Monday, September 13, 2010

Elegy

An elegy is a mournful, melancholy or plaintive poem, especially a lament for the dead or a funeral song. The term "elegy," which originally denoted a type of poetic meter (elegiac meter), commonly describes a poem of mourning. An elegy may also reflect something that seems to the author to be strange or mysterious. The elegy, as a reflection on a death, on a sorrow more generally, or on something mysterious, may be classified as a form of lyric poetry. In a related sense that harks back to ancient poetic traditions of sung poetry, the word "elegy" may also denote a type of musical work, usually of a sad or somber nature.

Elegiac poetry has been written since antiquity. Perhaps the first example of the form is II Samuel, Chapter 2, in which David laments the fall of King Saul and Saul's son and heir Jonathan. Notable practitioners have included Propertius (lived ca. 50 BCE – ca. 15 BCE), Jorge Manrique (1476), Jan Kochanowski (1580), Chidiock Tichborne (1586), Edmund Spenser (1595), Ben Jonson (1616), John Milton (1637), Thomas Gray (1750), Charlotte Turner Smith (1784), William Cullen Bryant (1817), Percy Bysshe Shelley (1821), Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1823), Evgeny Baratynsky (1837), Alfred Tennyson (1849), Walt Whitman (1865), Louis Gallet (lived 1835–98), Antonio Machado (1903), Juan Ramón Jiménez (1914), William Butler Yeats (1916), Rainer Maria Rilke (1922), Virginia Woolf (1927), Federico García Lorca (1935), Kamau Brathwaite (born 1930).

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