Encyclopaedia Britannica 11th Edition


(from the Gr. βουκολικός, "pertaining to a herdsman"), a term occasionally used for rural or pastoral poetry. The expression has been traced back in English to the beginning of the 14th century, being used to describe the "Eclogues" of Virgil. The most celebrated collection of bucolics in antiquity is that of Theocritus, of which about thirty, in the Doric dialect, and mainly written in hexameter verse, have been preserved. This was the name, as is believed, originally given by Virgil to his pastoral poems, with the direct object of challenging comparison with the writings of Theocritus. In modern times the term "bucolics" has not often been specifically given by the poets to their pastorals; the main exception being that of Ronsard, who collected his eclogues under the title of "Les Bucoliques." In general practice the word is almost a synonym for pastoral poetry, but has come to bear a slightly more agricultural than shepherd signification, so that the "Georgics" of Virgil has grown to seem almost more "bucolic" than his "Eclogues." (See also Pastoral.)

(E. G.)