Theocritus most closely, the eighth, is equally, perhaps, the most pleasing of the series. It combines the motives of the love-lament and incantation, and the closeness with which it follows while playing variations on its models is striking. One instance will suffice. Take the passage in the second Idyl thus rendered by Symonds:[14]

Hail, Hecate, dread dame! to the end be thou my assistant, Making my medicines work no less than the philtre of Circe, Or Medea's charms, or yellow-haired Perimede's. Wheel of the magic spells, draw thou that man to my dwelling.

Corresponding to this we find the following passage in the Latin poem:

Song hath power to draw from heaven the wandering huntress, Song was the witch's spell transformed the mates of Ulysses.... Home from the city to me, my song, lead home to me Daphnis.

Vergil was the first to begin the dissociation of pastoral from the conditions of actual life, and just as his shepherds cease to present the features and characters of the homely keepers of the flock, so his landscape becomes imaginary and undefined. This peculiarity has been noticed by Professor Herford in some very suggestive remarks prefixed to his edition of the Shepherd's Calender. 'The profiles of the Sicilian uplands,' he writes, 'waver uncertainly amid traits drawn from the Mantuan plain. In this confusion lay, perhaps, the germ of those debates between highland and lowland shepherds which reverberate through the later pastoral, and are still loud in Spenser.' The gulf that separated Vergil from his predecessor, in so far as their treatment of shepherd-life is concerned, may be measured by the manner in which they respectively deal with the supernatural. In the Greek Idyls we find the simple faith or superstition as it lived among the shepherd-folk; no Pan appears to sow dismay in the breasts of the maidens, nor do we find aught of the mystical worship that later gathered round him in the imaginary Arcadia. He is mentioned only as the rugged patron of herds and song, the wild indweller of the savage woods as he appeared to the minds of the simple swains, who hushed their midday piping fearful lest they should disturb the sleep of the god. It is true that Theocritus introduces mythological characters in the tale of Galatea, but it should be noticed that this merely forms the theme of a song or the subject of a poetical epistle to a friend. Moreover, it is open to more than one rationalistic interpretation. Symonds treats it as an allegory in harmony with the mythopoeic genius of Greek poetry. It is equally possible to regard the Cyclops as emblematic merely of the rough neatherd flouted by the more delicate shepherd-maiden—the contrast is of constant occurrence in later works—for, alike in one of his own fragments and in Moschus' lament, Bion is represented as courting this same Galatea after she has rid herself of the suit of Polyphemus. Vergil was content with no such simple mythology as this. He must needs shake Silenus from a drunken sleep and bid him tell of Chaos and old Time, of the infancy of the world and the birth of the gods. This mixture of obsolescent theology and Epicurean philosophy probably possessed little reality for Vergil himself, and would have conveyed no meaning whatever to the Sicilian shepherds. Its introduction stamps his eclogues with that unreality which has been the reproach of the pastoral from his day to ours. The didactic homily was one fresh convention introduced. Far more important was the tendency to make every form subserve some ulterior purpose of allegory and panegyric.[15] For the Roman its own beauty was no sufficient end of art. That the Aeneid was written for the glorification of Rome cannot be made a reproach to the poet; the greatness of the end lent dignity to the means. That the pastoral was forced to serve the menial part of a vehicle of sycophantic praise is less easily pardoned. In Vergil's hands a conversation between shepherds becomes an expression of gratitude to the emperor for the restitution of his villa, a lament for Daphnis is interwoven with an apotheosis of Julius Caesar, and in the complaint of the forsaken shepherd, whom Apollo and Pan seek in vain to comfort, we may trace the wounded vanity of his patron deserted by his mistress for the love of a soldier. The fourth eclogue was written after the peace of Brundisium, and describes the golden age to which Vergil looked forward as consequent upon the birth of a marvellous infant, perhaps some offspring of the marriages of Antonius and Octavianus, celebrated in solemnization of the treaty. The poem achieved considerable fame, which lasted as late as the time of Dryden, owing to the belief that it contained a prophecy of the birth of Christ drawn from the Sibylline books, and won for Vergil throughout the middle ages the title of prophet and magician. Whether this belief was well founded or not may be left to those whom it may interest to inquire; it is sufficient for our purpose to note that in the poem in question Vergil first introduced the convention of the golden age into pastoral verse.

The first of the long line of imitators of whom we have any notice was a certain Calpurnius. His diction is correct and his verse smooth, but the suggestion that he belonged to the age of Augustus has not met with much favour among those competent to judge. He followed Vergil closely, chiefly developing the panegyric. His poems, however, include all the usual conventions, singing matches, invocations, cosmologies, and the rest, in the treatment of which originality never appears to have been his aim. Some of his pieces deal with husbandry, and belong more strictly to the school of the Georgics and didactic poetry. The most interesting of his eclogues is one in which he contrasts the life of the town with that of the country, the direct comparison of which he appears to have been the first to treat. The poem likewise possesses some antiquarian interest, owing to a description of a wild-beast show in an amphitheatre in which the animals were brought up in lifts through the floor of the arena. Calpurnius is sometimes supposed, on account of a dedication to Nemesianus found in some manuscripts, to have lived at the end of the third century, but even supposing the dedication to be genuine, which is more than doubtful, it does not follow that the person referred to is that Nemesianus who contested the poetic crown with Prince Numerianus about the year 283[16]. This Nemesianus was probably the author of some eclogues which have been frequently ascribed to Calpurnius (numbers 8 to 11 in most editions), but which must be discarded from the list of his authentic works on a technical question of the employment of elision[17]. The editio princeps of these eclogues is not dated, but probably appeared in 1471, so that they were at any rate accessible to writers of the cinquecento. It is not easy to trace any direct influence, unless, as perhaps we should, we credit to Calpurnius the suggestion of those poems in which a 'wise' shepherd describes to his less-travelled hearers the manners of the town.

A few pieces from the Idyllia of Ausonius appear in some of the bucolic collections, but they cannot strictly be regarded as coming within the range of pastoral poetry.


