“For Collins, nature provides more food for the spirit than food for the body.”
How far do you agree with this view of Ode to Evening?
1. Personification of Evening as a presence, a person, a living Being.
2. The poem is a hymn, a prayer, a petition to this presence.
3. It suggests the impossibility (or perhaps the difficulties) of capturing and securing a lasting experience of union with this presence.
4. Edmund Burke’s concept of ‘the sublime’ is very helpful in understanding Collins’ spiritual quest: it is a journey in which we experience, simultaneously, both the disturbing, unsettling effect of evening and its calming, soothing presence.
Compare this poem with: Tintern Abbey; Paradise Lost.
As promised, here is a list of critical terminology for LITB3 Elements of the Pastoral. Read it. Know it. Use it. Be it.
Antipastoral: The opposite of the pastoral, in terms of genre. Antipastoral texts are designed to subvert and undermine the ideas and illusions upon which the pastoral genre is founded.
Arcadia:The mountain region found in the Peloponnese, Greece, a place depicted in classical literature as an ideal and rural haven populated by shepherds and shepherdesses tending their flocks and being free from the stresses and strains of ‘real life’.
Bucolic: Another term for ‘pastoral’.
Court/courtly: Befitting a royal court, hence, the opposite of ‘country’/’rustic’.
Doric: Another term for ‘rustic’.
Ecologue: A short poem, usually taking the form of a dialogue between two pastoral characters.
Edenic: Of or pertaining to the Garden of Eden.
Elegiac: Characteristic of an elegy (see below).
Elegy: A poem of mourning, similar to a lament, for a deceased individual or a tragic event. Often, pastoral elegies lament the death of a shepherd, or, in later versions, the death of the pastoral idyll itself.
Georgic: A poem about rural life which instructs the reader in agricultural matters.
Golden Age: A time of idyll, often containing qualities such as prestige, wealth and power.
Idealised: Someone or something that is exalted to a state of perfection.
Idyll: An adjective, used to describe a place or state of tranquility and happiness. To quote the AQA textbook: ‘In contrast to the elegy, an idyll presents a positive vision, and one that is attainable’. Theocritus wrote ‘Idylls’.
Idyllic: An adjective, used to describe something with the qualities of an idyll.
Lament: An expression of grief or sorrow, often sung, for the loss of a person, state or thing.
Lyric: I love this word! It means song-like, melodic, and often expressing intense feeling. Some of you often write that a line of poetry ‘flows’. What you mean is that it is ‘lyrical’. (Writing that a poem ‘flows’ is rather horrid, I think. Don’t do it.)
Peasant:In pastoral literature, a country-dweller, or a ‘rustic’.
Picaresque: A type of pastoral narrative, typically consisting of a journey made by a disreputable servant and his master. During the course of the journey, a series of unfortunate events take place.
Provincial: Within the pastoral genre, another term for ‘rustic’.
Romantic / Romanticised: A text that is designed to capture and evoke intense emotions.
Rural:Pertaining to the countryside.
Rustic: As a noun, a ‘rustic’ is a countryside-dweller, who is unsophisticated. As an adjective, it means something that is characteristic of rural life.
Sentimental: That which prioritises feelings and emotions over reason and the rational.
Swain: A man who is the lover of a young woman, or, more generally, a ‘country lad’.
Urban: Pertaining to the city, hence, the opposite of ‘rural’.
It occurred to me about five minutes ago that you read a fair amount of pastoral literature last year, but we weren’t really thinking about it then. What about Act 4 of ‘The Winter’s Tale’, for example? (You studied it for LITB2 Dramatic Genres.) Or some of those Thomas Hardy poems? And then earlier this year, when we were considering metaphor for LITB4, we looked at Keats’ ‘Ode to Autumn’. Remember?
I mean to say. They’re positively pastoral. I suggest you dig them out and have another read. You never know, you might discover some ‘elements’ lurking about.