A lament or lamentation is a passionate expression of grief, often in music, poetry, or song form. The grief is most often born of regret, or mourning. Laments can also be expressed in a verbal manner, where the participant would lament about something they regret or someone they've lost, usually accompanied by wailing, moaning and/or crying.[1] Laments constitute some of the oldest forms of writing and examples are present across human cultures.

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Jan Kochanowski with dead daughter in painting inspired by the poet's Laments


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Egyptian women weeping and lamenting.

Many of the oldest and most lasting poems in human history have been laments.[2] The Lament for Sumer and Ur dates back at least 4000 years to ancient Sumer, the world's first urban civilization. Laments are present in both the Iliad and the Odyssey, and laments continued to be sung in elegiacs accompanied by the aulos in classical and Hellenistic Greece.[3] Elements of laments appear in Beowulf, in the Hindu Vedas, and in ancient Near Eastern religious texts. They are included in the Mesopotamian city laments such as the Lament for Ur and the Jewish Tanakh, (which would later become the Christian Old Testament).

In many oral traditions, both early and modern, the lament has been a genre usually performed by women:[4] Batya Weinbaum made a case for the spontaneous lament of women chanters in the creation of the oral tradition that resulted in the Iliad[5] The material of lament, the "sound of trauma" is as much an element in the Book of Job as in the genre of pastoral elegy, such as Shelley's "Adonais" or Matthew Arnold's "Thyrsis".[6]

The Book of Lamentations or Lamentations of Jeremiah figures in the Old Testament. The Lamentation of Christ (under many closely variant terms) is a common subject from the Life of Christ in art, showing his dead body being mourned after the Crucifixion.

A Lament in The Book of Lamentations or in the Psalms (in the particular Lament/Complaint Psalms of the Tanakh, may be looked at as "a cry of need in a context of crisis when Israel lacks the resources to fend for itself."[7] Another way of looking at it is all the more basic: laments simply being "appeals for divine help in distress".[8] These laments, too, often have a set format: an address to God, description of the suffering/anguish which one seeks relief, a petition for help and deliverance, a curse towards one's enemies, an expression of the belief of ones innocence or a confession of the lack thereof, a vow corresponding to an expected divine response, and lastly, a song of thanksgiving.[9] Examples of a general format of this, both in the individual and communal laments, can be seen in Psalm 3 and Psalm 44 respectively.[10]

The Lament of Edward II, if it is actually written by Edward II of England, is the sole surviving composition of his.

A heroine's lament is a conventional fixture of baroque opera seria, accompanied usually by strings alone, in descending tetrachords.[11] Because of their plangent cantabile melodic lines, evocatively free, non-strophic construction and adagio pace, operatic laments have remained vividly memorable soprano or mezzo-soprano arias even when separated from the emotional pathos of their operatic contexts. An early example is Ariadne's "Lasciatemi morire", which is the only survivor of Claudio Monteverdi's lost Arianna. Francesco Cavalli's operas extended the lamento formula, in numerous exemplars, of which Ciro's "Negatemi respiri" from Ciro is notable.[12]

Other examples include Dido's lament, "When I am laid" (Henry Purcell, Dido and Aeneas), "Lascia ch'io pianga" (Georg Friedrich Handel, Rinaldo), "Caro mio ben" (Tomasso or Giuseppe Giordani). The lament continued to represent a musico-dramatic high point. In the context of opera buffa, the Countess's lament, "Dove sono" comes as a surprise to the audience of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Marriage of Figaro, and in Gioachino Rossini's Barber of Seville, Rosina's plaintive words at her apparent abandonment are followed, not by the expected lament aria, but by a vivid orchestral interlude of storm music. The heroine's lament remained a fixture in romantic opera, and the Marschallin's monologue in Act I of Der Rosenkavalier can be understood as a penetrating psychological lament.[13]

Scottish laments

The purely instrumental lament is a common form in pìobaireachd music for the Scottish bagpipes. "MacCrimmon's Lament" dates to the Jacobite uprising of 1745. The tune is held to have been written by Donald Ban MacCrimmon, piper to the MacLeods of Dunvegan, who supported the Hanoverians. It is said that Donald Ban, who was killed at Moy in 1746, had an intimation that he would not return.[14]

