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October 11, 2016

Elegy- Definition and Examples

Elegy- Definition and Examples

An elegy is a type of poem that laments the death of public figure, a friend, or loved one. In Modern times (16th Century to present) , elegies can be written in any meter.

In Classical literature, elegies were poems that were any poems written in elegiac meter (or elegiac couplets); the first line is in dactylic hexameter and the second line is in dactylic pentameter. In classical literature, elegies were not restricted to lamenting death.

Dactylic Hexameter- It is commonly called the "heroic hexameter." Strictly, it is made up of six feet. Each foot would be a dactyl (a long and two short syllables). In classic literature, a spondee (two long syllables) could be substituted for the dactyl's in the first four feet. The fifth foot is usually a dactyl. The sixth foot can be either a trochee (a long then short syllable) or a spondee.

Dactylic Pentameter- Is made up of a stressed (or long) syllable followed by two unstressed (or short) syllables. This meter sequence is repeated five times.

Examples of Elegies in Literature

Duineser Elegien by Rainer Maria Rilke
In Memory of W.B. Yeats by W.H. Auden
O Captain! My Captain! by Walt Whitman
Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard by Thomas Gray
When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd by Walt Whitman
Lycidas by John Milton
Adonais by Percy Bysshe Shelley
To An Athlete Dying Young by A.E. Houseman
My Father Moved Through dooms of Love by E.E.Cummings
Graveyard in Nantucket by John Quaker
Elegy For Jane: My Student Thrown by a Horse by Theodore Roethke
Elegy XIX. To His Mistress Going to Bed by John Donne
An Elegy upon the Death of the Dean of Paul's Dr. John Donne by Thomas Carew


"Elegy." Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Brittanica Online. Encyclopaedia Britannia Inc., Web. 11 Oct. 2016.

Wikipedia contributors. "Dactylic pentameter." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 13 Sep. 2016. Web. 11 Oct. 2016.

Wikipedia contributors. "Dactylic hexameter." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 28 Jul. 2017. Web. 7 Aug. 2017.