Events conspired to make Vergil the model for later writers of eclogues. The fame of the poet was a potent cause among many. Another reason why Theocritus found no direct imitators may be sought in the respective methods of the two poets. Work of the nature of the Idyls has to depend for its value and interest upon the artistic qualities of the poetry alone. Such work may spring up spontaneously under almost any conditions; it is seldom produced through imitation. On the other hand, any scholar with a gift for easy versification could achieve a certain distinction as a follower of Vergil. His verse depended for its interest not on its poetic qualities but upon the importance of the themes it treated. Accidental conditions, too, told in favour of the Roman poet. During the middle ages Latin was a universal language among the lettered classes, while the knowledge of Greek, though at no time so completely lost as is sometimes supposed, was a far rarer accomplishment, and was restricted for the most part to a few linguistic scholars. Thus before the revival of learning had made Greek a possible source of literary inspiration, the Vergilian tradition, through the instrumentality of Petrarch and Boccaccio, had already made itself supreme in pastoral[18].

During the middle ages the stream of pastoral production, though it nowhere actually disappears, is reduced to the merest trickle. Notices of such isolated poems as survive have been carefully collected by Macri-Leone in the introduction to his elaborate but as yet unfinished work on the Latin eclogue in the Italian literature of the fourteenth century. As early as the end of the fourth or beginning of the fifth century we find a poem by Severus Sanctus Endelechius, variously entitled 'Carmen bucolicum de virtute signi crucis domini' or 'de mortibus boum.' It is a hymn to the saint cross, and in it for the first time the pastoral suffered violence from the tyranny of the religious idea. The 'Ecloga Theoduli' alluded to by Chaucer in the House of Fame[19] appears to be the work of an Athenian writer, and is ascribed to various dates ranging from the fifth to the eighth centuries. While preserving as its main characteristic a close subservience to its Vergilian model, the eclogue participated in the general rise of allegory which marked the later middle ages. Pastoral colouring of no very definite order had shown itself in the elegies of Alcuin in the eighth century, as also in the 'Conflictus veris et hiemis,' traditionally ascribed to the Venerable Bede, but more probably the work of one Dodus, a disciple of Alcuin. Of the tenth century we possess an allegorical religious lament entitled 'Ecloga duarum sanctimonialium.' About 1160 a Benedictine monk named Metellus composed twelve poems under the title of Bucolica Quirinalium, in honour of St. Quirinus and in obvious imitation of Vergil. Reminiscences and paraphrases of the Roman poet are scattered throughout the monk's own barbarous hexameters, as in the opening verses:

Tityre tu magni recubans in margine stagni Silvestri tenuique fide pete iura peculi!

It would hardly be worth recording these medieval clerks, the undistinguished writers, 'de quibus,' Boccaccio said, 'nil curandum est,' were it not that they show how the memory at least of the classical pastoral survived amid the ruins of ancient learning, and so serve to lead up to one last spasmodic manifestation of the kind in certain poems which else appear to stand in a curiously isolated position.

It was in 1319, during the bitter years of his exile at Ravenna, that Dante received from one John of Bologna, known, on account of his fame as a writer of Latin verse, as Giovanni del Virgilio, a poetical epistle inviting him to visit the author in his native city. His correspondent, while doing homage to his poetic genius, incidentally censured him for composing his great work in the base tongue of the vulgar[20]. Dante replied in a Vergilian eclogue, courteously declining Giovanni's invitation to Bologna, on the ground that it was a place scarcely safe for his person. As regarded the strictures of his correspondent, his triumphant answer in the shape of the Paradiso lay yet unfinished, so the author of the De Vulgari Eloquio trifled with the charge and purported to compose the present poem in earnest of reform. There is a tone of not unkindly irony about the whole. Was it an elaborate jest at the expense of Giovanni, the writer of Vergilian verse? The Bolognese replied, this time also in bucolic form, repeating his invitation and holding out the special attraction of a meeting with Mussato, the most regarded poet of his day in Europe. Dante's second eclogue, if indeed it is correctly ascribed to his pen, introduces several historical characters. It is said not to have reached Bologna till after his death. These poems were not included in any of the early bucolic collections, and first appeared in print in the eighteenth century. They seem, from their purely occasional nature, their inconspicuous bulk, and lack of any striking characteristics, to have attracted little notice in their own day, and to have been ignored by later writers on pastoral as forming no link in the chain of historical development. Given, indeed, the Bucolics of Vergil, they are imitations such as might at any moment have appeared, irrespective of date and surroundings, and independent of any living literary tradition[21]. It is therefore impossible to regard them as in any way belonging to, or foreshadowing, the great body of renaissance pastoral, a division of literature endowed with remarkable vitality and evolutionary force, which must in its growth and decay alike be studied in close connexion with the ideas and temperament of the age, and in relation to the general development of the history of letters[22].

The grandeur of the Roman Empire, the background against which in historical retrospect we see the bucolic eclogues of Vergil and his immediate followers, had vanished when Italian literature once more rose out of chaos. The political organism had resolved itself into its constituent elements, and fresh combinations had arisen. Nevertheless, though the Empire was hardly now the shadow of its pristine greatness, men still looked to Rome as the centre of the civilized world. As the seat of the Church, it stood for the one force capable of supplying a permanent element among the warring interests of European politics. Nothing was more natural than that the poetic form that had reflected the glories of imperial Rome should bow to the fascination of Rome, the visible emblem on earth of the spiritual empire of Christ. To the medieval mind, so far from there being any antagonism between the two ideas, the one seemed almost to involve and necessitate the other. It saw in the splendeur of the Empire the herald of a glory not of this world, a preparation as it were, a decking of the chamber against the advent of the bride; and thus the pastoral which sang of the greatness of pagan Rome appeared at the same time a hymn prophetic of the glory of the Church[23].

