Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised 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...
(The entire section is 608 words.)
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