The end of the pastoral

The end of the pastoral

[See Ecopoetry under ECO]

The pastoral is still often taken as the central genre of nature poetry, it is rooted in Theocritus (3rdC BC), an urbane urban Alexandrian.[1] Virgil (1stC BC) affirmed the genre as portraying idealised (obviously fictionalised) easy-going lives of shepherds, in contrast to complex worldly lives of courtiers and city dwellers. He called the poems in the Eclogues buccolica, in imitation of the Idylls of Theocritus. The pastoral world is not wild, but full of singers; and the beech tree they lie under, is already inscribed.[2]


The farms Hesiod and Virgil wrote about were, ‘small, varied and largely, but not completely, self-sufficient… a basic element of human life and a microcosm of the place of man in the world. This is probably the kind of farm Hesiod worked, and Virgil knew as a boy in Mantua. By Virgil’s time, contemporary farming consisted of: ‘huge, slave-run, monoculture farms.’[3] In northern Europe, mixed arable and livestock farming, using crop rotation, was successful for many centuries, but is now economically inefficient. Despite our understanding of pastoral and georgic modes, and awareness of environmental catastrophe, there is little interest in the rise of industrial agriculture, yet farming is necessary to feed us, and was a precondition for literate cultures to develop.[4] Wendell Berry’s passionate call for subsistence farming as a way of life cannot suffice,[5] but farming must become sustainable.[6] The georgic cannot suffice, being unable to locate farming within sustainable limits, which requires ecological understanding, and a revolution, in terms of economic, technological, ethical and aesthetic approaches to dwelling on the land.


‘No pastoral poet ever gets nostalgic thinking about Paleolithic hunters.’ Joseph Meeker[7]

The ideal pastoral dwelling is ‘Arcadia’, a utopia without, what Cicero termed, a second nature (alteram naturam); a cultural landscape of fields, roads, bridges, buildings.[8] In ‘Arcades’, Milton named four mountains and one river from Arcadia in the mountainous heart of the Peloponnese, a place created by poets, in a few lines (which Ruskin mocked as ‘airy syllabling’). It was a rugged area not pastoral; yet Milton, Spenser, Sidney, Pope, Boccaccio and Sannazaro all praised it.[9]

‘On old Lycaeus or Cyllene hoar
Trip no more in twilight ranks.’   Milton, ‘Arcades’


‘The main feature of Lycaeus was an altar on the very peak, where the secret rites of Wolf-Zeus were celebrated. But when I reached the top, where an artificial mound marks the site of the ancient altar, I saw a tanned man, fortyish, seated coolly in the hammering sun, watching bees go by. From time to time he would whip out a net, catch a bee, extract it with his fingers, study it, and then let it go… he was writing a definitive survey of the bees of the Peloponnese.’ Garry Wills[10]


Detailing specified localities was also seen in landscape paintings. Idealised versions of arcadia were translated into England through landscape gardening, transferred from the paintings of Claude, Poussin and Rosa, and encouraged by nationalism and the patronage of landed gentry. Landscape was beginning to be established in England in 1640s as a separate branch of painting; ideas of nature mixed with ideas of landscape, gardening, painting, poetry and travel. It is a distancing concept that tames wilderness through perspective and privileges art over nature. Wilderness was rarely appreciated until the Romantics, despite James Thomson’s claims.[11] In the 18th C, Malcolm Andrews argues, ‘The gradual naturalization of classical pastoral poetry and the imaginative recreation of Milton’s Eden in the Thames Valley or a Worcestershire landscape prepares us for the Picturesque practices.’[12]


The rebirth of the pastoral began in Italian courts with Sannazaro’s Arcadia (1481-6), followed by Tasso, Aristo, Spenser[13] and Sir Philip Sidney’s Arcadia (c1580s). The Pastoral is fantasy – Sidney ignores Arcadia’s creation through the destruction of a village (emparked),[14] and the disparity between rural life and pastoral forms, which Louis Montrose documents.[15] Ben Jonson appreciated a fecund estate (‘To Penshurst’, 1616 – Sidney’s home), but as Raymond Williams writes, ‘The world of Penshurst or of Saxham [Thomas Carew] can be seen as moral economy only by conscious selection and emphasis.’[16] The pastoral mode is often concerned with the poet’s superior status, as ironic commentator with a dual attitude to (his) subject: as more sophisticated than a shepherd, while trying to maintain a shepherd’s naturalness. As William Empson argued, poets presumed they were, ‘in one way better, in another not so good’; compared to shepherds.[17]


Malcolm Andrews argues that it was not until the 18thC that, ‘The gradual naturalisation of classical pastoral poetry and the imaginative recreation of Milton’s Eden in the Thames Valley or a Worcestershire landscape prepares us for the Picturesque practices.’[18] Milton’s description of Eden in Paradise Lost influenced English nature poetry and the Picturesque, in terms of a local pastoral, which observed the local.

