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IDYL, or IDYLL (Gr. ei5i XXeov, a des...

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Originally appearing in Volume V14, Page 291 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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IDYL, or IDYLL (Gr. ei5i XXeov, a descriptive piece, from ethos, a shape or style; Lat. idyllium), a short poem of a pastoral or rural character, in which something of the element of landscape is preserved or felt. The earliest commentators of antiquity used the term to designate a great variety of brief and homely poems, in which the description of natural objects was introduced, but the pastoral idea came into existence in connexion with the Alexandrian school, and particularly with Theocritus, Bion and Moschus, in the 3rd century before Christ. It appears, however, that ethvXMcov was not, even then, used consciously as the name of a form of verse, but as a diminutive of et5os, and merely signified " a little piece in the style of " whatever adjective might follow. Thus the idyls of the pastoral poets were eth6XX a ai1roXirca, little pieces in the goatherd style. We possess ten of the so-called " Idyls " of Theocritus, and these are the type from which the popular idea of this kind of poem is taken. But it is observable that there is nothing in the technical character of these ten very diverse pieces which leads us to suppose that the poet intended them to be regarded as typical. In fact, if he had been asked whether a poem was or was not an idyl he would doubtless have been unable to comprehend the question. As a matter of fact, the first of his poems, the celebrated " Dirge for Daphnis, " has become the prototype, not of the modern idyl, but of the modern elegy, and the not less famous " Festival of Adonis " is a realistic mime. It was the six little epical romances, if they may be so called, which started the conception of the idyl of Theocritus. It must be remembered, however, that there is nothing in ancient literature which justifies the notion of a form of verse recognized as an " idyl." In the 4th century after Christ the word seems to have become accepted in Latin as covering short descriptive poems of very diverse characters, for the early MSS. of Ausonius contain a section of " Edyllia," which embraces some of the most admirable of the miscellaneous pieces of that writer. But that Ausonius himself called his poems " idyls " is highly doubtful. Indeed, it is not certain that the heading is not a mistake for " Epyllia." The word was revived at the Renaissance and applied rather vaguely to Latin and Greek imitations of Theocritus and of Virgil. It was also applied to modern poems of a romantic and pastoral character published by such writers as Tasso in Italy, Monte-mayor in Portugal and Ronsard in French. In 1658 the English critic, Edward Phillips, defined an " idyl " as " a kind of eclogue," but it was seldom used to describe a modern poem. Mme Deshoulires published a series of seven Idylles in 1675, and Boileau makes a vague reference to the form. The sentimental German idyls of Salomon Gessner (in prose, 1758) and Voss (in hexameters, 1800) were modelled on Theocritus. Goethe's Alexis and Dora is an idyl. It appears that the very general use, or abuse, of the word in the second half of the Igth century, both in English and French, arises from the popularity of two works, curiously enough almost identical in date, by two eminent and popular poets. The Idylles heroiques (1858) of Victor de Laprade and the Idylls of the King (1859) of Tennyson enjoyed a success in either country which led to a wide imitation of the title among those who had, perhaps, a very inexact idea of its meaning. Among modern Germans, Berthold Auerbach and Jeremias Gotthelf have been prominent as the composers of sentimental idyls founded on anecdotes of village-life. On the whole, it is impossible to admit that the idyl has a place among definite literary forms. Its character is vague and has often been purely sentimental, and our conception of it is further obscured by the fact that though the noun carries no bucolic idea with it in English, the adjective("idyllic ") has come to be synonymous with pastoral and rustic. (E. G.) IFFLAND, AUGUST WILHELM (1759–1814), German actor and dramatic author, was born at Hanover on the 19th of April 1759. His father intended his son to be a clergyman, but the boy preferred the stage, and at eighteen ran away to Gotha in order to prepare himself for a theatrical career. He was fortunate enough to receive instruction from Hans Ekhof, and made such rapid progress that he was able in 1779 to accept an engagement at the theatre in Mannheim, then rising into prominence. He soon stood high in his profession, and extended his reputation by frequently playing in other towns. In 1796 he settled in Berlin, where he became director of the national theatre of Prussia; and in 1811 he was made general director of all representations before royalty. Iflland produced the classical works of Goethe and Schiller with conscientious care; but he had little understanding for the drama of the romantic writers. The form of play in which he was most at home, both as actor and playwright, was the domestic drama, the sentimental play of everyday life. His works are almost entirely destitute of imagination; but they display a thorough mastery of the technical necessities of the stage, and a remarkable power of devising effective situations. His best characters are simple and natural, fond of domestic life, but too much given to the utterance of sentimental commonplace. His best-known plays are Die Jager, Dienstpflicht, Die Advokaten, Die Mandel and Die Hagestolzen. Iffland was also a dramatic critic, and German actors place high value on the reasonings and hints respecting their art in his Almanach fur Theater and Theaterfreunde. In 1798–1802 he issued his Dramatischen Werke in 16 volumes, to which he added an autobiography (Heine theatralische Laufbahn). In 1807–1809 Iffland brought out two volumes of Neue dramatische Werke. Selections from his writings were afterwards published, one in 11 (Leipzig, 1827–1828), the other in ro volumes (Leipzig, 1844, and again r86o). As an actor, he was conspicuous for his brilliant portrayal of comedy parts. His fine gentlemen, polished men of the world, and distinguished princes were models of perfection, and showed none of the traces of elaborate study which were noticed in his interpretation of tragedy. He especially excelled in presenting those types of middle-class life which appear in his own comedies. Iffland died at Berlin on the 22nd of September 1814. A bronze portrait statue of him was erected in front of the Mannheim theatre in 1864. See K. Duneker, 1j/and in seinen Schriften als Kiinstler, Lehrer, and Direktor der Berliner Biihne (1859); W. Koffka, Iffland and Dalberg (1865); and Lampe, Studien fiber If/land als Dramatiker (Celle, 1899). Iffland's interesting autobiography, Heine theatralische Laufbahn, was republished by H. Holstein in 1885.
End of Article: IDYL, or IDYLL (Gr. ei5i XXeov, a descriptive piece, from ethos, a shape or style; Lat. idyllium)
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