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“ I wonder, papa, that no one has ever written a poem upon the pleasures connected with rural life,” said Clara.
“ You are mistaken, my dear; many of our most popular writers have selected this very subject as one peculiarly adapted to poetry. Milton, our great epic bard, thought it no degradation, even to his surpassing genius, to celebrate the pleasures of the country. In fact, he describes, in his L'Allegro, very much such a scene as that we are now wit nessing.
Sometimes walking, not unseen,
Russet lawns, and fallows gray,
Hard by a cottage chimney smokes,
“Ha! ha! this is descriptive poetry, I suppose,” said Clara. ." It is, indeed, a very good description of the scenery by which we are now surrounded : I wonder how it was that Milton happened to describe our prospect so exactly. To be sure the music of the mower and his scythe, and the ploughman intent upon his labour, and the milkmaid returning from her daily occupation, are no such very uncommon occurrences; but, .: Towers and battlements it sees
Bosomed high in tufted trees,'
is so very natural, that I could almost fancy Milton had viewed this self-same landscape before he wrote that poem."
“ Your conjecture is right; this retired hamlet was once the occasional residence of Milton, our illustrious epic bard. It is called Forest Hill, because it was formerly contiguous to a forest which has since been cut down. The poet's house was on the further side of those old yew-trees, close to the church yonder, but it has long since been pulled down, and the ground upon which it stood now belongs to my farm."
“Well, papa, I think Milton must have enjoyed himself in that delightful spota spot just fit for a poet, at least if poets are fond of retirement !” said Clara. “I wonder whether his house was overgrown with roses, and vines, and honey-suckles, as most of the cottages are."
“ I think we may conclude so," said Mr. C., “ from his description of the lark bidding him good-morrow :
• To hear the lark begin his flight,
Or the twisted eglantine.' « Thus you have this morning walked over classic ground,” continued Mr. C., “ ground once familiar to Milton, the most consummate scholar of his time, as well as the finest epic poet our country ever produced; a poet, Clara, whose name is deservedly entitled to a place among the illustrious bards of antiquity.” . The children were extremely pleased with this little incident, which gave rise to many agreeable reflections; and, after a variety of questions and observations,
Clara inquired whether the poetry, descriptive of rural life, such, for instance, as that her father had repeated, was classed under any particular head, or merely ranked under the general term descriptive.
“ Poetry which exhibits the tranquillity and happiness of rural life, is called pastoral poetry,” said Mr. C. “Milton's L'Allegro is, therefore, ranked under this head. As, I believe, I have told you, in a preceding conversation, descriptive poetry is not any particular species or form of composition, but enters largely into different sorts. Pastoral poetry, therefore, may, as this does, contain descriptions; and, indeed, its pecuculiar characteristic is to describe the simplicity and innocence of rural or pastoral occupations.” .
“What is the derivation of the word pastoral, papa ?” said Clara.