‘Som time walking not unseen
By Hedge-row Elms on Hillocks green, . . .
And every shepherd tells his tale
Under the Hawthorn in the dale.
Streit miner eye hath caught new pleasures
Whilst the Lantskip round it measures,
Russet Lawns . . .’      Milton, ‘L’Allegro’[19]


William Gilpin’s conception of the Picturesque method of looking at landscape, as a sequence of changing vistas, originated from a visit to the famous English landscape garden of Stowe (1740s) – itself emparked. George Monbiot went to school there and notes, ‘Kent and Brown constructed a paradise, in fact part of the grounds are called ‘The Elysian Fields’, but their classical wilderness was an artefact of social cleansing.[20] These parks became emblems of English landscape where pastoral visions lingered; spreading to urban gardens, though the promise of Eden is thwarted.[21] Lawrence Buell queries the extent to which our ‘ambiguous legacy of western pastoralism’ can be used for an environmental poetics, arguing little in this genre is useful for a program of ecopoetry.[22] Leo Marx notes that in pursuit of his claim for the ‘ecocentric repossession of pastoral’ Buell abandons the term ‘pastoral’ for the non-anthropocentric term ‘naturism’.[23]


Hesiod, a thousand years later, writes about ploughing in Work and Days. A description of a farmer’s year is at the heart of the work, but advice is haphazard and elementary, and though the poem values agriculture and is both didactic and informational, it is not a manual.[24] Didactic poems can be grouped into those offering information (‘informational’), and those that don’t. Hesiod states right at the outset that he is in touch with both the heavenly Muses and the earth:

‘Zeus the Thunderer
Whose house is most high.
Bend hither your mind,
Hand down just judgments,
O Thou!
And as for me,
Well, brother Perses,
I’d like to state a few facts.’[25]

Following the Ecologues, in which the poet Tityros escapes the destruction by reciting (singing) poetry, Virgil wrote the Georgics, where man finds harmony with the world through work. This is the world of Cicero’s ‘second nature’.[26] Virgil reuses traditional motifs and literary allusions from Theocritus, Callimachus, Plato, Homer, and especially Lucretius, though Hesiod provided the formal model.[27] The poem offers itself as a guide on how to be a farmer, providing practical information.[28] It can be viewed as realistic instruction, but the final book’s figure of the orderly beehive as model of good government is politically conservative.[29] In a later age, when poets were admired for skill in wit and ornament, John Dryden wrote that Virgil’s Georgics were, ‘the divinest part of all his writings’, because: ‘Virgil had turned into poetry the most unpromising materials, which are neither great in themselves, nor have any natural ornament to bear them up; but the words wherewith he describes them are so excellent, that it might well be applied to him, which was said by Ovid, Maleriam superabal opus.’[30] Dryden thought it ‘the best poem of the best Poet.’[31] Similarly, Joseph Addison claimed Virgil in writing the Georgics has produced, ‘the most complete, elaborate and finished Piece of all Antiquity.’[32] David Duff remarks that, ‘For Addison, writing a georgic – that is, a didactic poem on the science of husbandry (or, by extension, other practical topics) – is the ultimate test of a poet’s skill because it involves elevating mundane and seemingly unpoetic subject-matter into art. The challenge is, above all, a stylistic one, because this metamorphosis must be achieved through language, by a careful process of selection and embellishment.’[33]


The most widely read English nature poem was James Thomson’s The Seasons (‘Winter’, 1726, The Seasons, 1730), which depicts landscapes as a series of descriptive images. Two hundred editions had been published by 1800 (by which time Lyrical Ballads had sold approximately two hundred copies),[34] and many poets came under its influence.[35] “I know no subject more elevating, more amusing; more ready to awake the poetic enthusiasm, the philosophical reflection, and the moral sentiment than the works of Nature.” James Thomson[36]