Moreover, during the centuries that had elapsed since the days of Vergil the term 'pastoral' had gained a new meaning and new associations. In the days of Augustus Pan was a boorish anachronism; it was left to medieval Christianity to create a god who was in fact a shepherd of men[24] and so to render possible a pastoral allegory that should embody the dearest hopes and aspirations of the human heart. That Christian pastoralists availed themselves successfully of the possibilities of the theme it would be difficult to maintain. It is a singular fact that, at a time when allegory was the characteristic literary form, it was yet so impossible even for the finer spirits to follow a train of thought clearly and consistently, that it was only when a mind passed beyond the limitations of its own age, and assumed a position sub specie aeternitatis, that it was able to free itself from the prevalent confusion of the imaginary and the real, the word and the idea, and to perceive that success in allegory depends, not on the chaotic intermingling of the attributes of the type and the thing typified, but on so representing the one as to suggest and illuminate the other.

In the early days of renascent humanism, the first to renew the pastoral tradition, broken for some ten centuries, was Francesco Petrarca. It is not without significance that the first modern eclogues were from the same pen as the sonnet 'Fontana di dolore, albergo d'ira,' expressive of the shame with which earnest sons of the Church contemplated the captivity of the holy father at Avignon; for thus on the very threshold of Arcadia we are met with those bitter denunciations of ecclesiastical corruption which strike so characteristic a note in the works of the satirical Mantuan, and seem so out of place in the songs of Spenser and Milton. In one eclogue the poet mourns over the ruin and desolation of Rome, as a mother deserted of her children; another is a dialogue between two shepherds, in which St. Peter, under the pastoral disguise of Pamphilus, upbraids the licentious Clement VI with the ignoble servitude in which he is content to abide; a third shows us Clement wantoning with the shameless mistress of a line of pontifical shepherds, a figure allegorical of the corruption of the Church[25]; in yet a fourth Petrarch laments his estrangement from his patron Giovanni Colonna, a cardinal in favour at the papal court, whom it would appear his outspoken censures had offended. Petrarch's was not the only voice that was raised urging the Pope to return from the 'Babylonian captivity,' but the protest had peculiar significance from the mouth of one who stood forth as the embodiment of the new age still struggling in the throes of birth. When 'the first Italian' accepted the laurel crown at the Capitol, he dreamed of Rome as once more the heart of the world, the city which should embody that early Italian idea of nationality, the ideal of the humanistic commonwealth. The course urged alike by Petrarch and by St. Catherine was in the end followed, but the years of exile were yet to bear their bitterest fruit of mortification and disgrace. In 1377 Gregory XI transferred the seat of the papacy from Avignon to Rome, with the resuit that the world was treated to the edifying spectacle of three prelates each claiming to be the vicar of Christ and sole father of the Church.

These ecclesiastical eclogues form the most important contribution made by Italy's greatest lyric poet to pastoral. Others, one in honour of Robert of Sicily, another recording the defeat of Pan by Articus on the field of Poitiers, follow already existing pastoral convention. Some few, again, of less importance in literary history, are of greater personal or poetic interest. In one we see Francesco and his brother Gherardo wandering in the realm of shepherds, and there exchanging their views concerning religious verse. A group of three, standing apart from the rest, connect themselves with the subject of the Canzoniere. The first describes the ravages of the plague at Avignon; the second mourns over the death of poetry in the person of Laura, who fell a victim on April 6, 1348; the third is a dirge sung by the shepherdesses over her grave. One, lastly, a neo-classic companion to Theocritus' tale of Galatea, recounts the poet's unrequited homage to Daphne of the Laurels, thus again suggesting the idealized source of Petrarch's inspiration. This poem is not only the gem of the series, but embodies the mythopoeic spirit of classical imagination in a manner unknown in the later days of the renaissance.

The, eclogues, twelve in number, appear to have been mostly composed about the middle of the fourteenth century. In the days of Petrarch the art of Latin verse was yet far from the perfection it attained in those of Poliziano and Vida; it was a clumsy vehicle in comparison with the vulgar tongue, which he affected to despise while setting therein the standard for future ages. Nevertheless, Petrarch's Latin poems bear witness to the natural genius for composition and expression to which we owe the Canzoniere. The editio princeps of the pastorals appeared in the form of a beautifully printed folio at Cologne in 1473, ninety-nine years after the poet's death. They were entitled Eglogae[26] (i.e. aeglogae), by which, as Dr. Johnson remarked, Petrarch, finding no appropriate meaning in the form eclogae, 'meant to express the talk of goatherds, though it will only mean the talk of goats.'

No two men ever won for themselves more diverse literary reputations than Petrarch and his friend Boccaccio. The Latin eclogue is one of their few points of literary contact. The bucolic collections contain no less than sixteen such poems from the pen of the younger writer[27], which, though not devoid of merit as poetical exercises, show that as a metrist Boccaccio fell almost as far short of his friend in the learned as in the vulgar tongue. They were composed at various dates, mostly, it would appear, after 1360, though some are certainly earlier; and it would be difficult to say whether to him or to Petrarch belonged the honour of reviving the form, were it not that, both in the poems themselves and in his correspondance, he explicitly mentions Petrarch as his master in the kind[28]. In any case the dates of composition must cover a wide period, for the poems reflect varions phases of his life. 'Le Egloghe del Boccaccio,' says an Italian critic, 'rappresentano tutta la vita psicologica del poeta, dalle febbri d'amore alle febbri ascetiche.' The amorous eclogues, to which in later life Boccaccio attached little importance, are early; several are historical in subject and are probably of later date, though one may be as early as 1348; there are others of a religions nature which belong to the author's later years. The allusions in these poems are so obscure that it would in most cases be hopeless to seek to unravel the meaning had not the author left us a key in a letter to Martino da Signa, prior of the Augustinians. Many of the subjects are purely conventional, such as those of the early poems on the loves of the shepherds, the historical panegyrics and laments, and the satire on rich misers. The same may be said of a dispute on the respective merits of poetry and commerce, and of a poem in praise of poetry; although the former has an obvious relation to the author's own circumstances, and the latter appears to be inspired by genuine enthusiasm and love of art. The forces of confusion that have dogged the pastoral in all ages show themselves where the poet tells a Christian fable in pagan guise; the antithesis of human and divine love, while suggesting Petrarch's influence over his life, is a theme that runs throughout medieval philosophy and was later embodied by Spenser in his Hymns. One poem stands out from the rest somewhat after the manner of Petrarch's Daphne. In it Boccaccio tells us, under the thinnest veil of pastoral, how his daughter Violante, dead in childhood many years before, appeared to him bearing tidings of the land beyond the grave. The theme is the same as that of the almost contemporary Pearl; and in treating it Boccaccio achieves something of the sweetness and pathos of the English poem. One eclogue, finally, the Valle tenebrosa (Vallis Opaca), which appears to owe something to Dante's description of hell, is probably historical in its intention, but the gloss explains obscurum per obscurius, and we can only suppose that the author intended that the inner sense should remain a mystery.

