Pastoral poetry, eclogue, and idyll are all terms that relate very closely
to Stoppard's Arcadia. It is vital to note that the definition sources
vary greatly on these literary terms. I will attempt to accurately summarize
them as best I can.
- definition from Rocio
Further details on farce as a genre
- Pastoral poetry
- is literature that attempts to idealize the simple life of the shepherd
and the country folk. This poetry tries to compare the innocence and serenity
of the country life to the misery and corruption of the city life. Usually,
pastoral literature shows the moral, social, and literary views of the
author. It is often written as a conversation between shepherds. Often,
the Golden Age is referred to, when humans lived contently on the fruits
of the earth without cultivation. This type of poetry was originated by
the Greek poet Theocritus in the 3rd century. Boccaccio's Ameto was
also a pioneering work in pastoral poetry, which was later revived in 1501
by Sannazzaro's Arcadia.
- The idyll
- is a pastoral poem that stresses the picturesque aspects of the country
life. These are usually fairly brief. If the idyll is longer, it is most
likely a narrative poem that is highly finished and descriptive of pastoral
scenes. It is often an idealized story of happy innocence in a form of
pastoral verse. The idyll was also originated by Theocritus' Idylls.
His work was later imitated by others, including Virgil.
- The eclogue
- is also a type of pastoral poetry, which is almost always in the form
of dialogue between shepherds or a soliloquy. It has evolved over the centuries
into what it is today. Originally, in Virgil's form, these poems followed
a strict technique that was derived from the Idylls of Theocritus.
The poems were in one of five forms; a shepherd singing match, in rustic
dialogue, in a dirge or lamentation for a dead shepherd, a love song of
courtship, or a eulogy. These poems were mainly written by Dante and Boccaccio,
who were imitating Virgil. During the
Renaissance, the term eclogue was applied to any verse on pastoral themes,
such as Spencer's The Shepherd's Calendar, as well as Barclay's
Eclogues which was written in 1515. During this time, it was also
used for veiled satire, especially against the corruption of the clergy
, as well as the political figures and those responsible for the neglect
of poetry. In the 18th century this term was strictly used to refer to
the farm life. Modern eclogues have turned into political and social pastorals,
such as in Frost's Build Soil, and Tate and MacNeice's poems. Some
sources refer to the eclogue as the form of the poem and pastoral as the
- Pastoral poetry
- is vital as it relates to Arcadia, as well as Virgil's
connection to Arcadia.
- The play is set in a large country home that is set apart from other
distractions. The title Arcadia itself means any place of rural
peace and simplicity. The setting is very peaceful, but we often find the
characters within it in utter chaos. On page 12 of Arcadia, Lady
Croom talks about how "Sidley Park is already a picture, and a most
amiable picture too. The slopes are green and gentle. The trees are companionably
grouped at intervals that show them to advantage. The rill is a serpentine
ribbon unwound from the lake peaceably contained by meadows on which the
right amount of sheep are tastefully arranged-in short, it is nature as
God intended, and I can say with the painter, 'Et in Arcadia ego!' 'Here
I am in Arcadia'." Later, Septimus corrects her use of the translation.
Earlier in the conversation, Lady Croom had discussed how Noakes tried
to change the "familiar pastoral refinement of an Englishman's garden"
to "ruins where there was never a house," and how all of the
parts of her garden she loved the most had been changed into something
horrible. Later, on page 27 of the play, Hannah talked about Noakes' changes
to the estate's garden. She talked about how " A century of intellectual
rigour turned in on itself. A mind in chaos suspected of genius. In a setting
of cheap thrills and false emotion. The history of the garden says it all,
beautifully. There's an engraving of Sidley Park in 1730 that makes you
want to weep. Paradise in the age of reason. By 1760 everything had gone-the
topiary, pools and terraces, fountains, and avenue of limes-the whole sublime
geometry was ploughed under by
Capability Brown. The grass went from the doorstep to the horizon and
the best box hedge in Derbyshire was dug up for the ha-ha so that fools
could pretend they were living in God's countryside. And then Richard Noakes
came in to bring God up to date." Every character agreed that Noakes
had modernized the estate from the pastoral form that they had all loved.
These literary terms are sometimes confusing and hard to distinguish
between, yet they are tied very closely to Stoppard's play, Arcadia.
Page by Laura Anderson
Current Literary Terms; A Concise Dictionary, A.F. Scott; St. Marin's
Press, New York, 1967. p.86, 138, 212-213
Dictionary of World Literary Terms, Joseph T. Shipley, The Writer, Inc.
Boston, 1970. p.93, 155-156, 232-233
Benet's 3rd Edition Reader's Encyclopedia; Edited by Katherine Baker Siepmann,
Harper and Row Publishers, New York, 1987. p.288, 475, 741
Merriam Webster's Encyclopedia of Literature, Merriam-Webster, Inc., Publishers
Springfield, MA; 1995. p.363, 579, 862-863
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