Thomson had offered an idyllic vision of labour relations in rural England (influenced by Duck), as had William Langland seeing 14th C England (famously) as, ‘A faire felde ful of folke… Of all manner of men, the mene and the riche, Worching and wandryng as the world asketh.[37] Clare attacked the pastoral as ‘full of nothing but the old threadbare epithets of ‘sweet singing cuckoo’… etc. these make up the creation of Pastoral and describe poetry and everything else is reckond low and vulgar…’[38] As Roger Sales notes, ‘Pastoralism covers a multitude of economic sins’;[39] and E.P. Thompson commented, Clare: ‘conveys with extraordinary sensitivity the ways in which the psychic landscape of the villager was savagely transformed by the enclosure of the commons and open fields’.[40]

The Age of Sensibility (typically between 1744, the death of Pope and 1798, the publication of Lyrical Ballads) demonstrated a new freedom, as exemplified by the poets Thomas Gray, William Cowper and William Collins (the latter two being the first English poets to celebrate an particular English nature, thus influencing Clare, Wordsworth and others). They reacted against the ornamental, believing poetry to be an art form of thought and feeling, writing poems as a discourse with argument and investigation, self-reflexive, didactic, moralistic and often discursive.

At the same time, a discursive ‘informational’ tradition was developing through working class poets. The georgic impulse towards incorporating information into a poem broadened into explorations, not just of agricultural practice, but also of other economies and social histories. The Welsh poet John Dyer published The Fleece (1757) a long informational poem (in Miltonic blank verse) on the wool trade and industrialisation. He celebrated a rapidly changing England with increasing division of labour, which required a new industrialised georgic. In the Eclogues Virgil describes, ‘and now far-off smoke pearls from homestead rooftops’ – whereas, Dyer describes smoke issuing from fast expanding Yorkshire mill towns as, ‘incense of thanksgiving.’ The poem’s didactic and informational style is clear from the précis provided.

Lyrical Ballads, with a Few Other Poems is a collection of poems by William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, first published in 1798seen as start of romanticism in England. Lyrical Ballads was revolutionary in a number of ways The poems were radical in that the subjects were new and the poems were linked to particular places running from Lady’s Fountain in the Quantock Hills to the sea; secondly, all the people mentioned in the poems were people they had actually met on their walks. No one had written about a Mongol boy before (the Idiot Child). There was also the contemporary feel (that novels shared) through the use of plain diction unlike much eighteenth century verse, ornate and using rhyming couplets.  It demonstrates a confidence in natural and the particularity of observation; though in fact many of the poems generalise, compared to the sharp observations in Dorothy Wordsworth’s Alfoxton Diary and The Grasmere Journals, neglected because they sidestep existing genres. Wordsworth’s first poem in the collection, ‘Left upon a Seat in a Yew-tree, which stands near the lake  of Esthwaite, on a desolate part of the shore, commanding a beautiful prospect’ (1795) is innovative in Wordsworth’s emphasis on the local, and also as escape from poetic convention, being in blank verse (not rhyme, as Coleridge’s conversation poems were).

Nay, Traveller! rest. This lonely Yew-tree stands
Far from all human dwelling: what if here
No sparkling rivulet spread the verdant herb?
What if the bee love not these barren boughs?
Yet, if the wind breathe soft, the curling waves,
That break against the shore, shall lull thy mind
By one soft impulse saved from vacancy.

Blank verse lets events and images appear directly and as present, the poet is immersed in the natural world unlike the distancing that elaborate poetic language and form ensured.

Dorothy Wordsworth’s most famous journal entry (the daffodils, Grasmere, 15 April 1802) mentions ploughing.[41] The poet of the Lyrical Ballads is a poet of place, immediacy and keen observation and of more interest from an ecological perspective (or poetic) than the famous poet endlessly revising his magnum opus. The Lyrical Ballads was revolutionary in proposing direct connection with place and people and a confidence in the ordinary world (though many of the poems generalise compared to the sharp observations in Dorothy Wordsworth’s journals). [42]

John Barrell and John Bull proclaim the form dead, but other critics remodel the genre: William Empson (pastoral survives in new guises), Andrew Lawson (the ‘philosophical pastoral’), Terry Gifford and John Kinsella (the ‘post-pastoral’).

