This is the forum page for discussion of the poetic forms known as The Elegy and The Pastoral.

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Paul Celan's "Todesfuge" in the original German - an elegy

And here's a performance in English by Galway Kinnell:


The term "elegy" was originally used for a type of poetic metre (Elegiac metre), but is also used for a poem of mourning, from the Greek elegos, a reflection on the death of someone or on a sorrow generally - which is a form of lyric poetry. An elegy can also reflect on something which seems strange or mysterious to the author. In addition, an elegy (sometimes spelled elegíe) may be a type of musical work, usually in a sad and somber attitude. It is not to be confused with a eulogy. (Wikipedia )

Main Entry:el·e·gy
Pronunciation: \ˈe-lə-jē\
Inflected Form(s): plural el·e·gies
Etymology: Latin elegia poem in elegiac couplets, from Greek elegeia, elegeion, from elegos song of mourning
Date: 1501
: a poem in elegiac couplets
2 a
: a song or poem expressing sorrow or lamentation especially for one who is dead b: something (as a speech) resembling such a song or poem
3 a
: a pensive or reflective poem that is usually nostalgic or melancholy b: a short pensive musical composition (Miriam-Webster Online)

elegy (EL-e-je): a type of literature defined as a song or poem, written in elegiac couplets, that expresses sorrow or lamentation, usually for one who has died. This type of work stemmed out of a Greek work known as a "elegus," a song of mourning or lamentation that is accompanied by the flute. Beginning in the 16th century, elegies took the form we know today. Two famous elegies include Thomas Gray’s "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" and Walt Whitman’s "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d". Gray’s elegy is notable in that it mourned the loss of a way of life rather than the loss of an individual. His work, which some consider to be almost political, showed extreme discontent for strife and tyranny set upon England by Oliver Cromwell. This work also acted as an outlet for Gray’s dissatisfaction with those poets who wrote in accordance with the thoughts and beliefs of the upper class. In his elegy, Gray mourned for his country and mourned for its citizens. Whitman, inspired by the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, wrote his elegy in its classic form, showing sorrow for the loss of an individual. See A Reader’s Companion to World Literature, and Dictionary of World Literature. (All-American: Glossary of Literary Terms)

The elegy, a type of lyric poem, is usually a formal lament for someone's death. The term elegy is sometimes used more widely. In antiquity it referred to anything written in elegiac meter, which consisted of alternating lines of pentameter and hexameter.
The category can include the threnody, the monody, the dirge, and the pastoral elegy. The last of these, an important Renaissance form, combines elements of the verse pastoral with the elegiac subject. (Jack Lynch's Guide to Literary Terms)