Elegy

In English literature, an elegy is a poem of serious reflection, usually a lament for the dead. The Oxford Handbook of the Elegy notes:

For all of its pervasiveness, however, the ‘elegy’ remains remarkably ill-defined: sometimes used as a catch-all to denominate texts of a somber or pessimistic tone, sometimes as a marker for textual monumentalizing, and sometimes strictly as a sign of a lament for the dead.[1]

History

The Greek term elegeia (Greek: ἐλεγεία; from ἔλεγος, elegos, "lament")[2] originally referred to any verse written in elegiac couplets and covering a wide range of subject matter (death, love, war). The term also included epitaphs, sad and mournful songs,[3] and commemorative verses.[4] The Latin elegy of ancient Roman literature was most often erotic or mythological in nature. Because of its structural potential for rhetorical effects, the elegiac couplet was also used by both Greek and Roman poets for witty, humorous, and satiric subject matter.

Other than epitaphs, examples of ancient elegy as a poem of mourning include Catullus' Carmen 101, on his dead brother, and elegies by Propertius on his dead mistress Cynthia and a matriarch of the prominent Cornelian family. Ovid wrote elegies bemoaning his exile, which he likened to a death.

In English literature, the more modern and restricted meaning, of a lament for a departed beloved or tragic event, has been current only since the sixteenth century; the broader concept was still employed by John Donne for his elegies, written in the early seventeenth century. This looser concept is especially evident in the Old English Exeter Book (circa 1000 CE) which contains "serious meditative" and well-known poems such as "The Wanderer", "The Seafarer", and "The Wife's Lament".[5] In these elegies, the narrators use the lyrical "I" to describe their own personal and mournful experiences. They tell the story of the individual rather than the collective lore of his or her people as epic poetry seeks to tell.[6] For Samuel Taylor Coleridge and others, the term had come to mean "serious meditative poem":[4]

Elegy is a form of poetry natural to the reflective mind. It may treat of any subject, but it must treat of no subject for itself; but always and exclusively with reference to the poet. As he will feel regret for the past or desire for the future, so sorrow and love became the principal themes of the elegy. Elegy presents every thing as lost and gone or absent and future.[7]

A famous example of elegy is Thomas Gray's Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard (1750). In French, perhaps the most famous elegy is Le Lac (1820) by Alphonse de Lamartine.[8]

"Elegy" (French: élégie) may denote a type of musical work, usually of a sad or somber nature. A well-known example is the Élégie, Op. 10, by Jules Massenet. This was originally written for piano, as a student work; then he set it as a song; and finally it appeared as the "Invocation", for cello and orchestra, a section of his incidental music to Leconte de Lisle's Les Érinnyes.

See also

References

  1. ^ Weisman, Karen, ed. (2012). "Book: The Oxford Handbook of the Elegy". Oxford Index. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 13 August 2016.
  2. ^ According to R. S. P. Beekes: "The word is probably Pre-Greek" (Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Brill, 2009, p. 404).
  3. ^ Nagy G. "Ancient Greek elegy" in The Oxford Handbook of the Elegy, ed. Karen Weisman. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010, pp 13-45.
  4. ^ a b Cuddon, J. A.; Preston, C. E. (1998). The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory (4 ed.). London: Penguin. pp. 253–55. ISBN 9780140513639.
  5. ^ Black, Joseph (2011). The Broadview Anthology of British Literature (Second ed.). Canada: Broadview Press. p. 51. ISBN 9781554810482.
  6. ^ Battles, Paul (Winter 2014). "Toward a Theory of Old English Poetic Genres: Epic, Elegy, Wisdom Poetry, and the "Traditional Opening"". Studies in Philology. 111 (1): 11. Retrieved 5 October 2014.
  7. ^ S. T. Coleridge, Specimens of the Table Talk of the late Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1835), vol 2, p. 268.
  8. ^ Wikisource Gosse, Edmund (1911). "Elegy" . In Chisholm, Hugh. Encyclopædia Britannica. 9 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 252–253.

Further reading

  • Casey, Brian (2007). "Genres and Styles," in Funeral Music Genres: With a Stylistic/Topical Lexicon and Transcriptions for a Variety of Instrumental Ensembles. University Press, Inc.
  • Cavitch, Max (2007). American Elegy: The Poetry of Mourning from the Puritans to Whitman. University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 0-8166-4893-X.
  • Ramazani, Jahan (1994). Poetry of Mourning: The Modern Elegy from Hardy to Heaney. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-70340-1.
  • Sacks, Peter M. (1987). The English Elegy: Studies in the Genre from Spenser to Yeats. Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-3471-6.