“No one today is going to write georgics, pastorals, and eclogues that are reminiscent of the eighteenth-century for the simple reason that ours is a totally different word demanding quite different forms and modes.” Marjorie Perloff [43]

I look towards an ecopoetics as a way of re-energising poetry that comes face to face with the natural environment, its processes and diversity.

[1] Thomas Hubbard notes the pastoral, ‘has its origins in the intensely self-conscious, learned literary circles of Alexandria.’ Thomas K. Hubbard, The Pipes of Pan. Intertextuality and Literary Filiation in the Pastoral tradition from Theocritus to Milton, Ann Arbor, The U of Michigan P, 1998, p5.

[2] In Virgil’s fifth eclogue Mopsus sings what he had written on a beech tree. Ec. 5. 13-14, ‘the songs I recently carved on the green bark of a beech.’ For an account of the Eclogues see W. V. Clausen, ‘Theocritus and Vergil’ in The Cambridge History of Classical Literature: Latin Literature, Ed., E. J. Kenney and W. V. Clausen, Cambridge 1982, p309-313.

[3] Stephanie Nelson, God and the Land, OUP, 1998, pvii.

[4] “About 10,000 years ago agriculture began to be practiced, which allowed for sedimentary populations living next to gardens which allowed much higher population densities, agricultural surpluses, trade, division of labour, cities leading to what we think of as civilisation. Food surpluses can be used to feed specialists, such as scribes, priests and soldiers. I want you to imagine a person, and we’ll say it’s a female because females did this sort of thing, who walked from the cave down a valley and found a very nice new fruit, and thought, ‘Mm, this is good. I’ll keep the seed.’ So she takes the seed back, she takes her digging stick, digs the seed into the soil so there might be a shorter walk next year. She cares for the plant partly by putting the human wastes on the plant, because they know that makes things grow better. She finds a plant alongside overshadows it, so she breaks something off that. She gives more light. Here we see the beginnings of plant selection, soil cultivation, plant propagation, land clearing and the using of manures . . . we call this agriculture.” David Smith with Robyn Williams ‘The World Is One Or None’ ABC Radio National 2.6.2002. David Smith, Natural Gain, U of New South Wales P, 2002. Farming like civilisation has spread, now 90% of people speak languages that 10,000 years ago were confined to two small areas. Ancient languages may have spread with the plough: Peter Bellwood from the ANU and Jared Diamond are currently examining the theory that early farmers helped to distribute language and replace the culture of traditional hunter-gatherers.  Bellwood says ‘Early farmers did spread languages in a very major way perhaps the most recent one has been that of the spread of English and Spanish.’ ABC News, http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/s839901.htm, [DL 25.4.2003].

[5] He argues that, ‘the `drudgery’ of growing one’s own food…is not drudgery at all. (If we make the growing of food a drudgery, which is what `agribusiness’ does make of it, then we also make a drudgery of eating and of living.) It is…a sacrament, as eating is also, by which we enact and under-stand our oneness with the Creation, the conviviality of one body with all bodies.’ (p138). By realizing this, we can restore “the connections [that] have been broken by the fragmentation and isolation of work,” and recover a “good work” which “IS living, and a way of living” and “is one of the forms and acts of love” (138,139). The Unsettling of America

[6] Percival Yeomans is a key figure in ecologically sustainable farming practices in Australia (undeservingly unknown) who developed a new plough. His work led to the permaculture movement, so important in an arid continent with poor ancient soils and little arable land  He developed ‘Keyline’, a set of processes and practices for harvest water and creating sustainable agricultural practice, and a plough, which used a vibrator on a modified chisel plough, that reduces friction, saves energy and instead of just breaking clods, shatters soil around and aerates the soil. He practiced rotational grazing, adding organic matter to soil, a better carbon sink then growing trees and realised that both water and air are central to soil decomposition – how you get organic matter to break down is a key to fertile farming P. A. Yeomans, Water for Every farm. Sydney, Melbourne, Murray, 1965. As a boy, lost in the bush, he became impressed by an Aboriginal tracker’s deep rooted skills and knowledge of the local land. Even in a dry rocky terrain with compacted soils he tracked the minute cues a little boy wandering had left. P. A. Yeomans, The City Forest : the Keyline Plan for the Human Environment Revolution, Sydney, Keyline, 1971. See W. Mollison & D. Holmgren Permaculture One, Stanley, Tangari Publications, 1979. Land use in Australia as a % of country: Arid and semi-arid grazing 43.7; Unused land 26.0; Non-arid grazing 17.4; Extensive cropping 5.8; Nature conservation reserves 3.5; Forestry 2.0; Transport corridors 1.2; Intensive cropping 0.3; Urban land 0.1.Note: Size of country is 7.7 m sq km. State of the environment in Australia 1985.  J. Williams, ‘Land degradation: Evidence that current Australian farming practice is not sustainable’, in Management for sustainable farming, Proceedings 16th National conference, Australian Farm Management Society, 1-23, 1989. We measure farming activity in economic terms without measuring the excessive ecological costs. Tudge argues agriculture is now an extreme form of capitalism, (monetarist/industrialist/corporatist/ globalist – MICG). Agribusiness is dominated by giant corporations which ignore the interests of the environment or people and are actually dangerous. See Colin Tudge, So Shall We Reap, Allen Lane, 2003

