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Virgil's Book of Bucolics, the Ten Eclogues Translated into English Verse

Framed by Cues for Reading Aloud and Clues for Threading Texts and Themes

John Van Sickle

Publication Year: 2010

This highly original work builds on two neglected facts about Virgil's Book of Bucolics: its popularity on the bawdy Roman stage and its impact as sequence poetry on readers and writers from the Classical world through the present day. The Bucolics profoundly influenced a wide range of canonical literary figures, from the contemporaneous Horace, Propertius, and Ovid through such successors as Calpurnius, Sannazaro, Marot, Spenser, Milton, Wordsworth, Robert Frost, and W. H. Auden. As performed, the work scored early success. John Van Sickle's artfully rendered translation, its stage cues, and the explanatory notes treat for the first time the book's ten short pieces as a thematic web. He pays close heed to themes that return, vary throughout the work, and develop as leitmotifs, inviting readers to trace the threads and ultimately to experience the last eclogue as a grand finale. Introductory notes identify cues for casting, dramatic gesture, and voice, pointing to topics that stirred the Roman crowd and satisfied powerful patrons. Back notes offer clues to the ambitious literary program implicit in the voices, plots, and themes. Taken as a whole, this volume shows how the Bucolics inaugurated Virgil's lifelong campaign to colonize for Rome the prestigious Greek genres of epic and tragedy—winning contemporary acclaim and laying the groundwork for his poetic legend. Reframing pastoral tradition in Europe and America, Van Sickle's rendering of the Book of Bucolics is ideal for students of literature and their teachers, for scholars of classical literature and the pastoral genre, and for poetological and cognitive theorists.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 3-4


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pp. 5-6

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pp. 7-20

Gossip handed down since Virgil’s day reports that the Bucolics scored an instant success on stage. Alone of Virgil’s works these ten short pieces early caught the theater public’s ear and eye. They made their poet a celebrity, even as copies of the slender scroll made their way into schools and studies, libraries and...

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Note to the Reader

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pp. 21-23

Aiming to bring these old poems to new readers and performers, it seemed wise to employ a small set of critical terms in a systematic way and to signal their role as prompts. Some of them, and especially their verbal roots, receive emphasis initially through use of SMALL CAPITALS to remind readers of their nature as...

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A User Guide to ‘pastoral,’ ‘eclogue,’ Eclogues, ‘bucolic,’ and Bucolics

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pp. 25-28

Two paths that long ago diverged convey us back by separate routes to the ten short poems called variously ‘pastorals,’ ‘eclogues,’ and ‘bucolics,’ sometimes ‘The Eclogues’ but here the Book of Bucolics. The path less traveled takes us to their immediate yet neglected impact on Roman theater audiences in a time that...

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Themes from Troubled Times at Rome

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pp. 29-30

Writers at Rome in the first century BCE often issued work by reading to acquaintances and friends.46 So infer a career path for the poet commonly known as Virgil (70–19 BCE).47 Born in northern Italy’s Po River valley, near Mantua, and migrant to the capital, in Rome he would have garnered contacts...

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Cues for Drama: Mime Revoicing Roman Mythic Frame

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pp. 31-74

Long before the Bucolics scored in frequent performances, theater had served the Roman elites to enhance their own prestige and power, as a means to “propagate aristocratic values by shaping the direction of popular culture.”54 Theater was considered politically so potent that the ruling class had required that seating for spectacles be...

Scripts: The Eclogues to Rehearse and Read

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pp. 75-112

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Clues in Social Memory: Threads from Tragedy and Epos

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pp. 113-133

Virgil’s reported success in private and on stage suggests that the Bucolics could communicate on different levels:693 for the stage, they would fit right into the “polymorphous mode” of mime, “ranging from the outrageously licentious to the morally exemplary” and able to “deal with contemporary events and characters...

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The Warp and Weft of Varying Motifs: Structure Charted

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pp. 134-154

Opening with drama, Virgil represents the clash of conflicting frames in his own mind. With the figure and plot of Meliboeus he dramatizes his original set of values and its disruption by forces that he begins to weigh, revalue, and reframe by means of the plot and figures of Tityrus with the new Roman god. Virgil dramatizes...


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pp. 155-254


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pp. 255-260


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pp. 261-288

E-ISBN-13: 9780801899614
E-ISBN-10: 0801899613
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801897993
Print-ISBN-10: 0801897998

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 794700433
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Virgil's Book of Bucolics, the Ten Eclogues Translated into English Verse

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Subject Headings

  • Pastoral poetry, Latin -- History and criticism.
  • Virgil -- Translations into English.
  • Pastoral poetry, Latin -- Translations into English.
  • Virgil. Bucolica.
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