Eclogue – what it is, definition, example, characteristics and origin of the eclogue


What is the eclogue?

It is one of the most important sub-genres of the lyrical genre of literature, characterized by its content of themes related to love and alluding to relationships of this type. Its structure has allowed it to distinguish itself from other lyrical subgenres over time, leaving as a result a large number of compositions over time.

Often the performers of the eclogue were shepherds who told others about their loves and the experience of life in the countryside, being by tradition the greatest representatives of this subgenre.

Meaning of eclogue

The term -egloga- comes from the Latin eclŏga, and which refers to “extract”. It is thus that the concept passes to literature to represent a short amorous composition whose protagonist is the shepherd, who expresses his feelings in the form of a dialogue or monologue.

With the passage of time, the term “eclogue” was changed to “bucolic”, although it still refers to the same type of lyric composition. However, other creative themes related to beauty and nature were added.

Definition of eclogue

The eclogue is defined as a composition of poetic character that deals with love themes and is structured in the form of dialogue, as in plays, however, in the eclogue everything happens in one act. However, it is important to note that in addition to the dialogue, the eclogue can also be presented in the form of a pastoral monologue.

The sentiment that is expressed about love alludes to love in a framework of idealization and sentiment that endows it with beauty and solemnity.

Origin of the Eclogue

The birth of the eclogue dates back to the fourth century BC and since then has been transformed over time, passing from generation to generation with modifications of each era, yet have managed to keep its essence alive. One of the most important works is “Idyll”, written by Theocritus during the Roman Empire and who will be one of the precursors of the subgenre. Later Virgil will appear as a faithful admirer to make his compositions adding elements of autobiography, which allows each shepherd could be a more real character.

During the Renaissance, the eclogue begins to take on a fundamental role with authors such as Bocaccio and Jacopo Sannazaro, who also begin to implement verse writing following a prose narrative. In the Spanish Golden Age, other authors such as Lope de Vega, Lucas Fernández, Bernardo de Balbuena, among others, emerged.

Nowadays the eclogue, which is also known as bucolic, is part of the sub-genres of the lyric genre and one of the most important representatives of classical literature, but also an integral part of Renaissance literature and medieval literature, this was due not only to the amorous theme of his compositions, but also thanks to the formation of verses formed from seven and eleven syllables, as well as the management of metrics in consonant rhyme, a fundamental aspect for creation.

Origin of the Eclogue

Characteristics of the eclogue

Among the most important aspects of the eclogue in terms of its formation, we present the following aspects, however it must be taken into account that the stanzas suffered great transformations with the passage of time and other central themes:


The Eclogues are made up of 30 stanzas that receive the name of “Estancias”: Each one of the stanzas is composed, in turn, by fourteen verses that consist of seven and eleven syllables, being able to be of hendecasyllables and heptasyllables. Each of these has a consonant rhyme. The scheme is as follows: ABCABCcdddEEFeF.

Shepherds or peasants

They are the ones who represent the eclogues since they are used with a look of nobility, which makes them referents that express their feelings and emotions, reason why they are the representatives and protagonists of the eclogues.

Love theme

All the eclogues revolve around love as the main theme, since it is considered that the best and the worst feelings of the human being arise from this feeling. This field is chosen as the theme given the exploration it allows and the possibility of sentimental and emotional evolution to be represented.

Length of the stories

They are characterized because their extension is considerably short, so much so that it does not require changes of costumes or environment and scenery as it happens in theatrical compositions.


Frequently and given the origin of the eclogue, it is usually developed in the countryside with an air of paradise, so that somehow recreates the experience and the image of the shepherd who tells his love experience. The characters are in the midst of this nature endowed with wonders as a space of perfection.


The music accompanies the eclogue and plays a fundamental role in its development, since it is the musical sounds that determine the patterns and mark the duration times of each of the dialogues that are presented. It is in this way that the audience can anticipate the arrival of a joyful, sad or melancholic moment from the musical indications, since it is the music that establishes the rhythm of the eclogue.

What types of eclogue are there?

The eclogue is divided into two forms, which are based on the central compositional structure of the work, these are:

Monodic composition

This type of eclogue composition is related to a structure in the form of a pastoral monologue or singing performed in a single voice. It is the type of composition and structure that mostly took classical eclogues.

Dual composition

This type of eclogue has a different structure, in which the protagonist can establish dialogues as a theatrical piece in a single act with the intervention of other poetic voices. Thus, the shepherds can sing their laments as separate or symmetrical songs.

Authors and most important works of eclogues

One of the most important eclogues in history are those developed during the Roman Empire called “Idyll” by Theocritus, which exposed love with a pastoral character. Later on, other authors will also appear in this lyrical subgenre, such as Lope de Vega, Juan Boscán, Hernando de Acuña, Francisco de la Torre, Pedro Soto de Rojas, Bernardo de Balbuena, Juan Meléndez Valdés, Lucas Fernández, Juan de la Enzina, Garcilaso de la Vega with the work El dulce lamentar de dos pastores, among others.

Example of eclogues

This is an example of one of the most important authors of eclogues, Garcilaso de la Vega:

Eclogue II

In the midst of winter is warm

the sweet water of this clear fountain,

and in the summer more than a frozen snow.

Oh clear waves, how I see present,

in seeing you, the memory of that day

of which the soul trembled and burned!

In your clarity I saw my joy

become all dark and cloudy

when I charged you, I lost my company