[7] Joseph Meeker, The Comedy of Survival: Studies in Literary Ecology,  Scribner’s, 1972, p57. Poets do though. Max Oelschlaeger has argued that Thoreau, Muir, Leopold, and the poets Jeffers and Snyder, have been catalysts in a major cultural paradigm shift to a postmodern posthistoric primitivism, a Paleolithic consciousness. Max Oelschlaeger, The Idea of  Wilderness: From Prehistory to the Age of Ecology, Yale UP 1993. This is a reversal of the shift Raymond Williams emphasised in the meaning of the word ‘art’ – from techne, craft-like ‘skill’ to ‘creative sensibility’, an ‘idealising’ and ‘dematerialising’ transformation. Raymond Williams, Culture and Society: Coleridge to Orwell. London: The Hogarth Press, (pub. 1958 as Culture and Society: 1780-1950). London: Chatto and Windus, 1990, p43-4. The western image of hunter-gatherers is of life as short, sharp and brutish. Hesiod suggested that earlier Bronze Age men stole their food, ate mostly meat through hunting, and during war destroyed crops and delayed agriculture. The debate of the natural man versus the urban civilised man began in the Renaissance as trade and colonisation began. The ‘natural man’ as a savage, intemperate was contrasted to what Rousseau later termed ‘the noble savage.’ This issue lies at the heart of The Tempest (c1611). Prospero installs himself as ruler of Caliban’s island and imprisons Caliban, though with justification, Shakespeare typically is ambivalent. As You Like It (c1600) develops the pastoral genres but as a comedy undermines the glamour of courtly life and conventions of pastoral love. The idealised Forest of Arden is not Eden, Jaques, the malcontent, causes problems and there’s the strange love of Touchstone and Audrey. The forest is still a courtly locale for the banished Duke Senior, and Rosalind and Celia only play at being shepherds, just as Marie Antionette played at being a dairymaid. The world is complex with possibilities. Richard Lee has demonstrated, through fieldwork with the San (the Kalahari Bushmen) that hunter-gatherers have an adequate and reliable food base and use reasonable labour to meet everyday needs and their health compares favourably. He reported that the San worked the following weekly hours: Men: 21.6 hrs on subsistence work, 5.1 on tool making, 15.4 on housework; Women: 12.6 hours on subsistence, 5.1 on tool making, and 22.4 hours on housework. Totals: Men 44.5 hrs per week, women 40.1 hours per week – about the same as in the West. The exhaustion of local food sources force a nomadic lifestyle, and such mobility requites simple tools, flexible social structures and low populations to maintain the carrying capacity of the desert. Richard B. Lee, ‘!Kung Bushman subsistence’ in A. Vayda Ed., Environment and Cultural Behaviour. Lee, ‘The !Kung Bushmen of Botswana’ in M.G. Bicchieri Ed., Hunters and Gatherers Today.

[8] John Dickson Hunt, Gardens and the picturesque: studies in the history of landscape architecture, MIT, 1992. See his Introduction.

[9] Its fame derives from Virgil who from Pindar learnt that Pan ruled Arcadia and Pan had invented the syrinx (panpipe) which shepherds used to accompany poetry.

[10] He continues, ‘The last such effort was made in the nineteenth century, and those data are now obsolete. How many species are there in the region? He was still counting, and thought the number might reach fifteen hundred. Bees are one thing that the poets got right: they are everywhere … He caught me one [an endemic, Megachile diabolica] and, turning her over delicately, showed me the purple pollen pulsing in her sac. ‘They like only this purple plant,’ he explained.’ Garry Wills, ‘The Real Arcadia’, The American Scholar, summer 1998.

