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Form: or pastoral
<b>Poetry.</b> From very ancient times it was the habit of the Dorian shepherds in Sicily to practise a national style of song, the inventor of which was supposed to be Daphnis, the hero of shepherds (see DAPHNIS). The subject of their song was partly the fate of this hero, partly the simple experiences of shepherds' life, especially their loves. There was a good deal of the mimic element in these poems, the shepherds contending with each other in alternate verses, particularly at the town and country festivals held in honour of Artemis. Pastoral poems , relating the story of Daphnis' love and of his tragic end, had been written by the Sicilian poet Stesichorus (about 600 B.C.). But it was Theocritus of Syracuse (about 270 B.C.) who developed pastoral poetry into something like an epic style, often with a strong dramatic tinge. This was in the Alexandrian period, when, as in all over-civilized ages, men found pleasure and relief in the contrasts afforded by the simple ways of country life. Theocritus' sketches of rural life, and indeed of the ways of the lower orders in general, are true to nature and exquisitely finished. He called them eidyllia or little pictures. Theocritus was unsurpassed in his own style, which was cultivated after him by Bion and Moschus. The pastoral style was introduced into Latin poetry by Vergil, who, while closely imitating Theocritus, had the tact to perceive that the simple sketches of ancient rural life in Sicily given by his master would not be sufficient to satisfy the taste of his countrymen. Under the mask of shepherds, therefore, he introduced contemporary characters, thus winning attention by the expression of his personal feelings, and by covert allusions to events of the day. Two poems falsely attributed to him, the Moretum ("Salad") and Copa (" Hostess"), are real idylls; true and natural studies from low life. Vergil's allegorical style was revived in later times by Calpurnius in the age of Nero, and Nemesianus at the end of the 3rd century A.D.
Type: Standard
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