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Just Listen: Michael

"Michael" is a pastoral poem, written by William Wordsworth in 1800 and first published in the 1800 edition of Lyrical Ballads. The poem is one of Wordsworth's best known poems and the subject of much critical literature. It tells the story of an aging shepherd, Michael, his wife, and his only child Luke.

Pastoral poems are poems relating to the countryside, portraying or expressing the life of shepherds or country people in an idealized and almost Utopian manner.   The focus is on the pleasingly peaceful and innocent life of characters who have not been corrupted or spoiled by city and especially court life or the temptations of urban living. Pastoral poems are also known by the names of eclogues and bucolics, Bucolics being the title of the collection of ten pastoral poems written by Virgil.

Among the writers who have used the pastoral convention with striking success and vitality are the classical poets Theocritus and Virgil and the English poets Edmund Spenser, Robert Herrick, John Milton, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Matthew Arnold.

From the cusp of the nineteenth century, we here bring you William Wordsworth’s “Michael.”  We begin….