When Boccaccio wrote, the eclogue had not yet degenerated into the literary convention it became in the following century; and, though he was no doubt tempted to the use of the form by Vergilian tradition and the example of Petrarch, he must also have followed therein a natural inclination and no mere dictate of fashion. Even in these poems the humanity of the writer's personality makes itself felt. While Laura tends to fade into a personification of poetry, and Petrarch's strongest convictions find expression through the mouth of St. Peter, we feel that behind Boccaccio's humanistic exercise lies his own amorous passion, his own religious enthusiasm, his own fatherly tenderness and love. His eclogues, however, never attained the same reputation as Petrarch's, and remained in manuscript till the appearance of Giunta's bucolic collection of 1504.

* * * * *

As humanism advanced and the golden age of the renaissance approached, Latin bucolic writers sprang up and multiplied. The fullest collection—that printed by Oporinus at Basel in March, 1546—contains the poems of thirty-eight authors, and even this makes no pretence of giving those of the middle ages. The collection, however, ranges from Calpurnius to Castalio (i.e. the French theologian Sebastien Chateillon), and includes the work of Petrarca, Boccaccio, Spagnuoli, Urceo, Pontano, Sannazzaro, Erasmus, Vida, and others. There is a strong family likeness in the pastoral verse of these authors, and the majority are devoid of individual interest. A few, however, merit separate notice.

It was in the latter half of the fifteenth century that the renaissance eclogue, abandoning its last claims to poetic inspiration, assumed its definitive form in the works of Battista Spagnuoli, more commonly known from the place of his birth by the name of Mantuanus. His eclogues, ten in number, were accepted by the sixteenth century as models of pastoral composition, inferior to those of Vergil alone, were indeed any inferiority allowed. Starting with the simple theme of love, the author proceeds to depict its excess in the love-lunes of the distraught Amyntas. Thence he passes to one of those satires on women in which the fifteenth century delighted, so bitter, that when Thomas Harvey came to translate it in 1656 he felt constrained, for his credit's sake, to add the note, 'What the author meant of all, the translater intends only of ill women[29].' There follows the old complaint of the niggardliness of rich patrons towards poor poets, and a satire on the luxury of city life. The remaining poems are ecclesiastical. One is in praise of the religious life, another describes the simple faith of the country folk and the joys of conversion; finally, we have a satire on the abuses of Rome, and a discussion on points of theological controversy. None of these subjects possess the least novelty; the author's merit, if merit it can be called, lies in having stamped them with their definitive form for the use of subsequent ages. Combined with this lack of originality, however, it is easy to trace a strong personal element in the bitterness of the satire that pervades many of the themes, the orthodox eclogue on conversion standing in curious contrast with that on ecclesiastical abuses.

It is not easy to account for Spagnuoli's popularity, but the curiously representative quality of his work was no doubt in part the cause. His poems were what, through the changing fashions of centuries, men had come to expect of bucolic verse. They crystallized into a standard mould whatever in pastoral, whether classical or renaissance, was most obviously and easily reducible to a type, and so attained the position of models beyond which it was needless to go. They were first printed in 1498, and went through a number of editions during the author's lifetime. As a young man—and it is to his earlier years that the bulk of the eclogues must be attributed—Spagnuoli was noted for the elegance of his Latin verse; but his facility led him into over-production, and Tiraboschi reports his later writings as absolutely unreadable. He was of Spanish extraction, as his name implies, became a Carmelite, and rose to be general of the order, but retired in 1515, the year before his death.

Three eclogues are extant from the pen of Pontano, a distinguished humanist at the court of Ferdinand I and his successors at Naples, and a Latin poet of considerable grace and feeling. His poems were first published by Aldus in 1505, two years after his death. In one characteristic composition he laments the loss of his wife, to whom he was deeply attached; another introduces under a pastoral name his greater disciple Sannazzaro[30].

Jacopo Sannazzaro, known to humanism as Actius Sincerus, disciple of the 'Accademia Pontana,' and editor of his master's works, the greatest explorer, if not the greatest exponent, of the mysteries of Arcadia, was born of parents of Spanish origin at Naples in 1458. His boyhood was spent at San Cipriano, but he soon returned to Naples, where he fell in love with Carmosina Bonifacia. His passion does not appear to have been reciprocated, but the lady has her place in literature as the Phillis of the eclogues. He attached himself to the court of Frederick of Aragon, whom he followed into exile in France. Returning to Naples after his patron's death in 1503, he again fell in love, this time with a certain Cassandra Marchesa, to whom he continued to pay court, more Platonico, till his death in 1530. He is said to have died at her house.

To his Italian work I shall have to return later; here it is his five Latin piscatory eclogues that demand notice. There is nothing in the subject-matter to arrest attention—they consist of a lament for Carmosina, a lover's complaint, a singing match, a panegyric, and a poem in honour of Cassandra—but the form is interesting. Of course the claim sometimes put forward for Sannazzaro, as the inventor of the piscatory eclogue, ignores various passages in Theocritus, notably the twenty-first Idyl, whence he presumably borrowed the idea. But it is certainly refreshing, after wandering in an unreal Sicily and an imaginary Arcadia, and listening to shepherds discourse of the abuses of the Roman Curia, to dive into the waters of the bay of Naples, or wanton in fancy along its sunlit shore from the low rocks of Baiae to the sheer cliffs of Sorrento, and to feel that, even though Jacopo was no Neapolitan fisher-boy, and Carmosina no nymph of Posilipo, yet the poet had at least before him the blue water and the dark rocks, and in his heart the love that formed the theme of his song[31].

