Idyll: From the Greek for “little picture,” a narrative work — usually short, descriptive, and composed in verse — that depicts and exalts pastoral scenes and themes. Idylls often have a formal or artificial quality because they tend to be composed from the vantage point of a society that idealizes simple, natural people and environments untouched by the pace and stresses of civilization. The shepherd’s life is a typical subject.
The term idyll derives from the Idylls of Theocritus, a third-century B.C. Greek poet who romanticized rustic life in the Sicilian countryside. Renaissance writers imitated the conventions of classical tradition, but several poets of the Romantic Period introduced elements that more realistically depicted rural life. Victorian poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, went even further in Idylls of the King (1859), a long narrative poem based on Arthurian lore, rejecting the idyll’s traditional pastoral mode but retaining the concept of an ideal life away (in time as well as place) from the hustle and bustle of the contemporary world. Movies in which the idyllic setting is important include Frank Capra’s Lost Horizon (1937), Joshua Logan’s South Pacific (1958), Mark Rydell’s On Golden Pond (1981), and Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain (2005).