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Literary work dealing in a usually artificial manner with shepherds or rural life, typically contrasting the innocence and serenity of the simple life with the misery and corruption of city or court life. The characters are often the vehicles for the author's moral, social, or literary views. The poet and his friends are often presented as shepherds and shepherdesses; two or more shepherds sometimes contend in singing matches. The conventions of pastoral poetry were largely established by Theocritus, whose bucolics are its earliest examples. Virgil's Eclogues were influential as well, as was Edmund Spenser's Shepheardes Calender in the Renaissance. The idea of pastoral as meaning a simpler world that somehow mirrors a more complex one also appears in novelists as different as Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Lewis Carroll, and William Faulkner. See alsoeclogue.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on pastoral, visit Britannica.com.