An elegy is a poem that is usually concerned with the death of someone or, more generally, with the passing of time and the melancholy that this awareness produces in human beings. These two dimensions (a more personal one referring to a specific death and a more general reflection not linked to a specific death) are inextricably intertwined in the development of the genre. Coleridge was probably the poet who gave the most general definition of the term saying that it is "the form of poetry natural to the reflective mind".
Initially, in its Greek and Latin form, elegies did not specifically refer to poems with such content, but identified a precise meter. The modern meaning of elegy started to be applied during the Renaissance. John Donne, for example, used it both for a group of diverse satirical and erotic poems as well as for his "A Funerall Elegie" which clearly links the term to the mourning tradition. Milton's "Lycidas" (1637), on the death of Edward King, is generally seen as providing the blueprint for the modern form of the genre and for its combination with a pastoral setting peopled by shepherds, nymphs and satyrs. Shelley's "Adonais" (1821) and Arnold's "Thyrsis" (1867) follow this tradition, while Tennyson's "In Memoriam" is a reflection on a specific death (Arthur Hallam's), but does not share the pastoral setting. On the contrary, Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" (1750) is not linked on a specific death and established the prototype for general poetic reflections on the passing of time.