As a poem that discusses the pleasurable labors of rural life, “Digging” draws on the pastoral tradition that developed in English-language literature starting in the sixteenth century. The English pastoral dates to Greco-Roman antiquity, when urban poets wrote verses that idealized rural life’s peaceful simplicity. Key elements of antique pastoral poetry were the gently rolling country landscape and the shepherds who wandered it with their flocks. Pastoral poetry fell out of favor following the collapse of the Roman Empire, but it experienced a resurgence among Renaissance poets, who found renewed interest in classical antiquity. In the British Isles, works like Edmund Spenser’s The Shepheardes Calendar (1579), along with various poems by Sir Philip Sidney, Robert Greene, and others, all drew on the idealized pastoralism of antiquity. The coming centuries would see a continuation of this tradition, but in ways that de-emphasized the idealized landscapes of antiquity and centered on particular regions in the real world. For instance, the novels of Thomas Hardy (1840–1928) are largely set in an area of southwestern England known as Wessex and concern both the joys and hardships of rural life. It is within this latter-day pastoralism that “Digging” should be situated.