A well-known Gaelic lullaby is "Griogal Cridhe" ("Beloved Gregor"). It was composed in 1570 after the execution of Gregor MacGregor by the Campbells. The grief-stricken widow, Marion Campbell, describes what happened as she sings to her child.[15]

"Cumhadh na Cloinne" (Lament for the Children) was composed by Padruig Mór MacCrimmon in the early 1650s. It is generally held to be based on the loss of seven of MacCrimmon's eight sons to an unknown illness, possibly brought to Skye by a trading vessel. Author Bridget MacKenzie, in Piping Traditions of Argyll, suggests that it refers to the slaughter of the MacLeod's fighting Cromwell's forces at the Battle of Worcester. It may have been inspired by both.[16]

Other Scottish laments include "Lowlands Away", "MacPherson's Rant", and "Hector the Hero".

Musical form

There is a short, free musical form appearing in the Baroque and then again in the Romantic periods, called a lament. It is typically a set of harmonic variations in homophonic texture, wherein the bass descends through a tetrachord, usually one suggesting a minor mode.

See also


  1. ^ Piotr Michalowski, trans., Lamentation over the Destruction of Sumer and Ur (Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 1989), 39–62; cited in Nancy Lee, Lyrics of Lament: From Tragedy to Transformation (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2009)
  2. ^ Linda M. Austin, "The Lament and the Rhetoric of the Sublime" Nineteenth-Century Literature 53.3 (December 1998:279-306) traces the literary rhetoric evoking a voice crying.
  3. ^ Margaret Alexiou, Ritual Lament in Greek Tradition (Cambridge University Press) 1974
  4. ^ Alexiou 1974; Angela Bourke, "More in anger than in sorrow: Irish women's lament poetry", in Joan Newlon Radnor, ed., Feminist Messages: Coding in Women's Folk Culture (Urbana: Illinois University Press) 1993:160-82.
  5. ^ Batya Weinbaum, "Lament Ritual Transformed into Literature: Positing Women's Prayer as Cornerstone in Western Classical Literature" The Journal of American Folklore 114 No. 451 (Winter 2001:20-39).
  6. ^ Austin 1998:280f.
  7. ^ Walter Brueggeman, An Unsettling God, (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2009) 13
  8. ^ Michael D. Coogan, A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009) 370
  9. ^ Michael Coogan, A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009) 370
  10. ^ Michael Coogan, A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009) 370
  11. ^ Ellen Rosand, 2007. Opera in Seventeenth-Century Venice (University of California Press), "The lament aria: variations on a theme" pp 377ff.
  12. ^ "Negatemi respiri" and several others are noted by Rosand 2007:377f.
  13. ^ Called "the Marschallin's Act I lament", in Jeremy Eichler, "Lushly Lamenting the Wages of Time and a Lost Golden Age" opera review in The New York Times March 15, 2005.
  14. ^ "MacCrimmon's Lament", Foghlam Alba Archived 2013-10-06 at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ "Lullabies and Dandlings", Foghlam Alba Archived 2013-10-04 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ "Pibroch songs and canntaireachd", Education Scotland Archived 2013-10-04 at the Wayback Machine


  • Richard Church, The Lamendation of Military Campaigns. PDQ: Steve Ruling, 2000.
  • Margaret Alexiou, The ritual lament in Greek tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1974.
  • Walter Brueggeman, An Unsettling God. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2009
  • Michael Coogan, A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009
  • H. Munro Chadwick, Nora Kershaw Chadwick, The growth of literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1932–40), e.g. vol. 2 p. 229.
  • Andrew Dalby, Rediscovering Homer (New York: Norton, 2006. ISBN 0-393-05788-7) pp. 141–143.
  • Gail Holst-Warhaft, Dangerous voices: women's laments and Greek literature. London: Routledge, 1992. ISBN 0-415-12165-5.
  • Nancy C. Lee, Lyrics of Lament: From Tragedy to Transformation. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2010.
  • Claus Westermann, Praise and Lament in the Psalms. Westminster: John Knox Press, 1981. ISBN 0-8042-1792-0.
  • Marcello Sorce Keller, “Expressing, Communicating, Sharing and Representing Grief and Sorrow with Organised Sound (Musings in Eight Short Segments)”, in Stephen Wild, Di Roy, Aaron Corn and Ruth Lee Martin (eds), One Common Thread – The Musical World of Lament – Thematic Issue of Humanities Research. Canberra, ANU University Press, Vol. XIX, No. 3. 2013, 3-14

External links

Greek laments (Thrênoi, Moirológia)

500 Miles

"500 Miles" (also known as "500 Miles Away from Home" or "Railroaders' Lament") is a song made popular in the United States and Europe during the 1960s folk revival. The simple repetitive lyrics offer a lament by a traveller who is far from home, out of money and too ashamed to return.

