The three tools of pastoral— Nature, simplicity and complexity

I cannot believe this course is about to wrap up. I have learned a lot from this class that I never would have learnt in many ages. For my final free form article I decided to talk about Blake’s creativeness and its connection to nature, simplicity and complexity; These  contradictions that summarize what pastoral is ultimately about. Blake articulates a series of peoms that represent the fundamental movement from the world of innocence to the reality of experience of every pastoral life. Particularly his peom called the Holy Thursday has both an innocence and experience edge that helps us explore the two unique perspectives of the world we live in. His contrast of the innocence and experience is very related to the simplicity versus complexity, where the poems of innocence is so perfect and simple and the peoms of experience display some sense of fear and agony—two indications of complexity. The Songs of Innocence portrays acceptance and naïve perception of the world through the eyes of children. The idea of serene pastoral lifestyle that is free of worry and contempt. The Songs of Experience portray the desire to question things and find the answers to things in life. Particularly to find ways to explain what has happened.  The Songs of Experience contrast the Songs of Innocence in the way that the songs of experience show signs of wisdom and intellect that is greater than that of a child. There is a slow movement that occurs when we grow that we move from just accepting what we see to fighting, to understand it deeper. Whenever we try to explain these occurences of simplicity and complexity, most times we fall into using nature as a descriptive tool. We sure love having the best of all worlds. Even looking at the peoms, Blake shows strong connection to nature and particularly uses it to distinguish the calmness vs anxiety in the innocence and experience peoms. He says in the songs of innocence Holy Thursday. 

’Twas on a Holy Thursday their innocent faces clean
The children walking two & two in red & blue & green
Grey headed beadles walk’d before with wands as white as snow
Till into the high dome of Pauls they like Thames waters flow

O what a multitude they seem’d these flowers of London town
Seated in companies they sit with radiance all their own
The hum of multitudes was there but multitudes of lambs
Thousands of little boys & girls raising their innocent hands

He uses snow, water, flower and lambs to describe the sweet soft touch of the innocence time, and these elements are very widely known as good pure products of the earth. Snow most times used as a representation of peaceful birth of christ during the festive period of christmas, the flowing waters usually represent eternally refreshment both to plant and to animals, the flowers represent fruitful outcome of the earth and lambs represent peace and serenity. These components of nature helps the author express the peacefulness of innocence and purely connects it closely to the pastoral.

While in the songs of experience he says,

Is this a holy thing to see

(…)And their sun never shine,

And their fields are bleak and bare,

And their ways are fill’d with thorns:

It is eternal winter there.

Blake once again uses nature to describe the complexity of the songs of experience. The sun is known to be the source of heat and energy, without it, life may not be as suitable o earth. Therefore, he uses it to show the intensity of sadness and poverty in this land. He talks about the field on which animals are grazed and crops are grown but unfortunately in this land, it is rather bare and bleak. And he also talks about the presence of thorns on the land which shows lack of water in the land. The use of nature in description of experiences and innocence is very important in distinguishing the simplicity and complexity of the pastoral. So seeing how important nature plays a role in describing a plot in the pastoral, Is a literature without description of nature truly a pastoral? It really goes back to the question in Terry Gilford’s article, Is there pastoral in 20th century contemporary literature? This question may be partly answered by Philip Roth’s book American pastoral, which does not use nature in its descriptions but still elaborates on simplicity and complexity. But still all these elements seem like if they do not work together, then it may not be achieving the intended goal. What is your take on this?


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