Eclogues (/ˈɛklɒɡz/; Latin: Eclogae [ˈɛklɔɡaj]), also
called the Bucolics, is the first of the three major works of the
Latin poet Virgil.
2 Structure and organization
6 See also
8 Further reading
9 External links
Taking as his generic model the Greek bucolic poetry of Theocritus,
Virgil created a Roman version partly by offering a dramatic and
mythic interpretation of revolutionary change at Rome in the turbulent
period between roughly 44 and 38 BC.
Virgil introduced political
clamor largely absent from Theocritus' poems, called idylls ("little
scenes" or "vignettes"), even though erotic turbulence disturbs the
"idyllic" landscapes of Theocritus.
Virgil's book contains ten pieces, each called not an idyll but an
eclogue ("draft" or "selection" or "reckoning"), populated by and
large with herdsmen imagined conversing and performing amoebaean
singing in largely rural settings, whether suffering or embracing
revolutionary change or happy or unhappy love. Performed with great
success on the Roman stage, they feature a mix of visionary politics
and eroticism that made
Virgil a celebrity, legendary in his own
Structure and organization
Like the rest of Virgil's works, the
Eclogues are composed in dactylic
It is likely that
Virgil deliberately designed and arranged his book
of Eclogues, in which case it is the first extant collection of Latin
poems in the same meter put together by the poet. (Although it is
Catullus also compiled his book of poetry, it consists of
poems written in different meters).
Several scholars have attempted to identify the
organizational/architectural principles underpinning the construction
of the book. The book is arguably based on an alternation of
antiphonal poems (e.g., dialogues) with non-dramatic/narrative
poems. Beyond this, there have been many attempts (with little
consensus) to identify other organizational principles. Many of these
attempts have been catalogued and critiqued by Niall Rudd. Rudd
refuted a number of cruder organizational theories, including theories
Eclogues are organized
in chronological order
by geographic setting, with Italian settings alternating with
into two halves, each featuring a movement from lighter, more peaceful
poems to heavier, more emphatic and agitated poems
Rudd also identified more-convoluted organizational theories. While
considering these more plausible than the above, he concluded that
"each system has at least one defect, and none is so superior to the
others as to be obviously Virgil's own". Such systems include:
arrangement based on mutually supporting principles, such as topical
and arithmetic correspondences
arrangement into a series of pairs of poems, bracketing
Eclogue 5 with
Eclogue 10 and supported by arithmetical correspondence
(i.e., length of poems)
arrangement into two halves, with corresponding pairs based on length
More recently, Thomas K. Hubbard has noted, "The first half of the
book has often been seen as a positive construction of a pastoral
vision, whilst the second half dramatizes progressive alienation from
that vision, as each poem of the first half is taken up and responded
to in reverse order."
Capping a sequence or cycle in which
Virgil created and augmented a
new political mythology,
Eclogue 4 reaches out to imagine a golden age
ushered in by the birth of a boy heralded as "great increase of Jove"
(magnum Iovis incrementum), which ties in with divine associations
claimed in the propaganda of Octavian, the ambitious young heir to
Julius Caesar. The poet makes this notional scion of
Jove the occasion
to predict his own metabasis up the scale in epos, rising from the
humble range of the bucolic to the lofty range of the heroic,
potentially rivaling Homer: he thus signals his own ambition to make
Roman epic that will culminate in the Aeneid. In the surge of
Virgil also projects defeating the legendary poet Orpheus
and his mother, the epic muse Calliope, as well as Pan, the inventor
of the bucolic pipe, even in Pan's homeland of Arcadia, which Virgil
will claim as his own at the climax of his eclogue book in the tenth
eclogue. Biographical identification of the fourth eclogue's child has
proved elusive; but the figure proved a link between traditional Roman
authority and Christianity. The connection is first made in the
Oration of Constantine  appended to the Life of Constantine by
Eusebius of Caesarea
Eusebius of Caesarea (a reading to which Dante makes fleeting
reference in his Purgatorio). Some scholars have also remarked
similarities between the eclogue's prophetic themes and the words of
Isaiah 11:6: "a little child shall lead".
Eclogue 5 articulates another significant pastoral theme, the
shepherd-poet's concern with achieving worldly fame through poetry.
This concern is related to the metabasis
Virgil himself undertakes
Eclogue 4. In
Eclogue 5, the shepherds Menalcas and
Mopsus mourn their deceased companion
Daphnis by promising to "praise
Daphnis to the stars – / yes, to the stars raise Daphnis".
