While elegy poems are not exactly the most joyful type of literature available, they are certainly worth knowing about since they provide details to the reader about someone else’s life. One well known example of an elegy is Thomas Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard.
Generally, elegies serve to mourn the loss of a loved one; but, they can sometimes be about different types of feelings of sadness or loss of productivity as opposed to solely focusing on death.
Popular Elegy Poems
Whether you have read the following poems before or not, reviewing them will provide a more clear understanding of what an elegy poem is and how it functions.
- In Memory of W.B. Yeats by W.H. Auden
- O Captain! My Captain! by Walt Whitman
- To An Athlete Dying Young by A.E. Housman
- Because I Could Not Stop For Death by Emily Dickinson
- Death Stands Above Me by Walter Savage Landor
- Dirge Without Music by Edna St. Vincent Millay
- A Refusal to Mourn the Death, by Fire, of a Child in London by Dylan Thomas
- Lycidas by John Milton
- In Memoriam A.H.H. by Alfred Lord Tennyson
- What The Living Do by Marie Howe
- Elegy by Robert Bridges
- Elegy by Ambrose Bierce
- Carmen 101 by Catullus
- Blake’s Purest Daughter by Brian Patten
- Sonnet for Dick by Kit Wright
- Elegy XIX: To His Mistress Going to Bed by John Donne
- Elegy XI: The Bracelet. Upon the Loss of His Mistress’ Chain, For which He Made Satisfaction by John Donne
- Elegy III: Change by John Donne
- Elegy on His Cat by Joachim Du Bellay
- Elegy on Husayn by Lynda Clarke
- Adonais by Percy Shelley
- Thrysis by Matthew Arnold
- The Nymph Complaining for the Death of her Fawn by Andrew Marvell
- Death of Adonis by Bion of Smyrna
- Woes of Daphnis by Theocritus
- Amores by Ovid
- Liber Basiorum by Johannes Secundus
- I Roamed With Anger Out Of The House by Emmanuel George Cefai
- The Golden Hour by Shawn Greyling
- You Don’t Even Exist by Usman Hanif
Some of these poems are quite famous, while others are not very well known. In any case, reading them will help deepen your appreciation for elegy poems.
Text of Elegy Poems
Studying, deciphering and analyzing the test of elegy poems is the most effective way to understand the form and emotional effect of such literature.
O Captain! My Captain!
Here’s a selection from Walt Whitman’s poem entitled, O Captain! My Captain! which was written in memory of Abraham Lincoln:
My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;
Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
Whitman describes the emotions that he felt when Lincoln was murdered, and he paints an emotionally evoking picture of the dead Captain lying still.
What the Living Do
Read this more modern selection, which is from Marie Howe’s What the Living Do.
This is it. Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning.What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss-we want more and more and then more of it.But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass, say, the window of the corner video store, and I’m gripped by a cherishing so deep for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I’m speechless: I am living. I remember you.
Once again, the reader sees the emotions of a person stricken by a deep, biting loss.