Eclogues Summary

Summary (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

The Eclogues is a remarkable achievement of Vergil’s late twenties and shows that the poet, even at this early age, intended to develop a style distinct from those of his Greek and Roman predecessors. The ten-poem collection falls into three major categories. Eclogues 2, 3, 7, and 8 are the most Theocritean; the rustic characters that they present have Greek names (Corydon, Amoebaeus, Damon, Alphesiboeus), and the situations that the poems describe find their counterparts in the works of Theocritus. Eclogues 1, 4, 6, and 9 are specifically non-Theocritean; these poems deal with matters particularly significant to life in Augustan Rome (exile revoked, respect for right of ownership, arrival of a new Golden Age, warnings of the passing of this Golden Age, and doubts for the future). The collection turns on Eclogues 5 and 10, the two Daphnis poems; Daphnis represents Caesar in the first of these, and the poet Gallus becomes Daphnis in the second. The clear result of this arrangement is to introduce Augustan reference into what had been the timeless environment of pastoral. The characters thus acquire a tendency toward introspection and a degree of psychological development unmatched by Theocritus.

Augustan time is always present in Vergil’s pastoral world, yet it remains unobtrusive primarily because of the reciprocal pattern of arrangement that Vergil follows. Eclogue 1, for example, finds its parallel poem in Eclogue 9. In...

(The entire section is 608 words.)

Eclogues Bibliography (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Griffin, Jasper. Virgil. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1986. Basic introduction to Vergil’s poetry. The second chapter exclusively addresses the Eclogues and provides a rewarding discussion of the themes of Arcadia and the tension between nature and the urban life in Rome. Index and bibliography.

Leach, Eleanor Winsor. Vergil’s Eclogues: Landscapes of Experience. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1974. Detailed introduction and analysis of the work. Includes a sophisticated reading of poetic symbolism of the Eclogues and Vergil’s poetry in general, as well as interpretation of Roman views on nature and the world. Copious illustrations and photographs enhance the text. Index.

Lee, Guy, trans. Virgil: The Eclogues, by Vergil. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books, 1984. Introduction provides a general but thorough discussion of pastoral poetry, Vergil’s contribution to the tradition, and a historical overview of the poet’s life and the poems’ composition. Useful bibliography of primary and secondary sources.

Putnam, Michael C. J. Virgil’s Pastoral Art: Studies in the Eclogues. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1970. Detailed, scholarly analysis of all important aspects of the Eclogues, including themes and their historical context.

Slavitt, David R. Virgil. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1991. Chapter 1 focuses on the Eclogues and provides a straightforward explanation of its relation to ancient poetry and its influence on subsequent and modern literature. A solid source. Bibliography of primary and secondary sources; index.