Sannazzaro also wrote a mythological poem entitled Salices, in which certain nymphs pursued by satyrs are changed by Diana into willows. The tale was evidently suggested by Ovid, and cannot strictly be classed as pastoral, though it may have helped to fix in pastoral convention the character of the satyr; who, however, at no time enjoyed a very savoury reputation. The Latin works were first published at Naples in 1536, and though far from rivalling the popularity of the Arcadia, went through several editions.

The Latin eclogues of the renaissance are distinguished from all other forms of allegory by the obscure and recondite allusions that they affected. There were few among their authors for whom the narration of simple loves and sorrows or the graces of untutored nature possessed any attraction; we find them either making their shepherds openly discuss contemporary affairs, or more often clothing their references to actual events in a sort of pastoral allegory, fatuous as regards its form and obscure as regards its content. Tityrus and Mopsus are alternately lovers, courtiers and spiritual pastors; Pan, when he does not conceal under his shaggy outside the costly robes of a prince, is a strange abortive monster, drawing his attributes in part from pagan superstition, in part from Christian piety; a libel upon both. The seed sown by Petrarch and Boccaccio bore fruit only too freely. The writers of eclogues, either debarred from or incapable of originality, sought distinction by ever more and more elaborate and involved allusions; and their works, in their own day held the more sublime the more incomprehensible they were, are now the despair of those who would wring from them any semblance of meaning.

The absurdities of the conventional pastoral did not, indeed, pass altogether unnoticed in their own day, for early in the sixteenth century Teofilo Folengo composed his Zanitonella in macaronic verse. It consists of eclogues and poems in hexameter and elegiac metre ridiculing polite pastoralism through contrast with the crudities of actual rusticity. In the same manner Berni travestied the courtly pastoral of vernacular writers in his realistic pictures of village love. But though the satirist might find ample scope for his wit in anatomizing the foible of the day, fashionable society continued none the less to encourage the exquisite inanity, and to be flattered by the elegant obscurity, of the allegorical pastoral.


In 1481 appeared an Italian translation of the Bucolics of Vergil from the pen of Bernardo Pulci. The same volume also contained a collection of eclogues in the vernacular by various authors, none of which have any particular interest beyond what attaches to them as practically heading the list of Italian pastorals[32]. It will be noticed that these poems correspond in date with the later school of Latin bucolic writers, represented by Mantuan; and the vernacular compositions developed approximately parallel to, though usually in imitation of, those in the learned tongue. But the fourteenth-century school of Petrarch had not been entirely without its representative in Italian. At least one poem included by Boccaccio in his Ameto is a strict eclogue, composed throughout in terza rima, which was destined to become the standard verse-form for 'pastoral,' as ottava rima for 'rustic,' composition. The poem is a contention between an upland and a lowland shepherd, and begins in genuine pastoral fashion:

Come Titan del seno dell' aurora Esce, cosi con le mie pecorelle I monti cerco sema far dimora.

It is chiefly differentiated from many similar compositions in Latin—and the distinction is of some importance—in that the interest is purely pastoral; no political or religious allusions being discernible under the arguments of the somewhat quarrelsome swains[33]. This peculiarity is on the whole characteristic of the later vernacular pastoral likewise, which, after the appearance of the collection of 1481, soon became extremely common, Siena and Urbino, Ferrara, Bologna and Padua, Florence and Naples, all alike bearing practical witness to the popularity of the kind[34].

In 1506 Castiglione[35] and Cesare Gonzaga, in the disguise of shepherds, recited an eclogue interspersed with songs before the court of Duke Guidubaldo at Urbino. The Duchess Elizabeth was among the spectators. The Tirsi, as it is called, begins with the simple themes of pastoral complaint, whence by swift transition it passes to a panegyric of the court and the circle of the Cortegiano. It was not the first attempt at bringing the pastoral upon the boards, since Poliziano's Orfeo with its purely bucolic opening had been performed as early as 1471; but Castiglione's ecloga rappresentativa was the first of any note to depend purely on the pastoral form and to introduce on the stage the convention of the allegorical pastoral. Some years later a further step was taken in the dramatization of the eclogue by Luigi Tansillo in his Due pelegrini, performed at Messina in 1538, though composed and probably originally acted some ten years before. It is through these and similar poems that we shall have to trace the gradual evolution of the pastoral drama in a later section of this work. Tansillo was likewise the author, both of a poem called Il Vendemmiatore, one of those obscene debauches of fancy which throw a lurid light on the luxurious imagination of the age, and of a didactic work, Il Podere, in which, as his editor somewhat naively remarks, 'ci rende amabile la campagna e l'agricoltura[36].'

The practice of eclogue-writing soon became no less general in the vernacular than in Latin, and the band of pastoral poets included men so different in temperament as Machiavelli, who left a 'Capitolo pastorale' among his miscellaneous works, and Ariosto, whose eclogue on the conspiracy contrived in 1506 against Alfonso d'Este was published from manuscript in 1835. The fashion of the piscatory eclogue, set by Sannazzaro in Latin, was followed in Italian by his fellow-citizen Bernardino Rota, and later by Bernardino Baldi of Urbino, Abbot of Guastalla, in whose poems we are able at times to detect a ring of simple and refreshing sincerity.

Though, as will be understood even from the brief summary given above, the allusive element is not wholly absent from these poems, it is nevertheless true, as already said, that it appears less persistently than in the Latin works, the weighty matters of religion and politics being as a rule avoided. The reason is perhaps not far to seek, since, being in the vulgar tongue, they appealed to a wider and less learned audience, before whom it might have been injudicious to utter too strong an opinion on questions of church and state.

