Pastoral Poetry vs. Cavalier Poets

Pastoral poetry is derived from the word pastor, meaning shepherd in Latin. It refers to poetry that idealizes nature, shepherds, and provincial or rustic life. Unlike pastoral poetry, which was a popular form of poetry in ancient Greece, Elizabethan and Victorian times, Cavalier poets supported King Charles I during the 17th century. King Charles loved art and drama, encouraging the creation of poetry which embraced beauty, love and life.

Pastoral Poetry Themes

Examples of pastoral poetry come from as far back as the third century B.C. and are found in both classical Greek and Latin works. For example, Theocritus’ “Idylls” is a collection of pastoral poems written for the sophisticated urban citizens of Alexandria about rural life in Sicily. Pastoral poetry focuses on a number of themes. These include politics, the value of poetry, death and mourning and love and seduction. Political pastoral poetry tends to criticize society or a particular politician, and it compares the corruption that exists within the city or a court with the idealized life found in the country.

Important Aspect of Pastoral Poetry

A common technique in pastoral poetry is the eclogue, which is a conversation between two shepherds. The eclogue may be a dialogue between two shepherds about a lost friend, a particular woman or a relevant event. It may also be a singing competition between two shepherds who try to outdo one another to prove who is the better poet or a conversation between a male and a female shepherd in which the male tries to seduce the female.

Cavalier Poets and Aims

One side of the English Civil War, the Puritans, rejected moderation and perpetuated religious intolerance and extremism, and the other side, the Royalists, supported the King. The poets who supported the monarchy aimed to create poems that embraced life, culture and the finer things. Inspired by writers like Ben Jonson and John Donne, Cavalier poets like Richard Lovelace, Robert Herrick, Sir John Suckling, and Thomas Carew wrote poems that had elegance, a degree of raciness, wit and sophistication.

Important Aspects of Cavalier Poetry

Cavalier poetry was a celebration of the minor pleasures of life. Cavalier poets did not dwell on religion or philosophy but instead celebrated everyday life. They embraced the casual and the affectionate, and they distrusted anything that was too intense or dogmatic. Cavalier poetry treated life and poetry cavalierly, not focusing too much on poetic conventions like structure or verse. Furthermore, these poets accepted and promoted the ideal of the Renaissance Gentleman, a man who was a lover, a musician, a poet, a soldier and a man of affairs, all in one.

About the Author

Kate Prudchenko has been a writer and editor for five years, publishing peer-reviewed articles, essays, and book chapters in a variety of publications including Immersive Environments: Future Trends in Education and Contemporary Literary Review India. She has a BA and MS in Mathematics, MA in English/Writing, and is completing a PhD in Education.

Photo Credits
  • NA/ Images