Literary Term Elegy

Literary Term Elegy

An Elegy is a mournful poem about a tragic incident or the death of a nearest or dearest person.  

It’s a reflective and melancholic piece often written as a tribute or lamentation. Elegy expresses feelings of grief, sorrow, and nostalgia. Traditionally, elegies were composed to celebrate the deceased, but over time, the form expanded to encompass themes of loss, reflection on the transient nature of life, or even the passing of an era. Elegies are deeply emotional and reflective. Elegy represents vivid imagery and metaphor to express the sense of loss and hope.

The most famous elegies of English literature are “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” by Thomas Gray, “O Captain! My Captain!” by Walt Whitman, “Lycidas” by John Milton and “In Memoriam A.H.H.” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

Characteristics of Elegy: Elegy often reflects on the transient nature of life, expressing sorrow, sadness, or a sense of loss. Here are some common characteristics:

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  1. Mourning and Loss: Elegies are rooted in lamentation and grief. Elegies are often written in response to death, but they can also mourn the loss of youth, love, or other aspects of life.
  2. Reflective Tone: Elegies have a reflective tone. Elegies explore emotions such as sadness, melancholy, and hope. Elegies may reflect the past and express a sense of hope or nostalgia.
  3. Form and Structure: Elegies can vary in form but often have a structured and formal composition. Elegies follow specific stanza patterns, such as elegiac couplets or quatrains, and employ rhyme schemes.
  4. Themes of Transience and Mortality: Elegies frequently explores the themes of transience, mortality, and the fleeting nature of life. 

Read More: Literary Term Dramatic Monologue

  1. Expression of Grief: These poems often express the speaker’s personal grief or the collective grief of a community. This offers a way to process and cope with loss.
  2. Tribute or Honour: Elegies can serve as a tribute to the deceased, celebrating their life, achievements, or virtues.
  3. Symbolism and Imagery: Elegies often employ rich symbolism and vivid imagery to convey emotions and paint a picture of the subject or the emotions surrounding the loss.
Riya Akter
Riya Akter
Hey, This is Riya Akter Setu, B.A (Hons) & M.A in English from National University.


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