Arcadian Idyll: an idealised vision about rural life, a country paradise.
Arcadia was and still is, a mountainous region in Greece. It was populated mainly by shepherds and the sleepy and fluffy flocks of sheep.
In reality, rural life in Arcadia was harsh, poor and beholden to the ravages of unpredictable weather.
However that reputation changed when ancient Roman poet Virgil decided to give Arcadia a PR boost.
In his collection of verses Eclogues, Virgil put Arcadia on the map with tales of merry herdsmen having love affairs and living their best lives in a country locale of sylvan and unmatched beauty.
From then on, Arcadia came to represent imagined rural bliss and a bucolic utopia.
Virgil: Eclogues ‘The Golden Age’
And for you, boy, the uncultivated earth will pour out
her first little gifts, straggling ivy and cyclamen everywhere
and the bean flower with the smiling acanthus.
The goats will come home themselves, their udders swollen
with milk, and the cattle will have no fear of fierce lions:
Your cradle itself will pour out delightful flowers:
And the snakes will die, and deceitful poisonous herbs
will wither: Assyrian spice plants will spring up everywhere.
And you will read both of heroic glories, and your father’s deeds,
and will soon know what virtue can be.Virgil, Eclogues
Et In Arcadia Ego by Nicolas Poussin
Translates to ‘Even in Arcadia, death exists’. A solemn reminder that even in the midst of blissful idyll, death lurks around the corner.