Heffernan, James. Museum of Words: The Poetics of Ekphrasis from Homer to Ashbery. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1993. Webb, Ruth. "Ekphrasis Ancient and Modern: The Invention of a Genre." Word and image 15 (1999): 7-18.
ELEGY In the classical tradition, elegies were defined by their meter—called elegiac couplets or distich couplets, comprised of a dactylic hexameter followed by a pentameter—and not by their subject matter. Thus, they were sometimes composed on love, war, or politics. In the English tradition, however, an elegy is a poetic genre of lament for a deceased (or otherwise permanently lost) person, or, occasionally, a lost culture or way of life. For instance, "The Wanderer" is an Old English elegy in which a warrior mourns the loss of his lord, but the narrator in "The Ruin" mourns unknown people and their culture. The 16th century witnessed the development of the pastoral elegy, a lament for something or someone that was good. Edmund Spenser's poem about Sir Philip Sidney, Astrophel (1586), is sometimes considered the first one.
See also Exeter Book; Seafarer, The; "Wife's Lament, The."
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