Perspectives on the Pastoral
Pastoral begins with Theocritus remembering his Sicilian boyhood from the perspective of the over-ripe court of Alexandria in the first half of the third century. In the modern sense, pastoral is a very broad and very general term far removed from the more specific and distinct meaning attributed to it in earlier times. In confronting the literary tradition of pastoral then, in opposing to it a world of contemporary or just-outgrown pastoral reality, William Wordsworth and some of his immediate predecessors like George Crabbe in effect draw a line, between the classical and the modern pastoral. In modern pastoral, the figure of the shepherd, whether idealized or real, vanishes entirely, his place being taken by some relatively simple figure, sometimes the worker, more usually the child. Apart from the question of historical demarcations evident in the lines quoted from Wordsworth, there is another matter evident there, of the forms that pastoral takes that will bear some scrutiny.