[11] In the Preface to his ‘Winter’ Thomson’ claims that ‘the best, both ancient and modern, poets have been passionately fond of retirement, and solitude. The wild romantic country was their delight. And they seem never to have been more happy, than when, lost in unfrequented fields, far from’ the little busy world, they were at leisure, to meditate, and sing the works of Nature.’ As James Sutherland says ‘Thomson supports this uncompromising statement by only two references, to the Book of Job and Virgil’s Georgics.’ A Preface To Eighteenth Century Poetry, (1948) VII. Nature, http://www.ourcivilisation.com/smartboard/shop/poet18/index.htm. [DL 22.3.2002]

[12] Malcolm Andrews, The Search for the Picturesque: Landscape aesthetics and Tourism in Britain, 1760-1800, Scolar Press, 1989, p23.

[13] Edmund Spenser’s Colin Clout, recognisably English, highlights the contrast between Christian simple goodness and court  (not a contrast Virgil makes). The Faerie Queen influenced poets, as did Addison’s essay, Spectator, no 419, on the ‘fairy way of writing’.

[14] Raymond Williams writes, ‘It is not easy to forget that Sidney’s Arcadia, which gives a continuing title to English neo-pastoral, was written in a park which had been made by enclosing a whole village and evicting the tenants.’ Raymond Williams, 1973, p22.

[15] Louis A. Montrose, ‘Of Gentlemen and Shepherds: The politics of Elizabethan Form’ ELH, V50:3, 1983, p415-59. This is one of the beginnings of New Historicism.

[16] ‘The painted partrich lyes in every field / And, for they messe, is willing to be killed.’ In fact, his host Sir Robert Sidney, was in debt and what really counted was class, ‘Thou are not, Penshurst, built to envious show / Of touch or marble, nor canst boast a row / Of polished pillars… but stand’st an ancient pile . . .’ For Jonson, social order is the natural order. I have already argued that there is no ‘order’ but within a new ecological framework, perhaps new social relationships can evolve and democracy reinvigorated. See Raymond Williams, ‘Pastoral and Counter-Pastoral’ in The Country and the City, Chatto & Windus, 1973, p31.

[17] William Empson, Some Versions of Pastoral, London: Hogarth, 1986, p14.

[18] Malcolm Andrews, The Search for the Picturesque: Landscape aesthetics and Tourism in Britain, 1760-1800, Scolar Press, 1989, p23. James I replaced the Bishops’ Bible of 1568 with the Authorised Version, a task that took fifty translators six years. John Layfield, a Greek scholar from Trinity College Cambridge wrote the opening chapters of Genesis. He had been chaplain to an expedition to Puerto Rico and taken by is exotic cultural and natural landscapes wrote his luscious description of Eden. See Adam Nicolson, Power and Glory: Jacobean England and the Making of the King James Bible, HarperCollins, 2003.

[19] Milton II, l57. Complete Poems and Major Prose, Ed., Merritt Y. Hughes, New York: Macmillan, 1957.

[20] He notes: ‘in 1500 acres of deer parks and avenues and lakes, and fake gothic temples and Greek temples, landscaped by William Kent and Capability Brown. But the place within those grounds, which intrigued me most, was an old church, hidden in some woods. The church was the only visible sign of what was once a village. The village was deemed by the Dukes to spoil the view, so they demolished it… But the declaration of terra nullius is by no means over. You can see it every time you turn on the television to watch a wildlife program. Wildlife programs present the natural world as a pristine wilderness, unaffected by humanity. They remove us to a parallel planet, the Garden of Eden… the founding myth of the colonist, the self-justificatory notion which permits those who seized the land from its inhabitants to extract from their fathomless guilt a story of primordial innocence.’ ‘Gardens of Eden’ George Monbiot with Rachael Kohn The Spirit of Things, ABC Radio National, 14/09/2003 http://www.abc.net.au/rn/relig/spirit/. [DL 1.10.2003]

[21] ‘Rather, [Ian Hamilton] Finlay would have us recognize, as did the ancients who saw their most pastoral scenes inhabited by deities capable of stunning violence and capricious cruelty, that any experience of nature, Rousseauvian, Romantic, or otherwise, must include a recognition of that violence that makes such peace possible. Where Poussin placed a skull in his grove – ‘Et in Arcadia Ego’ – Finlay, neoclassically, finds there a camouflaged Nazi tank.’ Mark Scroggins, ‘The Piety of Terror: Ian Hamilton Finlay, the Modernist Fragment, and the Neo-classical Sublime’, http://webdelsol.com/FLASHPOINT/ihfinlay.htm [DL.16.2.99]. Shepherd noted how important gardens and parks have been in the urban history. Paul Shepard, Man in the Landscape: A Historic View of the Esthetics of Nature, (1967) A&M Press, 1991, 2nd Ed.