An Díbirt go Connachta

An Díbirt go Connachta is a lament attributed to Feardorcha Ó Mealláin who is claimed as staraí Éirí amach 1641/the historian of the 1641 Rising, Tarlach Ó Mealláin.

It is a lament in Irish inspired by the proposed scheme of the early 1650s to transplant the 'delinquent' Irish to Connacht.

Aziz Nesin

Aziz Nesin (pronounced [ˈaziz ˈne.sin ]; born Mehmet Nusret,¶ 20 December 1915 – 6 July 1995) was a Turkish writer, humorist and the author of more than 100 books. Born in a time when Turks did not have official surnames, he had to adopt one after the Surname Law of 1934 was passed. Although his family carried the epithet "Topalosmanoğlu", after an ancestor named "Topal Osman", he chose the surname "Nesin". In Turkish, Nesin? means, What are you?.

Crescent (John Coltrane album)

Crescent is a 1964 studio album by jazz musician John Coltrane, released by Impulse! as A-66. Alongside Coltrane on tenor saxophone, the album features McCoy Tyner (piano), Jimmy Garrison (double bass) and Elvin Jones (drums) playing original Coltrane compositions.

Coltrane does not solo at all on side two of the original LP; the ballad "Lonnie's Lament" instead features a long bass solo by Garrison. The album's closing track is an improvisational feature for Jones (with spare melodic accompaniment from Coltrane's tenor sax and Garrison's bass at the song's beginning and end): Coltrane continued to explore drum/saxophone duets in live performances with this group and on subsequent recordings such as the posthumously released Interstellar Space (with Rashied Ali).


"Deor" (or "The Lament of Deor") is an Old English poem found in the late-10th-century collection the Exeter Book. The poem consists of the lament of the scop Deor, who lends his name to the poem, which was given no formal title; modern scholars do not actually believe Deor to be the author of this poem.

In the poem, Deor's lord has replaced him. Deor mentions various figures from Germanic mythology and reconciles his own troubles with the troubles these figures faced, ending each section with the refrain "that passed away, so may this." The poem Deor begins with the struggles and misfortunes of a character named Weland. The poem consists of 42 alliterative lines.

Don't Get Around Much Anymore

"Don't Get Around Much Anymore" is a jazz standard written by composer Duke Ellington. The song was originally entitled "Never No Lament" and was first recorded by Duke Ellington and his orchestra on May 4, 1940. "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" quickly became a hit after Bob Russell wrote its lyrics in 1942.Two different recordings of "Don't Get Around Much Anymore", one by The Ink Spots and the other by Ellington's own band, reached No. 1 on the R&B chart in the US in 1943. Both were top-ten pop records, along with a version by Glen Gray. The Duke Ellington version reached No. 8 on the pop chart.

Ecce Cor Meum

Ecce Cor Meum (Latin for Behold My Heart) is the fourth classical album by Paul McCartney. The album was released on 25 September 2006 by EMI Classics. An oratorio in four movements, it is produced by John Fraser, written in Latin and English, and scored for orchestra and boys and adult choir. The oratorio was partly inspired by Sir Paul's wife Linda. It is also the only classical album by McCartney that was not released on vinyl.


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.

Lament of the Lamb

Lament of the Lamb (Japanese: 羊の歌、ひつじのうた, Hepburn: Hitsuji no Uta, lit. "Song of the Sheep"), alternatively titled The Lament of a Lamb or Sheep's Song, is a Japanese horror manga series written and illustrated by Kei Toume. It follows Kazuna, a boy with a mysterious illness which turns out to be vampirism. It was adapted into a live action film in 2002 directed by Junji Hanado, and an anime OVA series in 2003–04. There was also a six-part live TV miniseries and a radio drama.

