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Recent criticism has emphasized eighteenth-century poets’ fascination with Virgil’s Georgics, which they associated with scientific discovery and agricultural reform. This article restores the georgic’s partner mode, the pastoral, to its important place in the poetic imagination of the time. It tracks the rise of cultural description and comparison in English pastoral poetry in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In a social milieu fascinated by the rise of urban culture and by the peoples encountered on voyages of discovery, pastoral comparison served as an important precursor to the social scientific literature that developed later in this period.