EIF Poetry Challenge #4: The Elegy

Like the Ode, the Elegy has its origins in Classical literature, where it was characterized by its elegiac metre (alternating lines of dactylic …

What Poetic Form Does an Elegy Take?

Early elegiac poetry was typically versed in couplets. But, dating back to the eighteenth century, an elegiac stanza has traditionally contained the following characteristics:

  • It is a quatrain (four lines)
  • It contains an ABAB rhyme scheme
  • Each line is written in iambic pentameter

This structure is only a loose guideline. Many contemporary elegies contain no set form, and even the nineteenth-century elegies by the likes of Whitman and Tennyson take ample liberties with meter and rhyme scheme.

One of my favorite elegy’s is by Walt Whitman as a tribute to Abe Lincoln.

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done, The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won, The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting, While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring; But O heart! heart! heart! O the bleeding drops of red, Where on the deck my Captain lies, Fallen cold and dead.

I took advantage of the liberty of two additional lines in my elegy for my grandson instead of staying with the quatrain but I did maintain the rhyme pattern.

Elegy of Johnny ( October 15, 2005- July 1, 2019)

Desperate to breathe, yet not one breath appears

Unable to scream, or even rage for the pain is so great

Our inability to function gave way to silent sneers

Holding his fractured body, crippled by the world’s weight

Branded all of our lives, to a slow drowning by tears

Because his young life was stolen by an act of fate.©



EIF Poetry Challenge #4: The Elegy

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