The manga was licensed in North America by Tokyopop, and in Russia by Comics Factory.

Nights in White Satin

"Nights in White Satin" is a song by the Moody Blues, written and composed by Justin Hayward. It was first featured as the segment "The Night" on the album Days of Future Passed. When first released as a single in 1967, it reached number 19 on the UK Singles Chart and number 103 in the United States in 1968. It was the first significant chart entry by the band since "Go Now" and its recent lineup change, in which Denny Laine had resigned and both Hayward and John Lodge had joined.

When reissued in 1972, in the United States the single hit number two – for two weeks – on the Billboard Hot 100 (behind "I Can See Clearly Now" by Johnny Nash) and hit number one on the Cash Box Top 100. It earned a gold certification for sales of over a million U.S. copies. It also hit number one in Canada.


Scarcity is the limited availability of a commodity, which may be in demand in the market. Scarcity also includes an individual's lack of resources to buy commodities.

Standing Stone (album)

Standing Stone is Paul McCartney's second full-length release of original classical music (coming after 1991's Liverpool Oratorio) and was issued shortly after the release of Flaming Pie'. The world premiere performance was held at The Royal Albert Hall on 14 October 1997.

Teenage Lament '74

"Teenage Lament '74" is a song by Alice Cooper. It was released on the album Muscle of Love, and was written by Cooper and Neal Smith.

The song reached #12 on the UK Singles Chart in 1973. The song also reached #16 on the Ireland chart, #43 on Germany's Media Control Chart, #48 on the Billboard Hot 100, and #89 on Australia's ARIA chart.The song was produced by Jack Douglas and Jack Richardson.

The Famous Flower of Serving-Men

The Famous Flower of Serving-Men or The Lady turned Serving-Man is Child Ballad number 106 and a murder ballad. Child considered it as closely related to the ballad The Lament Of The Border Widow or The Border Widow's Lament.

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.


Titiksha or titikșā (Sanskrit: तितिक्षा 'forbearance') is defined by the Uddhava Gita as the "patient endurance of suffering." In Vedanta philosophy it is the bearing with indifference all opposites such as pleasure and pain, heat and cold, expectation of reward and punishment, accruement or gain and loss, vanity and envy, resentment and deprecation, fame and obscurity, lavishness and obeisance, pride and egotism, virtue-respect and vice-respect, birth and death, happiness, safety, comfort, restlessness and boredom, affection and bereavement or infatuation, attachment and desire etc. Being entirely responsible for encouragement and/or reproach for ones own personal behavior, past behavior, frame of mind and esteem. It is one of the six qualities, devotions, jewels or divine bounties beginning with Sama, the repression, alleviating or release of the inward sense called Manas. Another quality is Dama, the renunciation of behaviors or utilizing self-control with moderation, with correct discrimination and without aversion.Shankara defines Titiksha in the following words:

सहनं सर्वदुःखानामऽप्रतिकारपूर्वकम् |

चिन्ताविलापरहितं सा तितिक्षा निगद्यते ||"Endurance of all afflictions without countering aids, and without anxiety or lament is said to be titiksha." (Vivekachudamani 25)By speaking of titiksha as endurance without anxiety or lament and without external aids, Shankara refers to such titiksha as the means to inquiry into Brahman, for a mind which is subject to anxiety and lament is unfit for conducting this kind of inquiry. Vivekananda explains that forbearance of all misery, without even a thought of resisting or driving it out, without even any painful feeling in the mind, or any remorse is titiksha.The practice of Yoga makes a person inwardly even-minded and cheerful. The very act of calming emotional reactions develops a better ability to influence outer circumstances, therefore, titiksha does not make one apathetic or dull; it is the first step to interiorizing the mind, and to bringing its reactions under control. The important way of practicing titiksha is to watch the breath (parahara) which practice leads to the practice of meditation proper. Prakrti (matter or nature) shows the way to titiksha, the creative principle of life – just as inertia is a property of matter.

Witch's Lament

"Witch's Lament" is the 163rd episode of the ABC television series, Desperate Housewives. It is the sixth episode of the show's eighth season and was broadcast on October 30, 2011.

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