The absurdities of the conventional pastoral did not, indeed, pass altogether unnoticed in their own day, for early in the sixteenth century Teofilo Folengo composed his Zanitonella in macaronic verse. It consists of eclogues and poems in hexameter and elegiac metre ridiculing polite pastoralism through contrast with the crudities of actual rusticity. In the same manner Berni travestied the courtly pastoral of vernacular writers in his realistic pictures of village love. But though the satirist might find ample scope for his wit in anatomizing the foible of the day, fashionable society continued none the less to encourage the exquisite inanity, and to be flattered by the elegant obscurity, of the allegorical pastoral.
In 1481 appeared an Italian translation of the Bucolics of Vergil from the pen of Bernardo Pulci. The same volume also contained a collection of eclogues in the vernacular by various authors, none of which have any particular interest beyond what attaches to them as practically heading the list of Italian pastorals. It will be noticed that these poems correspond in date with the later school of Latin bucolic writers, represented by Mantuan; and the vernacular compositions developed approximately parallel to, though usually in imitation of, those in the learned tongue. But the fourteenth-century school of Petrarch had not been entirely without its representative in Italian. At least one poem included by Boccaccio in his Ameto is a strict eclogue, composed throughout in terza rima, which was destined to become the standard verse-form for ‘pastoral,’ as ottava rima for ‘rustic,’ composition. The poem is a contention between an upland and a lowland shepherd, and begins in genuine pastoral fashion:
Come Titan del seno dell’
Esce, cosi con le mie pecorelle
I monti cerco sema far dimora.
It is chiefly differentiated from many similar compositions in Latin—and the distinction is of some importance—in that the interest is purely pastoral; no political or religious allusions being discernible under the arguments of the somewhat quarrelsome swains. This peculiarity is on the whole characteristic of the later vernacular pastoral likewise, which, after the appearance of the collection of 1481, soon became extremely common, Siena and Urbino, Ferrara, Bologna and Padua, Florence and Naples, all alike bearing practical witness to the popularity of the kind.