The word ‘elegy’ comes from the Greek word ‘elegos’ meaning ‘song’. An elegy is a mournful poem about the death of a person or more rarely a group. Elegy can also express a feeling of loss in a broader sense, such as for a way of life or reflection of human morality.
- It is a type of lyric & focuses on expressing emotions or thoughts.
- It uses formal language & structure.
- It may mourn the passing of life & beauty or someone dear to the speaker.
- It may explore questions about nature of life & death or immorality of soul.
- It may express the speaker’s anger about death.
An elegy is not same as a ‘eulogy’ which is a statement written in prose that is read aloud at a funeral, although an elegy might serve as a eulogy. Three elements are found in a traditional elegy-
- Firstly, it begins with mourn, a grief at the loss of something or someone.
- In the second stage, the poet shows admiration, listing qualities & impressive deeds in the person’s lifetime.
- The poem then moves to the third stage of consolidation. This last element may be more religious.
An elegy may be of different kinds-personal, impersonal or pastoral. Pastoral elegy represents both the poet & the one he mourns for-who is usually also a poet-as Shepherds. In Pastoral Elegies like ‘Lycidas’, Milton mourns in the grief of a shepherd.