The pastoral occupies the utopian place between wilderness and cultivation: an idea of a human state of nature, neither sublime nor civilised but bucolic, tranquil, the most moral and ideal state of humankind. The literal definition of the pastoral is a shepherd’s lifestyle, the gentle wanderer following livestock from place to place as the seasons dictate. This archetype within the arts has historically been catered toward urban audiences: the rural occupies the role of the past, a simpler and more wholesome life that has degraded into the unnatural, immoral urban present, myth becoming memory and historical escapism. It seems straightforward that the pastoral should also be associated with childhood.

In his treatise ‘On Naive and Sentimental Poetry’, the German philosopher and writer Friedrich Schiller describes nature and wild animals as “what we were; they are what we ought to become once more [...] our culture should lead us back to nature, upon the path of reason and freedom. They are therefore at the same time a representation of our lost childhood, which remains eternally most dear to us; hence, they fill us with a certain melancholy. At the same time, they are representations of our highest perfection in the ideal, hence, they transpose us into a sublime emotion.”1

The pastoral and childhood can occupy the same position, both being markers of moral purity and an inherently virtuous ‘state of nature’. Perhaps this is why attitudes to the countryside are still today confused and entangled with morality, status and time (Agriculture).
1. Schiller, Friedrich. On Naive and Sentimental Poetry, The Schiller Institute. Translated by William F. Wertz, Jr. Available at: <> [Accessed 8 March 2020]