Published:  12:40 AM, 01 December 2023

Poetry on Pastoral Vistas

Poetry on Pastoral Vistas
The sights and symphonies of pastoral nature have been picked up by a large number of poets of different countries for addressing their poetic themes. Paddy fields, crops, meadows, rivers, farmlands and huts have come up in the forms of poetic illustrations in countless verses across the world since time immemorial.

As far as a poetic approach to nature is concerned in American literature, Robert Frost deserves to be named with high emphasis. He envisioned nature from the viewpoints of both a pastoral man and that of an envoy of urban life. We find him looking at the blissful and engrossing variety of colors and resplendence of nature with an unfathomable sense of amazement. Simultaneously, he is also found not coming to a long halt to marvel at the splendor of nature. He believes in moving forward and keeping up the pace of life. His most appraised poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” ends in the following way:

The woods are lovely, dark and deep
But I have promises to keep
And miles to go before I sleep
And miles to go before I sleep.

The above lines speak of the poet’s profound leaning towards the mesmeric beauty of nature that encloses him but he does not intend to stay in the middle of nature for too long because some worldly callings are waiting for his care and heed. Life is too short to view with utmost satisfaction the beautiful things we love most on earth as life wants us to take care of some other pursuits too. Nature is adorable, but adoring nature does not mean to make us oblivious of our mundane responsibilities.

In another poem titled “The Road Not Taken” Robert Frost approaches pastoral nature through the lines stated below:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

The lines cited above once again allude to the poet’s bonds with nature through a forest where two roads digressed from one another to two different directions. Both the roads went ahead through the woods but Robert Frost walked along the one on which he found less foot marks.

It makes Robert Frost comparable to his transcendental ancestors who fostered the idea of not jumping on popular band wagons. In this context we can refer to a line from Ralph Waldo Emerson, one of the pioneers of American Age of Enlightenment, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” Opening up new horizons of thoughts and visions was valued by both Ralph Waldo Emerson and Robert Frost, according to the cited lines.

Nobel Laureate Irish poet Seamus Heaney is also highly celebrated by readers for the reflections of pastoral life in most of his poems.  “Digging”, one of the best-known poems by Seamus Heaney concludes in the following way:

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.

These lines depict a pastoral ambience with the citation of “potato mould”, “soggy peat”, “spade”—things we often come across while looking around countryside farmlands. The poet recalls his ancestors in this poem who toiled hard with spades and shovels to cultivate their landscapes and facilitated the livelihood of their descendants. On the other hand, Seamus Heaney intends to cultivate the turfs of art and poetry with his pen. His pen serves him like a chisel or knife to whet his poetic prowess. Seamus Heaney is found gathering courage and enthusiasm from the pastoral view of hard work and he pays homage to the value of the diligence upheld by his predecessors which he wants to inherit to implement in the arena of poetic elegance.

Al Mahmood is one of the most noted poets of the present time in the field of Bengali verses. Like Robert Frost and Seamus Heaney, Al Mahmood’s poems are also frequently dotted by the rhapsody of nature found in the rural parts of Bangladesh. The rivers, birds, crops, fishermen and peasants occupy a massive portion of most of the poetic works by Al Mahmood. To cite a few lines from his poem “In the Valley of Dreams”, translated into English by Syeed Abu Bakar:

We will sow the grain seeds in the valley of dreams.
The water of Silver River will flow on the left.
The sharp husky mountain will remain on the right.

Al Mahmood, in the above poem, speaks of his pledge to nature to make it abundant and splendid by sowing seeds while a sparkling river will be streaming along his beloved landscape which he dreams to transform into a pasture of celestial bounties and happiness. Entities like “grain seeds”, “Silver River, “husky mountain” point at the depiction of a pastoral spectacle in this poem. Al Mahmood’s applications of pastoral imagery in his poems can be traced in the following extract too:

Silently I observe

The water-snakes running after fishes

Fleeing away beside the edge of fields;

The green grasshoppers leaping in fright on my arms. (Translated into English by Syeed Abu Bakar)

Once again, Al Mahmood returns to the countryside of Bengal by telling the readers about “fish”, “edge of fields” and “green grasshoppers.” It seems to be quite lucid that, Al Mahmood has an extensive love for the ingredients rural Bengal is made of.

Jasim Uddin (1903—1976) is widely applauded and recognized as the “Pastoral Poet” of Bangladesh. His descriptions of the gracefulness and placidity of rural Bengal have added an unprecedented magnitude to the affluence of Bengali literature. His masterpiece “Nakshi Kathar Math” is virtually an epic and it has been translated into several prominent languages of the world. E. M. Milford translated it into English with the title “Field of the Embroidered Quilt.” The festivals, rituals, smiles and tragedies of the Bengali rural people have been most illustriously narrated by Jasim Uddin in his poetry. Jasim Uddin wrote a good number of elegies too poetically sketching the untold woes of people living across the villages of Bangladesh. Nature and poetry cannot be isolated and the ties between these two things have been prevailing since the dawn of civilization on earth. Even in the present era of industrial expansion over natural resources of rural areas of different countries, poets still have a strong passion for describing the pastoral comeliness and essence of life in their works.

Mahfuz Ul Hasib Chowdhury is a contributor
to different English newspapers and magazines. 

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