An eclogue is a poem in a classical style on a pastoral subject. Poems in the genre are sometimes also called bucolics.


The form of the word in contemporary English is taken from French eclogue, from Old French, from Latin ecloga. However it is also attested in Middle English as eclog, and this form was apparently taken directly from Latin ecloga. The Latin ecloga is a Romanization of the Greek eklogē (ἐκλογή), meaning "draft, choice, selection (particularly of short passages)". The term originally referred to short poems of any genre, or selections from poetry-books. The ancients referred to individual poems of Virgil's Bucolica as eclogae, and the term was used by later Latin poets to refer to their own bucolic poetry, often in imitation of Virgil. The combination of Virgil's influence and the persistence of bucolic poetry through the Renaissance imposed "eclogues" as the accepted term for the genre. Later Roman poets who wrote eclogues include Calpurnius and Nemesianus.

Variations on a themeEdit

In 1526 the Italian Renaissance poet Jacopo Sannazaro published his Eclogae Piscatoriae, replacing the traditional Virgilian shepherds with fishermen from the Bay of Naples. He was imitated by the English poet Phineas Fletcher in his Piscatorie Eclogs (1633). Another English poet, William Diaper, produced Nereides: or Sea-Eclogues in 1712. The speakers are sea-gods and sea-nymphs. By the early eighteenth century, the whole pastoral genre was ripe for parody. John Gay ridiculed the eclogues of Ambrose Philips in his Shepherd's Week and Mary Wortley Montagu wrote six "Town Eclogues", substituting the fashionable society of contemporary London for Virgil's rural Arcadia.

Modern ecloguesEdit

The first English language eclogues were written by Alexander Barclay, in 1514. In English literature, Edmund Spenser's The Shepheardes Calendar (1579) also belongs to the genre (12 eclogues, one for each month of the year). Alexander Pope produced a series of 4 eclogues (one for each season of the year) in imitation of Virgil in 1709. The Spanish poet Garcilaso de la Vega also wrote eclogues in the Virgilian style. In French, Pierre de Ronsard wrote a series of eclogues under the title Les Bucoliques, and Clément Marot also wrote in the genre. In the 17th century, collections of eclogues were published by the Polish poets Szymon Szymonowic and Józef Bartłomiej Zimorowic. Miklós Radnóti, the Hungarian Jewish poet, wrote eclogues about the Holocaust. Seamus Heaney's collection Electric Light (2001) includes a "Bann Valley Eclogue", a "Glanmore Eclogue", and an English version of Virgil's ninth eclogue. The Puerto Rican poet Giannina Braschi wrote both a poetic treatise on Garcilaso de la Vega's Eclogues, as well as a book of poems in homage to the Spanish master, entitled "Empire of Dreams". The most prolific modern poet writing eclogues was Louis MacNeice. His eclogues included "Eclogue by a five barred gate", "Eclogue for the motherless", "An eclogue for Christmas", and "Eclogue from Iceland".

In musicEdit

The term also been applied to pastoral music, with the first significant examples being piano works by the Czech composer Václav Tomášek. Jan Václav Voříšek, César Franck, Franz Liszt (in the first book of Années de Pèlerinage), Antonín Dvořák, Gerald Finzi, Vítězslav Novák, and Egon Wellesz are among other composers who used the title in their work. Igor Stravinsky titled the second and third movements of his Duo Concertant (1932) "Eclogue I" and "Eclogue II". The middle movement of his three-movement Ode (1943) is also titled "Eclogue".

See alsoEdit


  • Hornblower, Simon, and Antony Spawforth (1999). The Oxford Classical Dictionary: Third Edition. Oxford University Press. 019866172X. 
  • Theocritus (1999). Theocritus: A Selection. Cambridge University Press. 052157420X. 
  • Virgil (comm. by W. V. Clausen) (1994). Virgil: Eclogues. Clarendon, Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198150350. 
  • Van Sickle, John B (2005). The Design of Virgil's Bucolics. Duckworth. ISBN 1-85399-676-9. 

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