The Multivalence of Pastoral

“Is all that we see or seem but a dream within a dream?”

-Edgar Allen Poe

The pastoral genre is one which simultaneously praises and elates in the simplistic Eden-like landscape of the surrounding countryside while condemning those things “cultivated”. The most obvious commonality amongst all things pastoral would be the adherence to and a lamenting for a previous utopia, one not riddled with the corruption and denigration of present circumstances. However, the most pertinent aspect of these poems is their evocative nature. Emotions play a central role to Virgil’s Eclogues, and with good reason. Historical backdrop aside, the thing that makes the works of Virgil’s Eclogues and Shakespeare’s The Tempest transcend time are the commonplace feelings of loss and nostalgia.

Beyond these elements, there seems to be, whether by design or by chance, dualistic approaches to the readings. Paul Alper refers to this concept asĀ  “representative”, where there is a two-tiered level of what might be called the “reality” of the poem/s. Alper offers this as a clarification of his use of “representative” in his article entitled “What is Pastoral?”: Continue reading