The New Pastoral Poetry

— A few years ago strange experiments are said to have been made in Finland. A small field was planted with wheat. Over half of it a “ system ” of parallel wires with hanging points, about a yard apart each way, was stretched. These wires were charged with electricity from machines in a shed near by. The other half of the field was left to its own devices. The crop in the electrical half, so to speak, nearly doubled the product of unassisted nature. Peas and carrots under similar treatment elsewhere grew with no less astonishing rapidity. A Frenchman, in advance of all other experimenters, took two flower-pots, three kernels of Indian corn in each, and electricity in one, and showed thereby that in the same length of time the corn in his electrical flower-pot outgrew its old-fashioned rival more than two to one.

All this must appeal to the disheartened farmer ; but the matter has other aspects. It is sad to think of our city people, accustomed as they are to living under a network of wires, spending hard-earned vacations beneath country skies similarly lined and cross-lined. Most dismal of all, however, is the consideration of the Pastoral Poet. What is to become of him ? When daisies grow to the size of sunflowers, must not his lyrics spread to epic proportions ? And what a change in the very terms of his art must come to pass ! With every plant growing like a Jonah’s gourd, the “ modest violet ” will of necessity lose all sense of shame. The pansy will be a “ Johnny-jump-up ” indeed, with ambition literally vaulting, and leaping powers worthy of an athletic frog. The daffodil’s dance will become a bolero. The “ laughing fields ” will give forth guffaws. The “ primrose by the river’s brim ” will be “ to him ” not so much “ a simple primrose ” as a vast disk of petaled butter — and nothing less.

And into what prose must many of his stanzas, richest in poetic promise, be turned ! Imagine him singing : —

I love to lie in flowery meads,
Clover and buttercups my bed,
Watching the while great Phœbus’ steeds,
And counting volts and ohms o’erhead.

Or something in this vein : —

On all the slopes of Arcady
Where thrives a blither swain,
With jocund fleece-robed company
Stout with electric grain ?
Comfort the lone North Star may give
To simpler shepherd souls;
But positive and negative
Blest be my dual poles !

It would not take many specimens of such verse, easily conceived, to prove completely that the Pastoral Poet’s occupation as we know it would be gone. Indeed, unless he himself should dee his “ customed hill,” he might wake up some fine morning to find his own size Brobdingnagian, and stone-breaking on the country roads the only employment open to him. Far be the day !