So far the pastoral poetry of Italy had been composed exclusively in the literary Tuscan of the day. To Florence and to Lorenzo de' Medici in particular is due the honour of having first introduced the rustic speech of the people. His two poems written in the language of the peasants about Florence, La Nencia da Barberino and a canzonet In morte della Nencia, possess a grace to which the quaintness of the diction adds point and flavour. A short extract must suffice to illustrate the style.

Ben si potra tener avventurato Chi sia marito di si bella moglie; Ben si potra tener in buon di nato Chi ara quel fioraliso senza foglie; Ben si potra tenersi consolato Che si contenti tutte le sue voglie D' aver la Nencia, e tenersela in braccio Morbida e bianca, che pare un sugnaccio.

* * * * *

Nenciozza mia, vuo' tu un poco fare Meco a la neve per quel salicale?— Si, volentier, ma non me la sodare Troppo, che tu non mi facessi male.— Nenciozza mia, deh non ti dubitare, Che l' amor ch' io ti porto si e tale, Che quando avessi mal, Nenciozza mia, Con la mia lingua te lo leveria.

This form of composition at once became fashionable. Luigi Pulci[37] composed his Beca di Dicomano, which attained almost equal success and passed for the work of Lorenzo. It is, however, a far inferior production, in which the quaintness of the model is replaced by coarse caricature and its delicate rusticity by a cruder realism. Other imitations followed, but none bear comparison with Lorenzo's poem[38]. It is in thought and expression rather than in actual language that these poems distinguish themselves from the literary pastoral. More noticeably dialectal is an anonymous Pescatoria amorosa printed about 1550. It is a Venetian serenade sung in the persons of fishermen, and possesses a certain grace of language:

Cortese donne, belle innamorae, Donzelle, vedovette, e maridae, Ascholte ste parole, che le no se cortelae, Che intendere la causa del vegnir in ste contrae[39].

Symonds and D'Ancona alike remark, with perfect truth, that Lorenzo's rustic style, in spite of its sympathetic grace, is not altogether dissociated from burlesque. While free from the artificiality of court pastoral, it is equally distinct from the natural simplicity of the Theocritean idyl. Its flavour depends upon the half cynical, half kindly, amusement afforded by the contrast between the naivete of the country and the familiar and conventional polish of town life. This theme had already caught the fancy of the song-writers of the fourteenth century, who produced some of the most delightful examples of native and unconventional pastoral anywhere to be found[40]. Franco Sacchetti the novelist, for example, gives us a series of charming vignettes of country life and scenery, but always from the point of view of the town observer. One poem of his in particular gained wide popularity, and a modernized and somewhat altered version was iater printed among the works of Poliziano. It was originally a ballata, but I prefer to quote some stanzas from the traditional version:

Vaghe le montanine e pastorelle, Donde venite si leggiadre e belle?—

Vegnam dall' alpe, presso ad un boschetto; Picciola capannella e il nostro sito; Col padre e colla madre in picciol tetto, Dove natura ci ha sempre nutrito, Torniam la sera dal prato fiorito Ch' abbiam pasciute nostre pecorelle.—

Ben si posson doler vostre bellezze, Poiche tra valli e monti le mostrate, Che non e terra di si grandi altezze Che voi non foste degne ed onorate. Ora mi dite, se vi contentate Di star nell' alpe cosi poverelle?—

Piu si contenta ciascuna di noi Gire alla mandria, dietro alla pastura, Piu che non fate ciascuna di voi Gire a danzare dentro a vostre mura; Ricchezza non cerchiam, ne piu ventura, Se non be' fiori, e facciam ghirlandelle[41].

Other writers besides Sacchetti produced songs of the sort, but in all alike the strictly pastoral element was accidental, and merged insensibly into the more delicately romantic of the novelle themes. The following lines touch on a situation familiar in later pastoral and also found in English ballad poetry. They are by Alesso Donati, a contemporary of Sacchetti's. A nun sings:

La dura corda e 'l vel bruno e la tonica Gittar voglio e lo scapolo Che mi tien qui rinchiusa e fammi monica; Poi teco a guisa d'assetato giovane, Non gia che si sobbarcoli, Venir me n' voglio ove fortuna piovane:

E son contenta star per serva e cuoca, Che men mi cocero ch' ora mi cuoca[42].

But if pastoralism made its appearance in the lyric, the lyric equally influenced pastoral, for it is in the songs of the fifteenth century that we first meet with that spirit of graceful melancholy sighing over the transitoriness of earthly things, the germ of the volutta idillica of the Aminta and the Pastor fido. This vein is strong in Lorenzo's charming carnival songs, which at once recall Villon's burden, 'Ou sont les neiges d'antan?' and anticipate Tasso's warning:

Cangia, cangia consiglio, Pazzerella che sei; Che il pentirsi dassezzo nulla giova.

The 'triumph' of Bacchus and Ariadne, introduced with amorous nymphs and satyrs, has the refrain:

Quant' e bella giovinezza, Che si fugge tuttavia! Chi vuol esser lieto, sia: Di doman non c' e certezza.

The flower of lyric melancholy is already full blown. So, too, in another carnival song of his:

Or che val nostra bellezza? Se si perde, poco vale. Viva amore e gentilezza!

Gentilezza, morbidezza—the yielding fancy in the disguise of pity, the nerveless languor that passes for beauty—such is the dominant note of the song upon men's lips in the troublous times of the renaissance[43].

Another of the outlying realms of pastoral is the mythological tale, more or less directly imitated from Ovid. The first to introduce it in vernacular literature was Boccaccio, who in his Ninfale fiesolano uses a pagan allegory to convey a favourite novella theme. The shepherd Affrico loves a nymph of Diana, and the tale ends by the goddess changing her faithless votary into a fountain. It is written in somewhat cumbrous ottava rima, and seldom shows any conspicuous power of narrative. Belonging to the same class of composition, though of a very different order of poetic merit, is Lorenzo's wonderfully graceful tale of Ambra. The grace lies in the telling, for the plot was probably already stale when Phoebus and Daphne were protagonists. The poem recounts how the wood-nymph Ambra, beloved of Lauro, is pursued by the river-god Ombrone, one of Arno's tributary divinities, and praying to Diana in her hour of need, is by her transformed into a rock[44]. Lorenzo's Selva d'amore and Caccia col falcone might also be mentioned in the same connexion.

