Short, usually pastoral, poem in the form of a dialogue or soliloquy (see pastoral). The eclogue as a pastoral form first appeared in the idylls of Theocritus, was adopted by Virgil, and was revived in the Renaissance by Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio. Edmund Spenser's Shepheardes Calender, a series of 12 eclogues, was the first outstanding pastoral poem in English. Eighteenth-century English poets used the eclogue for ironic verse on nonpastoral subjects. Since then a distinction has been made between eclogue and pastoral, with eclogue referring only to the dialogue or soliloquy form.
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The etymology of the word is a Romanization of the Greek eklogē (ἐκλογή), meaning 'draft, choice, selection (particularly of short passages)'. The term originally referred to short poems of any genre, or selections from poetry-books. The ancients referred to individual poems of Virgil's Bucolica as 'eclogae' and the term was used by later Latin poets to refer to their own bucolic poetry, often in imitation of Virgil. The combination of Virgil's influence and the persistence of bucolic poetry through the Renaissance imposed 'eclogues' as the accepted term for the genre. Later Roman poets who wrote eclogues include Calpurnius and Nemesianus.
The term also been applied to pastoral music, with the first significant examples being piano works by the Czech composer Václav Tomášek. Jan Václav Voříšek, César Franck, Franz Liszt (in the first book of Années de Pèlerinage), Antonín Dvořák, Vítězslav Novák, and Egon Wellesz are among other composers who used the title in their work. Igor Stravinsky titled the second and third movements of his Duo Concertant (1932) "Eclogue I" and "Eclogue II". The middle movement of his three-movement Ode (1943) is also titled "Eclogue".
In 1526 the Italian Renaissance poet Jacopo Sannazaro published his Eclogae Piscatoriae, replacing the traditional Virgilian shepherds with fishermen from the Bay of Naples. He was imitated by the English poet Phineas Fletcher in his Piscatorie Eclogs (1633). Another English poet, William Diaper, produced Nereides: or Sea-Eclogues in 1712. The speakers are sea-gods and sea-nymphs. By the early eighteenth century, the whole pastoral genre was ripe for parody. John Gay ridiculed the eclogues of Ambrose Philips in his Shepherd's Week and Mary Wortley Montagu wrote six "Town Eclogues", substituting the fashionable society of contemporary London for Virgil's rural Arcadia.