The elegy

R. V. Young

in The Oxford Handbook of John Donne

Published in print February 2011 | ISBN: 9780199218608
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

 The elegy

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  • Literature
  • Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)
  • Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)


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In literature, an▒elegy▒is a mournful, melancholic or plaintive▒poem, especially a▒funeral▒song or lament▒for the dead. This article traces the elegy as a form of poem. The title elegies is problematic for many modern readers considering the poems by John Donne gathered under that title. The term ‘elegy’ is generally associated with poems of mourning, either for the death of an individual or for the melancholy fact of human mortality as such. There is virtually nothing else in English with the same title comparable to Donne's elegies, and their erotic themes and ironic tone, often sliding into satire, are comprehensible only if his models among classical poets and their neo-Latin imitators during the Renaissance are taken into account. This article explains the ideas and forms in John Donne's elegies and draws a comparison of the same with other European forms of elegies such as Greek and Roman especially Ovid.

Keywords: literature; elegy; Ovid; John Donne; Donne's elegies

Article.  6905 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (1500 to 1800) ; Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)

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