Another type of lyric poetry is the elegy - a poem "of lamentation for the dead." Little need be said about the elegy other than that the poet chooses freely his metrical pattern, rhyme scheme (if he uses rhyme), and method of treating his theme. There is, however, a somewhat more special form of the elegy called the pastoral elegy. The pastoral tradition in English-the tradition of dealing with characters in literature under the guise of poetic shepherds in an idyllic environment-has its roots in classical literature; Vergil and Theocritus are two of the most notable poets who wrote in the pastoral vein. Many pastoral poems were written in English between the middle of the sixteenth century and the middle of the eighteenth. Spenser, Sidney, Shakespeare, Marlowe, Green, Lodge, Fletcher, Ben jonson, Milton, Pope, Shenstone, and Burns are just a few of the many poets (and prose writers) using the pastoral tradition in one work or another.

When applied to the elegy, the pastoral tradition resulted in a rather formalized type of poetry most successfully used by Milton in Lycidas (on the death of Edward King), Shelley in Adonais (on the death of John Keats), and Arnold in Thyrsis (on the death of Arthur Hugh Clough). Traditionally, the pastoral elegy begins with a statement of the reason for the grief and an invocation to the Muses for assistance in the task of composition. An overt expression of grief along with reminiscences of the dead person in life follows; this in turn is usually followed by a description of a procession of mourners and sometimes a questioning of the justice that permits death to strike. