To state very plainly and briefly, an elegy is a short lyric piece of lamentation, or a direct expression of personal bereavement or grief. Tennyson's 'Break' is a nice example of such an Elegy.Besides this short simple form of elegy there are elaborate and complex forms of it such as the memorial poems which generally grow heavy and voluminous by way of studying and accumulating the deeds, character and life of a great man, lamented by it.Milton's Lycidas, and Arnold's Thyrsis are registered under this head.Some elegies such as Shelley's Adonais and Tennyson's in Memoriam are highly reflective and meditative.The Pastoral Elegy is a lament for someone who is dead or a meditation on someone or on some joy which is absent in which the pastoral convention is used. The main characteristics which become the conventions of pastoral elegy are:
- An Invocation
- A reference to the dead man being the shepheard
- Nature joins in the lament
- A contrast between the unreturning life of man and ever returning life of nature.
- A procession of mourners;Gods,shepherds,dreams and so forth.
- A lament of personal Character.
- A change of mood towards the end of the poem, leading to a feeling of consolation.
Pastoral elegy moves through tranquil melancholy strain avoiding a violent expression of grief. The pastoral convention was at first applied by the Greek poets, thereafter it was owned by nearly all the literatures of Europe.
Arnold's own criticism of the poem say"Thyrsis is a very quiet poem, but i think solid and sincere.It had long been in my mind to connect Clough with cumner country and when I began, I was carried irresistibly into this form...One had the feeling, if one reads the poem as a memorial that not enough is said about Clough in it, I feel this so much that i do not send this poem to Mrs. Clough..."