Pastoral — from the Latin pastor, "shepherd" -- is literally the poetry or songs of shepherds. Part of the pastoral ideal is otium — leisure -- which distinguishes it from the other important kind of rural poetry, georgic. ??? One of the most famous examples of the genre in English, Milton's Lycidas, is properly a pastoral elegy. Other well-known English pastoral poems from the Renaissance are Spenser's Shepheardes Calender and Sidney's Arcadia.

As Arcadia suggests, although the pastoral is traditionally lyric poetry, it needn't be. Shakespeare's As You Like It includes pastoral elements, and Arcadia is sometimes considered a pastoral romance.

Other terms often used as synonyms for pastoral are idyll, eclogue, and bucolic poetry. The georgic often shares many characteristics with pastoral, but it's worth keeping them separate.

From the Guide to Literary Terms by Jack Lynch.
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Note: This guide is still in the early stages of development.
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