Less pastoral in motive and less connected in narrative, but of even greater importance in the formation of pastoral taste, is the famous Giostra written in honour of the young Giuliano de' Medici. I have already more than once had occasion to mention its author, Angelo Ambrogini, better known from the place of his birth as Poliziano or Politian[45], the contemporary, dependent, and fellow-litterateur of Lorenzo il Magnifico, and the greatest scholar and learned writer of the Italian renaissance. As the author of the Orfeo he will occupy our attention when we come to trace the evolution of the pastoral drama. Though he left no poems belonging to the recognized forms of pastoral composition, his work constantly borders upon the kind, and evinces a genuine sympathy with rustic life which makes the ascription to him of the already quoted modernization of Sacchetti not inappropriate. He left several other pieces of a similar nature, some of which at least are known to be adaptations of popular songs[46]. Such, for instance, is the irregular canzone beginning:

La pastorella si leva per tempo Menando le caprette a pascer fuora, Di fuora, fuora: la traditora Co' suoi begli occhi la m' innamora, E fa di mezza notte apparir giorno.

The Giostra is composed, like its predecessors, in the octave stanza, and presents a series of pictures drawn from classical mythology or from the poet's own imagination, adorned with all the physical beauty the study of antiquity could supply and a rich and refined taste crystallize into chastest jewellery of verse[47]. This blending of luxuriance and delicacy is the characteristic quality of Poliziano's and Lorenzo's poetry. It is admirably expressed in the phrase of a recent critic, 'the decorum of things exquisite.' After the lapse of another half-century, during which the renaissance advanced from its graceful youth to the full bloom of its maturity, appeared the Ninfa tiberina of Francesco Maria Molza. 'The volutta idillica[48],' writes Symonds, 'which opened like a rosebud in the Giostra, expands full petals in the Ninfa tiberina; we dare not shake them, lest they fall.' Like the earlier poem it possesses little narrative unity—the taie of Eurydice introduced by way of illustration occupies more than a third of the whole—but every point is made the occasion of minute decoration of the richest beauty. It was written for Faustina Mancina, a celebrated courtesan, whose empire lay till the day of her death over the papal city. The wealth of sensuality and wit that made a fatal seduction of Rome for Molza, scholar and libertine, is reflected as it were in the rich cadences and overwrought adornment of his verse. Such compositions as these had a powerful influence over the tone of idyllic poetry. I have mentioned only a few out of a considerable list. The Driadeo d'amore earlier—a mythological medley variously ascribed in different editions to Luca and to Luigi Pulci—and Marino's Adone later, were likewise among the works that went to form the courtly taste to which the pastoral drama appealed. The detailed criticism, however, of such compositions lies beyond the scope of this work.


We must now return to an earlier period in order to follow the development of the pastoral romance. When dealing with Daphnis and Chloe I pointed out that the Greek work could claim no part in the formation of the later prose pastoral. Between it and the work of Boccaccio and Sannazzaro there exists no such continuity of tradition as between the bucolics of the classical Mantuan and those of his renaissance follower. The Italian pastoral romance, in spite of its almost pedantic endeavour after classical and mythological colouring, was as essentially a product of its age as the pastoral drama itself. So far as any influence on the evolution of the subsequent Arcadia was concerned, Longus might as well never have written of the pastures of Lesbos. Indeed, were we here concerned in assigning to its historical source each particular trait in individual works, rather than in tracing the general development of an idea, it would be casier to distinguish a faint and slightly cynical reminiscence of Daphnis and Chloe in the Aminta and Pastor fido than in the Ameto or the Arcadia.

In his pastoral romance, 'Ameto, ovvero Commedia delie ninfe fiorentine,' Boccaccio set a fashion in literature, namely the intermingling for purposes of narration of prose and verse[49], in which he was followed a century and a half later by Pietro Bembo, the Socrates of Castiglione's renaissance Symposium, in his dialogue on love entitled Gli Asolani, and by Jacopo Sannazzaro in his still more famous Arcadia. The Ameto is one of Boccaccio's early compositions, written about 1341, after his return from Naples, but before he had gained his later mastery of language. It is not unfairly characterized by Symonds as 'a tissue of pastoral tales, descriptions, and versified interludes, prolix in style and affected with pedantic erudition.' It is, however, possible to underrate its merits, and it would be easy to overlook its historical importance. Ameto is a rude hunter of the neighbourhood of Florence. One day, while in the woods, he discovers a company of nymphs resting by a stream, and overhears the song of the beautiful Lia. His rough nature is touched by the sweetness of the music and he falls in love with the singer. Their meetings are interrupted by the advent of winter, but he finds her again at the feast of Venus, when shepherds, fauns, and nymphs forgather at the temple of the goddess. In this company Lia proposes that each of the nymphs present, seven in number, shall narrate the story of her love. This they in turn do, each ending with a song of praise to the gods; and Ameto feels his love burn for each in turn as he listens to their tales. When the last has ended a sudden brightness shines around and 'there descended with wondrous noise a column of pure flame, even such as by night went before the Israelitish people in the desert places,' Out of the brightness cornes the voice of Venus:

Io son luce del cielo unica e trina, Principio e fine di ciascuna cosa, Del quai men fu, ne fia nulla vicina.

Ameto, though half blinded by the heavenly effulgence, sees a new joy and beauty shine upon the faces of the nymphs, and understands that the flame-shrouded presence is that, not of the wanton mater cupidinum, but of the goddess of divine fire who comes to reveal to him the mysteries of love. Cleansed of his grosser nature by a baptismal rite, in which each of the nymphs performs some symbolic ceremonial, he feels heavenly love replacing human in his heart, and is able to bear undazzled the radiance of the divine purity. He salutes the goddess with a song:

O diva luce, quale in tre persone Ed una essenza il ciel governi e 'l mondo Con giusto amore ed eterna ragione, Dando legge alle stelle, ed al ritondo Moto del sole, principe di quelle, Siccome discerniamo in questo fondo[50].

