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Elegy, Obsequy, Threnody, Monody


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An Elegy, (from Greek -elegeia "song of mourning") Obsequy ("funeral" from Latin to "follow out") or Threnody (from Greek "to sing a dirge") are basically different names for a genre of poetry that focuses on the sorrow of something ending and is a sad and plaintive poem. The elegy dates back to 7th century B.C. Greece and is written as a sustained, formal, ode. The subject is most often the occasion of a death or a solemn event, it is a lament or funeral song.

There was a period in Rome in the 1st century B.C. when an elegy was a love poem, love chased death away. Latin influenced elegiac love poems are found in France in the 16th century A.D. But by the 17th century the elegy and death were reunited in English, German and French verse.

The elegy originally used elegiac meter which has a melancholy rhythm, however the verse is not necessarily written in couplets. The frame of the modern elegy is written at the poet's discretion although elegiac stanzas in iambic pentameter quatrains with cross rhyme are still commonly used.

A modern day elegy, President George H.W. Bush 1924-2018

When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd by Walt Whitman (1st 2 sections)
                            from Memories of President Lincoln
When lilacs last in the dooryard bloomed,
And the great star early droop'd in the western sky in the night,
I mourn'd, and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.

Ever-returning spring, trinity sure to me you bring,
Lilac blooming perennial and drooping star in the west,
And thought of him I love.
O powerful western fallen star! O shades of night --
O moody, tearful night! O great star disappear'd --
O the black murk that hides the star! O cruel hands that hold me powerless --
O helpless soul of me! O harsh surrounding cloud that will not free my soul.

  • Monody (Greek "singing alone") An elegy meant to be sung by a single mourner. A genre of usually short verse that laments a death with the frame, meter, and rhyme at the discretion of poet.

    Monody by Herman Melville

    o have known him, to have loved him
    After loneness long;
    And then to be estranged in life,
    And neither in the wrong;
    And now for death to set his seal—
    Ease me, a little ease, my song!
    By wintry hills his hermit-mound
    The sheeted snow-drifts drape,
    And houseless there the snow-bird flits
    Beneath the fir-trees’ crape:
    Glazed now with ice the cloistral vine
    That hid the shyest grape.

~~ © ~~ Poems by Judi Van Gorder ~~

For permission to use this work you can write to Tinker1111@icloud.com

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