Literature Word of the Week – Pastoral

26 Weeks to a Better Understanding of Literature

I’m aiming to improve my knowledge around all things English literature, and to help me do this I thought I’d start by learning a new literary word every week,  A-Z.  Although knowing me it might not be in any alphabetic order.  I might treat this more like a list on random shuffle.

So, I find a word that relates to literature and research the following on it:

  • How does it sound?
  • What does it mean?
  • Who invented it (if known)
  • When did the word come about?
  • Example to be used in a sentence (preferable in spoken form).


Week 5:


There was me thinking that the word pastoral was only concerned with clergy and churches.  It seems however that is also used in literature:

A form of escape literature concerned with country pleasures, which is found in poetry, drama, and prose fiction.  Wordsworth taught men to seek comfort in a Nature endowed with visionary power.  The pastoral in its traditional form died with the rise of Romanticism. – The Oxford Companion to English Literature

While this form of literatire dies out in the early 18th C, it actually began much earlier with examples appearing in Idylls of Theocritus, the Greek poet from 3rd Centuary BC, depicting ‘idyllic’ rural life.

I quite like the idea that literature can be grouped by such rural settings.  I think of anywhere the most creative places are indeed outside, with nature.  No man made structure could ever take my breath away the way mountain ranges, lakes and woods can.  To capture that in a writing form is the next logical step.  Incorporating life within rural places though are slightly trickier but are none the less, examples of societies in themselves, which indeed can be both positive and negative in their depictions.

Some of my creative writing definitely has pastoral tendencies to it but I think perhaps poetry captures it most warmly in this context.

Who better to express pastoral poetry than Wordsworth himself, who makes England sound like the most beautiful place in the world.  In this poem called Michael he shows us insights into an ageing Shepard and his son over in the most beautiful of all places – the Lake District.

I have only included some of the poem below.  For further reading head to Poem Hunter

Michael by William Wordsworth

f from the public way you turn your steps
Up the tumultuous brook of Greenhead Ghyll,
You will suppose that with an upright path
Your feet must struggle; in such bold ascent
The pastoral mountains front you, face to face.
But, courage! for around that boisterous brook
The mountains have all opened out themselves,
And made a hidden valley of their own.
No habitation can be seen; but they
Who journey thither find themselves alone
With a few sheep, with rocks and stones, and kites
That overhead are sailing in the sky.
It is in truth an utter solitude;

Have you ever seen the film Ben Hur from beginning to end in one sitting?  


3 responses to “Literature Word of the Week – Pastoral

  1. Pingback: Literature Word of the Week – Wertherism | The Forget-me-Not Cultivation Blog·

  2. Pingback: Literature Word of the Week – Oxymoron | The Forget-me-Not Cultivation Blog·

  3. Pingback: Literature Word of the Week – Utopia | The Forget-me-Not Cultivation Blog·

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