CLASSICAL LATIN POETRY: THE ECLOGUES OF VIRGIL

 

“My past’ral muse her humble tribute brings;

And yet not wholly uninspir’d she sings:

For all who read, and, reading, not disdain

These rural poems, and their lowly strain,…

For he who sings thy praise, secures his own.”

Virgil.  “Silenus”, Lines 9-12, 18

     There’s a scene in Never Been Kissed where Drew Barrymore is in class and Michael Vartan, who plays the teacher, is talking…blah blah blah…like teachers do.  He asks if anyone knows where the word “pastoral” originated from, and Drew’s character mentioned that the idea originated from the Eclogues of Virgil.  Well, to a teacher who’s probably used to mental

 

mediocrity from the average high schooler, he gets blown away by what he sees as her unusually deep knowledge.  Here it is on www.youtube.com.  Now, let’s be clear: it was deep because how many American high schoolers have even heard of Classical Latin poetry in the average American high school? EXACTLY! You get it now? Mr. Teacher Man was impressed as hell and couldn’t hide it. 

That said, I thought it sounded familiar so I looked through my collection, and Hey! I have two editions of THE LATIN POETS from The Modern Library.  I even blogged them a couple of summers ago.  [Oldies But Goodies] Essentially, the eclogues are a collection of poems written about country life – just like Josie says.  That’s it.  It really isn’t complicated at all.  What gets super deep are the associations that the word pastoral has with Christianity.  Jesus Christ is referred to as a shepherd.  We are lost lambs, etc.  Bishops use a staff stylized on a shepherd’s staff.  In Spanish, food cooked on a spit outside is referred to as “al pastor” — “shepherd-style”.  Pretty cool, I think.

The Modern Library version that I have does a great job of keeping the lyricism and rhyme as much as possible. And the topics are quite earthly.   “Tityrus and Meliboeus” is an amusing and entertaining dialogue between two blokes.  Then there’s “Alexis” – the lamentation of a young “shepherd swain” named Corydon. He reminds me of Adam Sandler on SNL when Shannen Doherty was on the show and Sandler did a skit where he was the host of a show where he tried to get her back. He was moaning and whining for her to come back to him. That’s what the poem is – Corydon crying for Alexis.  Sammy Hagar wrote a song back in the 70s with the same theme: “I’ve Done Everything for You”, which was covered in 1982 by Rick Springfield.  Good song. Check it out.

If you’re looking for a good reference to the ten eclogues, try The Internet Classics Archive (and please donate to keep it ad-free).  Similar in theme to the Eclogues are the Georgics, but I don’t have an edition of those – yet.

pas·to·ral

 /ˈpæstərəl, ˈpɑstər-/ Show Spelled[pas-ter-uhl, pah-ster-] Show IPA

–adjective

1.  having the simplicity, charm, serenity, or other characteristics generally attributed to rural areas: pastoral scenery; the pastoral life.

2.  pertaining to the country or to life in the country; rural; rustic.

3.  portraying or suggesting idyllically the life of shepherds or of the country, as a work of literature, art, or music: pastoral poetry; a pastoral symphony.

4.  of, pertaining to, or consisting of shepherds.

5.  of or pertaining to a pastor or the duties of a pastor: pastoral visits to a hospital.

6.  used for pasture, as land.

 

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