[22] Lawrence Buell, ‘An Exchange on Thoreau’,  The New York Review of Books, 2 December 1999, in response to Leo Marx. http://www.walden.org/scholarship/m/Marx_Leo/990624_NYRB.htm. [DL 27.2.2001]

[23] Leo Marx,’ The Struggle Over Thoreau – Pt 1’, The New York Review of Books, 24 June 1999. ibid.

[24] He goes into detail on horses hardly used on Roman farms while ignoring the donkey and mule. ‘He tells us that a pair of nine year old oxen are best for pulling the plough, but not where to get them, what to do if they fall sick, or when to discard them.’ Stephanie Nelson, God and the Land, OUP, 1998, p50. Nelson insists the text is not a manual, ‘Hesiod is not teaching us how to farm. He is teaching us what the cycle of the year, with its balance of summer and winter, of good and evil, of profit and risk, of anxiety and relaxation, implies about the will of Zeus.’ p57. Hesiod’s focus is on crops. Lines 427-465 shares the Sumerian advice on having a spare plough, and recommends holm oak as the strongest to make the ploughs. ‘Using hesiod’s advice on time for ploughing/ Begin thy plowing / When the Plaiedes go down to their rest,/ Begin thy ploughing / 40 days are they under seabord,’ Ezra Pound, Canto XLVII,

[25] Stanley Lombardo (trans.), Hesiod: Works and Days and Theogony. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1993

[26] Cicero defined the concept as: ‘We sow corn, we plant trees, we fertilize the soil by irrigation, we confine the rivers and straighten or divert their courses. In short, by means of our hands we try to create as it were a second nature within the natural world.’ From Cicero, De natura deorum, quoted and translated by John Dixon Hunt, “The Idea of the Garden, and the Three Natures,” in Zum Naturbegriff der Gegenwart, Stuttgart, 1993, p312.

[27] Unlike Lucretius, Virgil viewed the Gods as close and benevolent. In Georgics 1. 231-258 he discusses the climatic zones after Lucretius (DRN, 5,195-224). Both agree not much good arable land available in the known world. Virgil takes this as a sign of the gods’ benevolence, Lucretius as proof there is no divine providence. The Georgics were written as Rome rebuilt its political life and consolidated its power around the emperor God Octavian. John Dryden’s 1697 translation of Virgil’s Georgics, continues its imperial agenda. Virgil’s epitaph on his tomb at Naples sums up the progression, ‘I sang of pastures, of cultivated fields, of rulers.’ In his Ecologues, (c37BC) man fulfilled his needs and became part of nature through poetry. Even Ezra Pound reiterated his advice on ploughing in the Cantos.

[28] The farmer must not only hard work but, like an Epicurean, learn scientific facts about nature (l.50-53). The poem suggests contributing to the State not retreating from it, hails Octavian as the protective divinity for farmers (and for poets) and celebrates the land’s productivity and history. The first book portrays natural violence and the tedious labour of farmwork, the second depicts man in harmony with nature but in the third farmers impose order on nature. The horse is broken to the bit, the oxen to the yoke, sheep and goats are led to pasture. Virgil’s ambition led to him retelling Homer: I am he who once tuned my song on a slender reed, / then, leaving the woodland, constrained the neighbouring / fields to serve the husbandman, however grasping – a work / welcome to farmers; but now of Mars’ bristling (arms and the man I sing).’ These lines prefaced Renaissance editions of The Aeneid possibly discarded lines by Virgil or by someone else. Or as Spenser put it in ‘The Faerie Queene’- Lo I the man, whose Muse whilome did maske, / As time her taught, in lowly Shepheards weeds, / Am now enforst a far vnfitter taske, / For trumpets sterne to chaunge mine Oaten reeds, / And sing of Knights and Ladies gentle deeds. Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, bk. 1, Proem, st. 1, ll. 1-5, Ed., A. C. Hamilton (London, 1977, p27. Virgil’s material is in common with Cato’s and Varro’s De Re Rustica.

