Elegy–Poem for the End

Earlier this year, I wrote about a post about epitaphs. At that time, I made the decision to not combine them with elegies.

An elegy is a song of sorrow or mourning–often for someone who has died. However, poets being an especially creative and contrary group have also written elegies for the ends of things, whether a life, a love affair, a great era, a football season, etc.

While there are such things as elegiac couplets and elegiac stanzas, form does not rule an elegy; content is king (or queen) when writing elegies.


Here are some examples:

“Elegy in Present Tense,” by Nancy Krygowski

“Elegy Written in a Country Courtyard,” by Thomas Gray


Here’s some more on elegies:

Wikipedia entry

Academy of American Poets entry

Poetic Forms, Poets
Robert Lee Brewer

About Robert Lee Brewer

Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Editor of Writer's Digest, which includes editing Writer's Market, Poet's Market, and Guide to Literary Agents. He's the author of Solving the World's Problems and Smash Poetry Journal. He loves blogging on a variety of writing and publishing topics, but he's most active with Poetic Asides and writes a column under the same name for Writer's Digest magazine. Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.

2 thoughts on “Elegy–Poem for the End

  1. AvatarToby

    Weep Oh Heart
    by Toby Grubbs ©

    Weep oh heart, weep for unrealized love
    Grieve, for the sun sets; she hasn’t returned
    Silently mourn under cold stars above
    Lament your lost lover, for years you’ve yearned

    Cry in solitude as pitch engulfs you
    Apparitions of memories haunting
    Beckon you follow the depression groove
    Ruts dug deeply in your mind are daunting

    Flee! Escape the unrelenting silence
    For your mind is numb from excessive pain
    In stillness, wounded hearts experience
    Fly or be ever bound in silent chains

    Weep oh heart, wash away the suffering
    Each tear carries away a memory
    Smile; rejoice in the new day’s offering
    Passing moments purify history

  2. AvatarMarcus Bales

    For any of you who have troubled to read both Gray’s "Elegy" and Masters’ "Spoon River", this is by JC Squire, an English poet from the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. If you haven’t read either, or ideally, both Gray and Masters, you might as well just move along — these are not the ‘droids you seek.

    in the Cemetery of Spoon River instead of in that of Stoke Poges
    Jack Collings Squire

    The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
    The whippoorwill salutes the rising moon
    And wanly glimmer in her gentle ray
    The sinuous windings of the turbid Spoon.

    Here where the flattering and mendacious swarm
    Of lying epitaphs their secrets keep,
    At last incapable of further harm
    The lewd forefathers of the village sleep.

    The earliest drug of half-awakened morn
    Cocaine or hashish, strychnine, poppy-seeds,
    Or fiery produce of fermented corn
    No more shall start them on the day’s misdeeds.

    For them no more the whetstone’s cheerful noise.
    No more the sun upon his daily course
    Shall watch them savouring the genial joys
    Of murder, bigamy, arson, and divorce.

    Here they all lie; and, as the hour is late,
    O stranger, o’er their tombstones cease to stoop,
    But bow thine ear to me and contemplate
    Unexpurgated annals of the group.

    There are two hundred only; yet of these
    Some thirty died of drowning in the river,
    Sixteen went mad, ten others had D.T.’s,
    And twenty-eight cirrhosis of the liver.

    Several by absent-minded friends were shot,
    Still more blew out their own exhausted brains,
    One died of a mysterious inward rot,
    Three fell off roofs, and five were hit by trains.

    One was harpooned, one gored by a bull moose,
    Four on the Fourth fell victims to lock jaw
    Ten in electric chair or hempen noose
    Suffered the last exaction of the law.

    Stranger, you quail, and seem inclined to run;
    But, timid stranger, do not be unnerved;
    I can assure you that there was not one
    Who got a tithe of what he had deserved.

    Full many a vice is born to thrive unseen,
    Full many a crime the world does not discuss,
    Full many a pervert lives to reach a green
    Replete old age, and so it was with us.

    Here lies a parson who would often make
    Clandestine rendevous with Claflin’s Moll,
    And ‘neath the druggist’s counter creep to take
    A surreptitious sip of alcohol.

    And here a doctor, who had seven wives
    And fearing this menage might seem grotesque
    Persuaded six of them to spend their lives
    Locked in a drawer of his private desk.

    And others here there sleep who, given scope,
    Had writ their names large on the Scrolls of Crime;
    Men who, with half a chance, might haply cope
    With the first miscreants of recorded crime.

    Doubtless in this neglected spot is laid
    Some village Nero who has missed his due,
    Some Bluebeard who dissected many a maid
    And all for naught, since no one ever knew.

    Some poor bucolic Borgia here may rest
    Whose poisons sent whole families to their doom,
    Some hayseed Herod who, within his breast,
    Concealed the sites of many an infant’s tomb.

    Types that the Muse of Masefield might have stirred,
    Or waked to ecstasy Gaboriau,
    Each in his narrow cell at last interred,
    All, all are sleeping peacefully below.

    Enough, enough! But, strangere, ere we part,
    Glancing farewell to each nefarious bier,
    This warning I would beg you to take to heart:
    “There is an end to even the worst career!”


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