Nature And Country Life In The 18th Century

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One of the most recurrent topics in the English poetry of the 18th c. was nature and the country life. Poets approached this topic in two different ways: from an idealised and picturesque point of view (like in the poetry of T. Gray, S. Davies, R. Burns, E. Gardner and W. Wordsworth) and from a realistic position, also labelled as anti-pastoral, which was a reaction against the artificiality of this pastoral representation of the countryside (this is exemplified in the poetry of S. Duck, G. Crabbe and O. Goldsmith). The poets of the first group were called the educated poets, because their poetry was considered superior and sublime, while the ones from the second group were the self-educated or peasant poets, whose poetry was more in touch with social and economical problems. The origins of the pastoral tradition can be found in the Classics (Virgil, Horace and Theocritus among others) and this kind of poetry represented the country life as an idealistic place, which was associated with some connotations such as purity, simplicity, innocence, idyll… In the 18th c., there was a rediscovery of nature, identified as the picturesque, which considered the landscape as a scene to admire. According to Watson, the picturesque “became of great importance as a method of approaching nature, with a genuine and lively pleasure in the country and in views” (Watson 1970: 11). This tendency idealised the scene because the observer wanted to improve the landscape by creating a work of art.

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