[29] It was said to have been commissioned by Maecenas, patron of literature as propagandas for the Emperor Augustus.

[30] Essays of John Dryden. Selected and Ed., by Ker, W. P. 2 vols. Oxford, 1900, i. 16 f.

[31] See Alexander Dalzell, ibid p105. Addison in his introduction to Dryden’s translation of the Georgics, gave praise, ‘He delivers the meanest of his precepts with a kind of grandeur, he breaks the clods and tosses the dung about with an air of gracefulness.’ Joseph Addison, The Miscellaneous Works of Joseph Addison, A. C. Guthkelch, 1914, ii. 9

[32] Joseph Addison, ‘An Essay on the Georgics’ (1697), in The Works of Virgil: containing his Pastorals, Georgics and Aeneis, translated into English Verse by Mr Dryden, 5th edn., 3 vols, London, 1721, 1:210

[33] David Duff, ‘Antididacticism as a Contested Principle in Romantic Aesthetics’,  Eighteenth-Century Life, 25:2, 2001, p260-1,

[34] Compare to Clare who wrote from being close to the land, John Barrell comments on how ‘opposed are foreground and distance in Clare’s poetry.’ p167 ref  Constable and Turner both admired The Seasons that helped fashion (along with the new English style of landscape gardening and painting) an interest in natural environments and nature poems. Thomson, in fact, was influenced by Claude’s ways of seeing landscape. Lines of some poems would describe the bands of landscape from foreground to mid to the distant horizon.

[35] These includes David Malloch, a Scottish friend, who after criticism changed his name to Mallet and wrote a long descriptive poet, An Excursion (1728). Another was the colourful poet (blackmailer and murder) Richard Savage, The Wanderer (1729).

[36] James Thomson, Preface to Winter. Thomson’s Seasons, ed. Zippel, O. Berlin, 1908. Containing the original text with various later readings, historically arranged.

[37] William Langland, ‘Piers Plowman’.

[38] Tim Chilcott, A Real World & Doubting Mind: A critical Study of the Poetry of John Clare, Hull UP, 1985, p23.

[39] English Literature in History 1780-1830: Pastoral and Politics, London: Hutchinson, 1983, p 77 See also Roger Sales, John Clare : a literary life, New York: Palgrave, 2002.

[40] E.P. Thompson, ‘Bicentenary Thoughts’, John Clare Society Journal, 12, 1993, p31.

[41] ‘The wind was furious and we thought we must have returned. We first rested in the large Boathouse, then under a furze Bush opposite Mr Clarkson’s. Saw the plough going in the field. The wind seized our breath the Lake was rough. There was a Boat by itself floating in the middle of the Bay below Water Millock. We rested again in the Water Millock Lane. The hawthorns are black and green, the birches here and there greenish but there is yet more of purple to be seen on the Twigs. We got over into a field to avoid some cows—people working, a few primroses by the roadside, woodsorrel flower, the anemone, scentless violets, strawberries, and that starry yellow flower which Mrs C. calls pile wort. When we were in the woods beyond Gowbarrow park we saw a few daffodils close to the water side . . .’ from Journals of Dorothy Wordsworth: The Alfoxden Journal 1798, The Grasmere Journals 1800-1803, Ed., Mary Moorman, New York: Oxford UP, 1971, p109-110. In terms of Carlson’s argument you may want to know that the daffodils she saw are an endangered species, large rogue hybrids are taking over England.

[42] Dorothy Wordsworth started to keep her journal in the late 1790s, recording walks, visits, conversations and the natural world. Her Alfoxden Journal, 1798 and Grasmere Journals 1800-03 were published posthumously. She wrote her Journals ‘because I shall give William pleasure by it’, and her observations provided the concrete details of many of her brother’s poems See William & Dorothy Wordsworth, Home at Grasmere: The Journal of Dorothy Wordsworth and the Poems of William Wordsworth, Ed. Colette Clark, Penguin Classic, 1995. She wrote about thirty poems composed sporadically from 1805 to 1840.

[43] Marjorie Perloff, ‘Response to Kinzie’ Salmagundi 67, Summer 1985, p148.

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