Scene from a Pastoral Romance
Et in Arcadia Ego: Constructive Criticism in Paradise

pastoral love
[Enter Corydon and Phyllida. While she appoints herself on a handsome stone outcropping or protruding stump, he withdraws from the folds of his cloak a leaf of creased foolscap and prepares to recite. She prefers romance to romantic poetry and wishes he would get it over with.]
Corydon:                   Make sure your expectations are diminished;
                                    It’s just a draft, it isn’t really finished,
                                    and, really, I just wrote it for a hoot,
                                    so just remember that—

Phyllida:                                                                                    All right, so shoot!

Corydon [in full-on Poet Voice]:
                                    My lover’s red, red lips and blue, blue eyes
                                    are things to which my verse cannot do justice,
                                    for any metaphor would bastardize
                                    what fonts of purest love and lowest lust ’tis.
                                    I’d like to say her lips are red as flame,
                                    or that her eyes are like the deepest sea,
                                    but any such comparisons must tame
                                    the living essence that in her I see.
                                    The truth is that my lover’s many features
                                    outstrip all other objects on this earth,
                                    and thus to speak of her as one with creatures
                                    so mortal and mundane in their base birth
                                    fails as  fancy---ashes from the fire
                                    that lives in her and kindles my desire.

[As he becomes further and further absorbed in the poem, Corydon eventually drops the Poet Voice and begins to exaltingly recite his lines as if in ecstasy. He ends, breathless and panting, and remembers himself—instantly deflating and looking to Phyllida for a reaction.]
Phyllida [If she has to endure this part of the courtship, then she can at least be honest about it]:
                                    Like Shakespeare, but without all irony,
                                    or substance, wit, or life, or—quality—
                                    Oh, don’t be mean! I hardly think—
                                                                                                Your verse!
                                    It PLODS on AT this PET-ty pace.

Corydon:                                                                                  You’re worse!

Phyllida:                   I am? How do you figure?

Corydon:                                                                                    Well, to start,
                                    To hell with ‘life’ or ‘wit’—good verse needs heart!

Phyllida:                    Is that another term for schmaltz?

Corydon:                                                                                     No, art.

Phyllida:                    And art is something that you’ve got in spades?
                                    Give me a break! These juvenile tirades
                                    are just some gimmick. Do you think I’m daft?
                                    Who knows from art? Your poem’s got no craft:
                                    it hangs there like a bird nailed to the wall
                                    which, limp and lifeless, doesn’t sing at all!

Corydon:                   Oh, now it has to ‘sing,’ do I hear right?

Phyllida:                  You bet your ass you do!

Corydon [facetiously]:                                        I’m just not quite
                                    So sure I know exactly what you mean.

Phyllida:                    I mean it’s bad! It stinks! It’s trash! I’ve seen
                                    much better poets’ crap—And they’re above you!
                                    I mean I don’t know why I thought I love you!
                                    I mean the shit that drizzles from your pen
                                    is like . . . . Shut up and kiss me.

Corydon:                                                                                What, again?
[Larksong and lyre music. Cherubim fly in on golden wings and draw the curtain.]

Daniel Galef

If you have any thoughts on this poetical-pastoral dialogue, Daniel Galef would be pleased to hear them.