The Golden Age
The human creature's universal remembrance of a better time finds its chief expression in the myth of the golden age. The golden age establishes both an economic order and a personal freedom which are the twin parts of a single complex of ideas. In the golden age, human life is conceived in terms of the contemplative and the recreative rather than in terms of the active; it is devoted to pleasure and virtuous idleness rather than motivated by ambition. In a word, life in the golden age is pastoral. To associate pastoral with the golden age is inevitably to associate heroic poetry with the world of degeneration. In looking to the rural world for an escape from civilization, the poets isolate the aspect of the golden age that the erotic poets wholly ignore its freedom from tumult and strife. Time and Nature are the two great abstractions with which serious pastoral art is concerned.