A Missing Poetic Masterpiece

I need y’all’s help.

For years now I have been trying to find a print version of a poem titled, “A Pastoral”. At least I think that’s its title. I really don’t remember, because the last time I read this poem was in the early 1970’s when I was in ninth grade.

This is a very short poem, but it has deep significance for me. Let me explain.

In our English class that year, one of our assignments was to copy, longhand, an example of the each of the different types of poetry we found in the books available to us in the classroom. For example, we would copy one of Old Will’s poems, (“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”), as an example of a sonnet, and one of Walt’s, (“When I heard the Learn’d Astronomer”), as an example of free verse.

It was rote, it was boring, but it was mostly painless, until …… we had to copy a pastoral. A pastoral poem, at least as defined in our class, was one with a “bucolic setting, such as a shepherd peacefully watching his sheep, or a young boy idly dreaming on a haystack.” Now even as ninth graders we knew this was crap, that it was foolish to leave a sheep with a lonely shepherd, not to even mention a young boy! But that wasn’t the real problem, not at all.

The real problem was that each and every “pastoral” we came across was an insanely long, long poem. Line after line, page after page, chirping bird, buzzing bee, sunny fields of wild flowers after chirping bird, buzzing bee, and sunny fields of wild flowers. Aargh! It was ridiculous!

Just when it appeared that we were going to have to spend more time writing out one of these long-winded pastorals than all the other poems combined, one of us kids found the glorious poem, “A Pastoral”, and we were saved!

So now you know the story behind my appreciation for this poem. I don’t even know who wrote it! Whoever you are, you have the eternal gratitude of all the boys in my English class. (And some of the girls too, although they won’t want to admit it!)

Without any further ado, here, as best I can remember, is the complete text to this most wonderful of poems:

A Pastoral

While walking through the countryside
Dr. Cruddy touched poison ivy,
And it died!