External links

  • Media related to Elegies at Wikimedia Commons
  • The dictionary definition of elegy at Wiktionary
  • Elegy Explained at Literary Devices
Adonaïs

Adonaïs: An Elegy on the Death of John Keats, Author of Endymion, Hyperion, etc. , also spelled Adonaies, is a pastoral elegy written by Percy Bysshe Shelley for John Keats in 1821, and widely regarded as one of Shelley's best and most well-known works. The poem, which is in 495 lines in 55 Spenserian stanzas, was composed in the spring of 1821 immediately after 11 April, when Shelley heard of Keats' death (seven weeks earlier). It is a pastoral elegy, in the English tradition of John Milton's Lycidas. Shelley had studied and translated classical elegies. The title of the poem is modelled on ancient works, such as Achilleïs (a poem about Achilles), an epic poem by the 1st century CE Roman poet, Statius, and refers to the untimely death of the Greek Adonis, a god of fertility. Some critics suggest that Shelley used Virgil's tenth Eclogue, in praise of Cornelius Gallus, as a model.

It was published by Charles Ollier in July 1821 (see 1821 in poetry) with a preface in which Shelley made the mistaken assertion that Keats had died from a rupture of the lung induced by rage at the unfairly harsh reviews of his verse in the Quarterly Review and other journals. He also thanked Joseph Severn for caring for Keats in Rome. This praise increased literary interest in Severn's works.

Archilochus

For the hummingbird, see Archilochus (genus).

Archilochus (; Greek: Ἀρχίλοχος Arkhilokhos; c. 680 – c. 645 BC) was a Greek lyric poet from the island of Paros in the Archaic period. He is celebrated for his versatile and innovative use of poetic meters, and is the earliest known Greek author to compose almost entirely on the theme of his own emotions and experiences.Alexandrian scholars included him in their canonic list of iambic poets, along with Semonides and Hipponax, yet ancient commentators also numbered him with Tyrtaeus and Callinus as the possible inventor of the elegy. Modern critics often characterize him simply as a lyric poet. Although his work now only survives in fragments, he was revered by the ancient Greeks as one of their most brilliant authors, able to be mentioned in the same breath as Homer and Hesiod, yet he was also censured by them as the archetypal poet of blame—his invectives were even said to have driven his former fiancée and her father to suicide. He presented himself as a man of few illusions either in war or in love, such as in the following elegy, where discretion is seen to be the better part of valour:

Archilochus was much imitated even up to Roman times and three other distinguished poets later claimed to have thrown away their shields—Alcaeus, Anacreon and Horace.

Elegiac

The adjective elegiac has two possible meanings. First, it can refer to something of, relating to, or involving, an elegy or something that expresses similar mournfulness or sorrow. Second, it can refer more specifically to poetry composed in the form of elegiac couplets.An elegiac couplet consists of one line of poetry in dactylic hexameter followed by a line in dactylic pentameter. Because dactylic hexameter is used throughout epic poetry, and because the elegiac form was always considered "lower style" than epic, elegists, or poets who wrote elegies, frequently wrote with epic poetry in mind and positioned themselves in relation to epic.

Elegy (John Zorn album)

Elegy is an album by John Zorn, which was dedicated to Jean Genet, featuring four "file card" compositions titled after colors and arranged in the style of chamber music.

Elegy (The Twilight Zone)

"Elegy" is episode 20 of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone. It originally aired on February 19, 1960 on CBS.

Elegy (film)

Elegy is a 2008 American romantic drama film directed by Isabel Coixet. Its screenplay is adapted by Nicholas Meyer from the novel The Dying Animal by Philip Roth. The film stars Penélope Cruz, Ben Kingsley, and Dennis Hopper, and features Patricia Clarkson and Peter Sarsgaard in supporting roles. The film was set in New York City but was shot in Vancouver. The film's score was composed and conducted by Cliff Eidelman.

Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard

Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard is a poem by Thomas Gray, completed in 1750 and first published in 1751. The poem's origins are unknown, but it was partly inspired by Gray's thoughts following the death of the poet Richard West in 1742. Originally titled Stanzas Wrote in a Country Church-Yard, the poem was completed when Gray was living near St Giles' parish church at Stoke Poges. It was sent to his friend Horace Walpole, who popularised the poem among London literary circles. Gray was eventually forced to publish the work on 15 February 1751 in order to preempt a magazine publisher from printing an unlicensed copy of the poem.

The poem is an elegy in name but not in form; it employs a style similar to that of contemporary odes, but it embodies a meditation on death, and remembrance after death. The poem argues that the remembrance can be good and bad, and the narrator finds comfort in pondering the lives of the obscure rustics buried in the churchyard. The two versions of the poem, Stanzas and Elegy, approach death differently; the first contains a stoic response to death, but the final version contains an epitaph which serves to repress the narrator's fear of dying. With its discussion of, and focus on, the obscure and the known, the poem has possible political ramifications, but it does not make any definite claims on politics to be more universal in its approach to life and death.

