General Features of Elegy

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      Ancient Greek Elegy, which was typically written in the form of couplets was meant to be sung aloud and accompanied by the aulos, a type of flute. Elegies could be only a few lines long or more than one hundred lines, and a singer told the story or situation to an audience or chorus. The general features of elegy are actually those which were followed in the composition of elegies in the ancient time:

(i) In ancient Greece, the term elegy covered a wide variety of subjects, both grave and gay. It used to cover war songs, love poems, political verses, lamentations for the dead, and few others.

(ii) Just like a classical epic, an elegy typically starts with the invocation of the muse and then proceeds by referencing to the traditional mythology.

(iii) Elegy was written in elegiac measure, a couplet composed of a dactylic hexameter followed by dactylic pentameter. Of course, in modern times an elegy can be written in any metrical form, but the content of the poem must reflect on death or sorrow.

(iv) Elegiac poem often involves a poet who knows how to phrase the thoughts imaginatively in the first person.

(v) In elegies, questions are raised by the poet about destiny, justice and fate.

(vi) The poet associates the events of the deceased with events in his own life by drawing a subtle comparison.

(vii) This kind of digression gives the poet space to go beyond the main or crude subject to a deeper level where the connotations might be metaphorical.

(viii) Towards the end, the poet generally tries to provide comfort to ease the pain of the situation. The Christian elegies usually proceed from sorrow and misery to hope and happiness, because they say that death is just a hindrance in the way of passing from the mortal state into the eternal state.

(ix) An elegy is not always based on a plot.

(x) Elegy is a form of poetry natural to the reflective mind. It may treat of any subject, but it must treat of no subject for itself; but always and exclusively with reference to the poet. The poet regrets for the past or desire for the future. So, sorrow and love became the principal themes of the elegy. Elegy presents everything as lost and gone or absent and future.

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