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Home » » Give an account of the pastoral elements in Arnold's poetry.

The term "Pastoral" is derived from the Latin "pastor" which means a shepherd. Pastoral poetry, therefore deals with loves and lives of shepherds and shepherdesses, and other such country folk. The setting of such poem is in the countryside which is idealized with the natural beauty. It is simple and the poetic expression uses a set of conventions that has varied little over the centuries. Sometimes it is used symbolically. However, the poems "The Scholar Gipsy" and "Thyrsis" by Matthew Arnold are two examples of pastoral poetry.

Arnold creates a pastoral or rural setting in "The Scholar Gipsy". The poem is set in the Oxford countryside which is vividly brought home to us, and it is made more beautiful and enchanting by the modifying colours of imagination. It has laid a spell upon an English landscape and made it an enchanted country. Green muffled Cumner hills and sloping pastures bright with sunshine and flowers, stripling Thames at Bab-lock-hithe, with pleasure boats, Wychwood bowers bright with flowers, the Fyfield elm where maidens dance in May, flooded fields, the causeway and the wooden bridge, Bagley Wood where gipsies pitch their tents, sparking Thames and Godstow Bridge, abandoned lasher where rustics bathe, constitute a real landscape around Oxford, made lovely with the magic touch, of poet's imagination. It forms an ideal setting for the spiritual presence of the Scholar Gipsy.

 " Thyris" is set in the countryside. In the poem the speaker longs to linger around in the Hinkeseys, by the path beside Childworth Farm, on the western hill where the elm tree stands, the meadows of Sytham flats. And he supposes him self and his friends to be shepherds. The shepherds, the field, the pipe and all other paraphernalia are creations of the poet's fancy. They are often symbolic, standing for some else or something else. The pasture is the university countryside, the shepherds Arnold and Clough, the flock their common pursuits, and the Shepherd pipes their poetic gifts. He also revels in the description of the evening, of the mellow afternoon, of the moonlit night and the perfumed gardens. He mentions the names of flowers with loving tenderness. The cowslips, the daffodils, the white and purple fritillaries, the primroses, the orchises and jasmines exude the sweetest smell for the poet as well as for the readers. 

Actually pastoral is in form and elegiac in tone. The poems, "Thysris" and "The Scholar Gipsy" are abidingly charming on account of their glittering veil of sadness, the vividness and beauty of their pictures of Nature and the magic spell cast by their haunting lines over Oxford and its neighbouring hills and fields.


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