Eclogue – Concept, origins, history, authors and examples

We explain what the eclogue is in literature, its origins, meaning and authors who cultivated it. Also, examples of famous eclogues.

The eclogue addresses an almost always loving theme, in an idealized vision of pastoral life.

What is the eclogue?

In literature, the eclogue It is a type of brief lyrical composition, of the bucolic genre, with great musical prominence but generally in dialogue or monologue, in the manner of a small one-act theater piece. In it, an almost always loving theme is approached, inserted in an idealized vision of rustic and pastoral life, although it should not be confused with the pastoral literature of medieval Europe.

The origins of the eclogue date back to Greek antiquity, and its first cultist is considered Theocritus of Syracuse (c. 310 – c. 260 BC), one of the most important poets of Hellenism. In fact, the word “eclogue” itself is of Greek origin, coming from the voice eklogé (translatable as “chosen”). The Idylls of Theocritus served as inspiration for the Roman Virgil (70-19 BC), who in turn composed ten eclogues of his own, entitled Bucolic.

Subsequently, the genre disappeared until it was rediscovered during the European Renaissance. It was revived by the Italian poets Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374), Giovanni Bocaccio (1313-1375) and Battista Spagnoli (1448-1516).

In fact, Bucolic de Spagnoli (better known as Mantuano) had an immense influence on later English literature, such as Edmund Spencer (1552-1599), Richard Lovelace (1618-1657) or Andrew Marvell (1621-1678). The latter’s work, in turn, was influential on the famous Jonathan Swift (1667-1745). In those days, however, the eclogue was already used for ironic purposes to address non-pastoral issues.

Other important cultists of the eclogue were the Spanish Garcilaso de la Vega (1498-1536), Lope de Vega (1562-1635) or Pedro Soto de Rojas (1584-1658), among other previous authors or belonging to the Spanish Golden Age. The verses of Garcilaso de la Vega that define the genre are famous, which are the following:

The sweet lament of two shepherds,
Salicio together with Nemoroso,
I have to count, their complaints imitating;
whose sheep when singing tasty
they were very attentive, the loves,
(to graze forgotten) listening.
(Eclogue I).

Nowadays, predictably, the eclogue is practiced little or not at all, and it is considered part of the history of literature.

Eclogue examples

Some recognized eclogues are as follows:

  • The set of Bucolic of the Roman poet Virgil.
  • “Soliloquy of Salicio” in the Eclogues I of Garcilaso de la Vega.
  • “Eclogue to Claudio” by Lope de Vega.
  • “Eclogue of the three shepherds” by Juan del Encina.
  • “Eclogues” of Petrarca.
  • “Eclogues” of Theocritus.