chapter  5
30 Pages

The anti-pastoral tradition

The Victorian poet Matthew Arnold, in his long poem ‘Thyrsis’ (1867), mourns the death of his poet friend Arthur Clough by describing how, in their youth together, they roamed the fields outside Oxford in the roles of Sicilian shepherds, playing on Dorian pipes and amazing the local farm labourers who may not have realised that they were working in an Oxfordshire Arcadia:

Of course, Clough was Thyrsis – ‘for Corydon no rival now!’ – and in the manner of a pastoralisation he simply ‘of his own will went away’ (Clough did not commit suicide).