Claimed as "probably still today the best-known and best-loved poem in English", the Elegy quickly became popular. It was printed many times and in a variety of formats, translated into many languages, and praised by critics even after Gray's other poetry had fallen out of favour. Later critics tended to comment on its language and universal aspects, but some felt the ending was unconvincing—failing to resolve the questions the poem raised—or that the poem did not do enough to present a political statement that would serve to help the obscure rustic poor who form its central image.

Elegy for J.F.K.

Elegy for J.F.K. is a piece of vocal music composed by the Russian-born composer Igor Stravinsky in 1964, commemorating the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy.

Elegy for Young Lovers

Elegy for Young Lovers (in German, Elegie für junge Liebende) is an opera in three acts by Hans Werner Henze to an English libretto by W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman.

Fighting Elegy

Fighting Elegy (けんかえれじい, Kenka erejii) is a 1966 Japanese film directed by Seijun Suzuki. Filmmaker Kaneto Shindō adapted the script from the novel by Takashi Suzuki. The film has also screened under the titles Violence Elegy, Elegy to Violence, Elegy for a Quarrel and The Born Fighter at various film festivals and retrospectives.

Geraint son of Erbin

Geraint son of Erbin (Middle Welsh Geraint uab Erbin) is a medieval Welsh poem celebrating the hero Geraint and his deeds at the Battle of Llongborth. The poem consists of three-line englyn stanzas and exists in several versions all in Middle Welsh. The earliest surviving version is in the Black Book of Carmarthen, completed around 1250, though the poem may have been composed in the 10th or 11th century. The poem is significant for its early mention of King Arthur.

J. D. Vance

James David "J. D." Vance (born James Donald Bowman; August 2, 1984) is an American author and venture capitalist known for his memoir Hillbilly Elegy. The book is about the Appalachian values of his upbringing and their relation to the social problems of his hometown. The book was on The New York Times Best Seller list in 2016 and 2017. It was a finalist for the 2017 Dayton Literary Peace Prize.

It attracted significant attention during the 2016 election from national media as a window into the white working class. Vance attracted criticism from some Eastern Kentuckians who said he was "not a hillbilly", while others supported him.

Monuments to an Elegy

Monuments to an Elegy is the ninth studio album by American alternative rock band The Smashing Pumpkins, released on December 5, 2014. Band leader Billy Corgan has noted that—similar to the band's previous release, Oceania—the album was the final part of the project, Teargarden by Kaleidyscope, due to cancellation of the project in 2018 by Corgan. The album received generally positive reviews from music critics, but sold poorly compared to the band's previous albums, peaking at number 33 in the U.S. and number 59 in the U.K., thus making it (at the time) their lowest charting album in both regions since their debut, Gish (1991).

My Elegy

My Elegy is a concert video recording of the Toshiko Akiyoshi Jazz Orchestra featuring Lew Tabackin. It was released in Japan in 1984 by LaserDisc Corp. as a LaserVision video disk.

River Elegy

River Elegy (simplified Chinese: 河殇; traditional Chinese: 河殤; pinyin: Héshāng) was a six-part documentary by Wang Luxiang, shown on China Central Television in 1988 which portrayed the decline of traditional Chinese culture.

Shakespeare apocrypha

The Shakespeare apocrypha is a group of plays and poems that have sometimes been attributed to William Shakespeare, but whose attribution is questionable for various reasons. The issue is separate from the debate on Shakespearean authorship, which addresses the authorship of the works traditionally attributed to Shakespeare.

The Hellbound Heart

The Hellbound Heart is a horror novella by Clive Barker, first published in November 1986 by Dark Harvest in the third volume of their Night Visions anthology series, and notable for becoming the basis for the 1987 film Hellraiser and its franchise. It was re-released as a stand-alone title by HarperCollins in 1988, after the success of the movie, along with an audiobook recorded by Clive Barker and published by Simon & Schuster Audioworks. It retains the gory, visceral style that Barker introduced in his series of collected short stories The Books of Blood. The story focuses on a mystical puzzle box and the horror it wreaks on a family that is unfortunate enough to come across it.

Thomas Gray

Thomas Gray (26 December 1716 – 30 July 1771) was an English poet, letter-writer, classical scholar, and professor at Pembroke College, Cambridge. He is widely known for his Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard, published in 1751.

Gray was an extremely self-critical writer who published only 13 poems in his lifetime, despite being extremely popular. He was even offered the position of Poet Laureate in 1757, though he declined.

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