History and Development of the Conventions and Traditions of the Pastoral Elegy Culminating in and Including an Analysis of Milton's Lycidas
Date of Award
Master of Arts
The influence of the Greek and Latin Classics on the literature of Modern Europe is no where so definitely illustrated as in the history of pastoral poetry. According to George Norlin, "The haunting melodies of the Greek pastoral and their graceful echoes in the Eclogues of Vergil have produced a charm so enticing to later poets in this field that not only the general structure of the Classical models, but the turn of phrase, style, and musical names they give to their rustic characters, have persisted through centuries of pastoral song; even to the time of John Milton and in some instances even later."1 Milton too was affected by the haunting verse of the pastoral so much so that one of his most striking efforts at verse, Lycidas, has been rewarded by being proclaimed one of the greatest of all pastoral types, the elegy. One does not fail to note, however, that Lycidas does not conform to the entire set of conventions which characterized the pastoral elegies of earlier ages.
Accordingly, one wonders when and with whom did this set of conventions originate and whether or not a poem can be rightfully labeled a pastoral elegy if it does not conform to these conventions.The problem, therefore, is to trace the origin and development of the conventions of the pastoral elegy to discover where, when and by whom they were first used, and to analyze Milton's Lycidas in terms of these established conventions to discover, if possible, how it merits its great popularity as a pastoral elegy.
This problem is significant because the pastoral elegy, as a type of poetry, declined after Milton, so much so that few poets, if any, have used this form in recent years. It is therefore significant to understand how the form developed so that one might possibly establish reasons for its decline, as well as analyze Lycidas, its most noted poem.
1George Norlin, "The Conventions of the Pastoral Elegy," American Journal of Philology, XXXII, 294-95 (1911).
Anne L. Campbell
Prairie View A&M College
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Date of Digitization
John B Coleman Library
City of Publication
Jackson, O. M. (1957). History and Development of the Conventions and Traditions of the Pastoral Elegy Culminating in and Including an Analysis of Milton's Lycidas. Retrieved from https://digitalcommons.pvamu.edu/pvamu-theses/1361