Guide to Literary Terms

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Elegy - a mournful, melancholy poem, especially a funeral song or lament for the dead or a personal, reflective poem.

The word comes from the Greek elegeia derived from elegos, meaning “mournful poem.”

Elegies originated in Greek and Roman literature where they were used for various subjects such as death, war, or love and were distinguished for having a specific meter, rather than for their subject matter. Since the Sixteenth Century, modern poets characterized elegies not by the form, but by the content, which was invariably melancholy and centered on death.

The best known elegy in English is “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” by Thomas Gray (1751). Ellipsis or ellipse -...

(The entire section is 231 words.)