The definition used by William D. Paden for the genre is:
- The mode is pastoral, commonly realised in a counttry setting and in the description of the heroine as a shepherdess.
- The cast includes a man and a young woman.
- The plot comprises a discovery and an attempted seduction.
- The rhetoric involves both narrative and dialogue.
- The point of view is that of the man.
This turns the song of courtly love on its head, by having the object of desire being not a noble lady where social constraints dictate events, but a commoner, with the less refined associations that would be drawn by the listener.