Various interpretations have been suggested for this work, with its preposterous mixture of pagan and Christian motives. This peculiarity, which we have already met with in Boccaccio's eclogues, and in his Ninfale fiesolano, was indeed one of the most persistent as it was one of the least admirable characteristics of pastoral composition. Francesco Sansovino, who edited the Ameto in 1545, discovered real personages underlying the characters of the romance. Fiammetta is introduced by name, and her lover Caleone can hardly be other than Boccaccio. More recent commentators are probably right in detecting an allegorical intention. The seven nymphs, according to them, represent the four cardinal and three theological virtues, and their stories are to be interpreted symbolically. This view derives support from the baptismal ceremony, in which after the public lustration one of the nymphs removes the scales from Ameto's eyes, while another, 'breathing between his lips, kindled within him a flame such as he had never felt before.' In these ministrants it is not difficult to recognize the virtues respectively of faith and love. Ameto may be taken as typical of humanity, tamed of its savage nature by love, and through the service of the virtues led to the knowledge of the divine essence. The conception of love as a civilizing and humanizing power already underlay the sensuous stanzas of the Ninfale fiesolano, while the later part of the romance was not uninfluenced by recollections of the Divine Comedy[51]. It is true that a modern mind will with difficulty be able to reconcile the amorous confessions of the nymphs with the characteristics of the virtues, but in Boccaccio's day the tradition of the Gesta Romanorum was still strong, and the age that mysticized Vergil, and moralized Ovid, was capable of much in the way of allegorical interpretation[52].

The point to which this allegorical interpretation can legitimately be carried need not trouble us here. Having set himself to characterize the virtues, it is moreover likely enough that Boccaccio sought at the same time to connect his figures more or less definitely with actual persons. It is sufficient for our present purpose if we recognize in the Ameto something of the same triple intention which, not to put too fine a metaphysical point upon the parallel, we meet with in Dante and in the Faery Queen. Having fashioned in accordance with these motives the framework of his book, Boccaccio further concerned himself but little with this philosophical intention, and the allegorical setting having served its artistic purpose of linking them together into one connected whole, it was upon the detail of the narratives themselves that the author's attention was concentrated. It is, however, just in this artistic purpose of the setting that one of the chief interests of the Ameto lies; for if in the mingling of verse and prose it is the forerunner of the Arcadia, in the linking together of a series of isolated stories it anticipates Boccaccio's own Decameron.

While there is little that is distinctly bucolic about the Ameto, the atmosphere is eminently pastoral in the wider sense. Nymphs and shepherds, foresters and fauns meet at the temple of Venus; the limpid fountains and shady laurels belong essentially to the conventional landscape, whether of Sicily, of Arcadia, or of the hills overlooking the valley of the Arno. The Italian imagination was not careful to differentiate between field and forest: favola boschereccia was used synonymously with commedia pastorale; drammi dei boschi is a term which covers the whole of the pastoral drama. But what really gives the Ameto its importance in the history of pastoral literature is the manner in which, undisturbed by its religions and allegorical machinery, it introduces us to a purely sensual and pagan paradise, in which love with all its pains and raptures reigns supreme.

The narratives of the nymphs, and indeed the whole of the prose portions of the work, are composed in a style of surcharged and voluptuous beauty, congested with lengthy periods, and accumulated superlatives and relative clauses, which, in its endeavour to maintain itself and its subject at the highest possible pitch, only succeeds in being intensely and almost uniformly monotonous and dull. It is perfectly true that the work possesses some at least of the qualities of its defects. There are passages which argue a feeling for beauty, none the less real for being of a somewhat conventional order, while we not seldom detect a certain rich luxuriance about the descriptions; but it must be admitted that on the whole the style exhibits most of Boccaccio's faults and few of his merits. The verse interspersed throughout is in terza rima, and offers small attraction to the ordinary reader: 'meschinissima cosa' is a verdict which, if somewhat severe, will probably find few to contradict it.

In a certain passage, speaking of Poliziano's Orfeo, Symonds remarks that 'while Arcady became the local dreamland of the new ideal, Orpheus took the place of its hero.' Without inquiring too closely how far the writers of the renaissance actually connected the hero of music, as a power of civilization, with their newly discovered country, it is interesting to note that the earliest work in the Italian language containing in however amoebean a state the pastoral ideal opens with an allusion to Orpheus.

Quella vertu, che gia l'ardito Orfeo Mosse a cercar le case di Plutone, Allor che forse lieta gli rendeo La cercata Euridice a condizione, E dal suon vinto dell' arguto legno, E dalla nota della sua canzone, Per forza tira il mio debile ingegno A cantar le tue Iode, o Citerea, Insieme con le forze del tuo regno[53].

Orpheus, however, does not stand alone. Venus, Phoebus, Mars, Cupid, and finally Jove, are each in turn invoked, to say nothing of the incidental mention of Aeneas, Mirra, and Europa. This love of mythology in and out of season is one of the most prominent features of the work. One of the nymphs describes her youth in the following words:

il padre mio .... visse eccellentissimo ne' beni pubblici tra' reggenti, e de' beni degli iddii copioso: me a lui donata da loro, nomino Mopsa, e vedentemi nella giovanetta eta mostrante gia bella forma, ai servigi dispose di Pallade, la quale me benivola ricevente nelle sante grotte del cavallo Gorgoneo, tra le sapientissime Muse commise, la dov' io gustai l'acque Castalie, e l'altezza di Cirra tentante, le stelle cercai con ferma mano; e i pallidi visi, quelli luoghi colenti, sempre con riverenza seguii; e molte volte sonando Apollo la cetera sua, lui nel mezzo delle nove Muse ascoltai[54].

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