The epicede and obsequy

Claude J. Summers

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 epicede and obsequy

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



This article focuses on epicedes and obsequies. Epicedes and obsequies are funeral poems. They are distinguished from each other by the fact that epicedes are generally spoken over a body that has not yet been buried, while obsequies are usually spoken later and tend to emphasize consolation rather than lament. Although there have been some recent efforts to rehabilitate the epicedes and obsequies, they remain among Donne's least read and least appreciated work, variously seen as strained exercises in flattery, clumsy attempts to win patronage, and unedifying expressions of the poet's personal anxieties about death. While Donne's epicedes and obsequies fulfil the requirements of both the classical non-pastoral funeral elegy and the traditional English elegy to include passages of mourning, praise, and consolation, and seem occasionally to reflect the influence of continental Latin elegists such as Marino, they go far beyond.

Keywords: epicedes; obsequies; funeral poems; patronage; non-pastoral funeral elegy; Marino

Article.  5937 words. 

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

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