A form of poetry, usually a short pastoral scene. The term originates with Theocritus of Syracuse (fl. c. 300 BCE), whose poems are all called Idylls. But the Greek is eidúllion, diminutive of eîdos 'shape, scene', and does not specifically refer to nymphs or shepherds. Theocritus himself was quite varied, but the Theocritean scenes most imitated by later writers (from Virgil to Milton to Tennyson) were the bucolic ones featuring rushing brooks and simple flutes and forlorn lovers looking after goats.

Virgil's Eclogues and Milton's lament Lycidas can be considered true idylls. Tennyson's epic on King Arthur, though titled Idylls of the King, is not idyllic in the traditional sense. The word idyllic has come to mean belonging to a never-never world of bliss in the countryside.

The word has been used outside poetry: Wagner wrote his Siegfried idyll for the birthday of his wife Cosima.

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