THE PASTORAL ELEGY IN LITERATURE, PAINTING, AND MUSIC: FROM THEOCRITUS TO VIRGIL TO MILTON AND BEYOND
Keywords:elegy, literature, Milton, music, painting, pastoral, Theocritus, Virgil
Pastoral elegy has deep historical roots, manifesting in literature, painting, and music. To understand and appreciate John Milton’s pastoral elegy, Lycidas, it is essential that one explore both the history of the form and its three genres. Theocritus invented the pastoral elegy in the 4th century BCE to lament the passing of a friend. Virgil used the Idylls of Theocritus as a template for his Eclogues in 1st century Rome, and Milton drew on both ancient poets to mourn the loss of Edward King in his Lycidas. While these are works of literature, one may also find common themes in painting and music. This study aims to identify those themes and, thereby, discover what it is that causes pastoral elegy to endure through the ages to express that aspect of humanity that responds to the loss of a loved one. We find that the overarching theme in all three genres is evocation. The words of Theocritus, Virgil, and Milton, the paintings of Boucher and Gatto, and the music of James Last and Gheorghe Zamfir all evoke feelings of quiet contemplation in serene pastoral settings.