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,
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
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
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
From the Guide to Literary Terms by Jack Lynch.
Please send comments to Jack Lynch.
Note: This guide is still in the early stages of development.
Three question marks mean I have to write more on the subject. Bear with me.