Daphnis out of compassion but also out of
Daphnis willed that his fellow shepherds memorialize him
by making a "mound and add[ing] above the mound a song: /
Daphnis am I
in woodland, known hence far as the stars". Not only are Daphnis's
survivors concerned with solidifying and eternizing his poetic
reputation, but the dead shepherd-poet himself is involved in
self-promotion from beyond the grave through the aegis of his will. It
is an outgrowth of the friendly poetic rivalries that occur between
them and of their attempts to best the gods, usually Pan or Phoebus,
at their lyric craft. At the end of
Daphnis is deified in
the shepherds' poetic praise: "'A god, a god is he, Menalcas!' / ...
Here are four altars: / Look, Daphnis, two for you and two high ones
for Phoebus." Menalcas apostrophizes
Daphnis with a promise: "Always
your honor, name and praises will endure." Ensuring poetic fame is a
fundamental interest of the shepherds in classical pastoral elegies,
including the speaker in Milton's "Lycidas".
Virgil caps his book by inventing a new myth of poetic
authority and origin: he replaces Theocritus'
Sicily and old bucolic
hero,[clarification needed] the impassioned oxherd Daphnis, with the
impassioned voice of his contemporary Roman friend, the elegiac poet
Gaius Cornelius Gallus, imagined dying of love in Arcadia. Virgil
transforms this remote, mountainous, and myth-ridden region of Greece,
homeland of Pan, into the original and ideal place of pastoral song,
thus founding a richly resonant tradition in western literature and
The Golden Bough
^ Davis, Gregson (2010). "Introduction". Virgil's Eclogues, trans. Len
Krisak. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P. p. vii.
^ Rudd, Niall (1976). Lines of Enquiry: Studies in Latin Poetry.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 119.
^ Clausen, Wendell (1994). Virgil: Eclogues. Clarendon, Oxford
University Press. p. xxi. ISBN 0-19-815035-0.
^ Goold, G. P. (1999), Virgil: Eclogues, Georgics,
Aeneid 1–6. Loeb
Classical Library. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. p. 2.
^ Rudd, Lines of Enquiry, pp. 121 ff.
^ Rudd, Lines of Enquiry, pp. 119 ff.
^ Rudd, Lines of Enquiry, pp. 125 ff., citing R. Helm in Bursians
Jahresbericht (1902) and W. Port in Phililogus 81 (1926).
^ Rudd, Lines of Enquiry, pp. 121 ff., citing R. S. Conway, Harvard
Lectures on the Vergilian Age (1928), p. 139.
^ Rudd, Lines of Enquiry, pp. 121 ff., citing Büchner.
^ Rudd, Lines of Enquiry, pp. 141 ff.
^ Hubbard, Thomas K. (1998). The Pipes of Pan: Intertextuality and
Literary Filiation in the Pastoral Tradition from
Milton. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. p. 46.
^ Oration of Constantine
^ Lee, Guy, trans. (1984). "
Eclogue 5". In Virgil, The Eclogues. New
York: Penguin. pp. 29–35.
Buckham, Philip Wentworth; Spence, Joseph; Holdsworth, Edward;
Warburton, William; Jortin, John, Miscellanea Virgiliana: In Scriptis
Maxime Eruditorum Virorum Varie Dispersa, in Unum Fasciculum Collecta,
Cambridge : Printed for W. P. Grant; 1825.
Coleman, Robert, ed. (1977). Vergil: Eclogues. Cambridge University
Press. ISBN 0-521-29107-0. CS1 maint: Multiple names:
authors list (link) CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
Hornblower, Simon; Antony Spawforth (1999). The Oxford Classical
Dictionary: Third Edition. Oxford University Press.
Hunter, Richard, ed. (1999). Theocritus: A Selection. Cambridge
University Press. ISBN 0-521-57420-X. CS1 maint: Multiple
names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
Van Sickle; John B. (2004). The Design of Virgil's Bucolics.
Duckworth. ISBN 1-85399-676-9.
_________. (2011). Virgil's Book of Bucolics, the Ten
English Verse. Framed by Cues for Reading Out-Loud & Clues for
Threading Texts & Themes. Johns Hopkins University Press.
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Eclogae vel bucolica
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Eclogues (Internet Classics Archive)
The Bucolics and
Project Gutenberg (in Latin)
The Bucolics and
Project Gutenberg (in English)
French translations (Bibliotheca Classica Selecta)
Latin texts and German translations
An appreciation by Samuel Johnson
Eclogues public domain audiobook at LibriVox
Works by Virgil