Excerpt from Shepherd Songs of Elizabethan England; Workaday Shepherds, Holiday Shepherds, Shepherds 'Passionate': A Pastoral Garland
Pastoral poetry which originating with Theocritus passed to Italy, to France, and thence to England, is an interesting study, but too copious a subject to enter upon here. I have made no attempt whatever to compile a complete collection of pastoral songs of the Elizabethan period; but include chiefly those that refer to the shepherds' "trade" or that are irresistible on account of their melodious appeal. Mr. James Gardner (b. 1840, d. 1900) of all shepherds perhaps the best qualified to speak, once said, "A shepherd's life, properly understood, is the richest in the world;" and again, "A young shepherd's lovemaking is nature's purest poetry." The difference between the shepherd of the Elizabethan poets and that of the twentieth century may not be so great as we imagine. At all events the pastoral life of England's golden age, as described in her shepherd songs, was founded on a real, and indeed a beautiful actuality, not a mere figment of the poetic imagination.
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