File:William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) - The Shepherdess (1889).jpg

An idyll or idyl (pronounced /ˈaɪdəl/ or /ˈɪdəl/) (from Greek eidyllion, little picture) is a short poem, descriptive of rustic life, written in the style of Theocritus' short pastoral poems, the Idylls. Unlike Homer, Theokrit did not engage in heroes and warfare. His idylls are limited to a small intimate world, and describe scenes from everyday life. Later imitators include the Roman poets Virgil and Catullus, Italian poet Leopardi, and the English poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson (Idylls of the King). Goethe called his poem Hermann and Dorothea - which Schiller considered the very climax in Goethe's production - an idyll. [1]

In the visual arts, an idyll is a painting depicting the same sort of subject matter to be found in idyllic poetry, often with peasant life as its central theme. One of the earliest examples is the early 15th century Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry.[2] The genre was particularly popular in English paintings of the Victorian era.[3]

The term is used in music to refer generally to a work evocative of pastoral or rural life such as Edward MacDowell's Forest Idylls, and more specifically to a kind of French courtly entertainment (divertissement) of the baroque era where a pastoral poem was set to music, accompanied by ballet and singing. Examples of the latter are Lully's L'Idylle sur la Paix set to a text by Racine and Desmarets' Idylle sur la naissance du duc de Bourgogne set to a text by Antoinette Deshoulières.[4]


  1. Gjert Vestrheim: "Hellas som ideal", Antikken i ettertiden (s. 170-2), edited by Universitetsforlaget, Oslo 2009, ISBN 978-82-15-01482-1
  2. Hagen, Rose-Marie and Hagen, Rainer (2002) What Great Paintings Say, Volume 1. Taschen, p.20. ISBN 3822821004
  3. Treble, Rosemary (1989). "The Victorian picture of the country" in The Rural idyll (G. E. Mingay, ed.). Routledge, pp. 51-59. ISBN 0415033942
  4. Randel, Don Michael (1999). "Idyll", The Harvard Concise Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Harvard University Press, p. 312 and passim. ISBN 0674000846; Sadie, Julie Anne (1998). Companion to Baroque Music. University of California Press, p. 53. ISBN 0520214145

See alsoEdit


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