Rural Sports: The Poetry of Fishing, Fowling, and Hunting, 1650-1800
"Rural Sports: The Poetry of Fishing, Fowling, and Hunting, 1650-1800" traces the evolution of poetry on the field sports over a 150-year span, with a view toward considering these poems in the first instance as sporting texts. This thesis analyzes sportsmen's attitudes toward their activities, noting the larger social implications of their sporting performances. The thesis also seeks to classify and understand the poems as distinct literary sub-genres. Current sociological insights into
... and hunting help to illustrate the poems' resemblances to one another, particularly Hobson Bryan's concept of "recreational specialization" and Norbert Elias's concept of "tension equilibrium." In providing a systematic survey of the rural sports poetry, this thesis argues that during successive stages of the period, poetry on certain sports came into vogue and then receded from fashion. This followed from historical and political developments but also from literary ones. The poetry on fishing after Izaak Walton's Compleat Angler (1653) maintained a dialogue between pastoral and georgic elements, as the two modes offered scope for the experience of angling. In the eighteenth century, the writers of hunting verse balanced a passion for sport with social and political awareness; hence, they tended to employ the techniques of the prospect view and topographical poetry, intermixing descriptive elements with didactic ones in the georgic mould. As the century progressed, hunting and shooting were either reproved in an increasing number of sentimental poems representing hunters as uncaring and pitiless toward animals or they were celebrated for their gentlemanly values and virtues in the manner of William Somervile's influential poem The Chace (1735) and George Markland's Pteryplegia (1727).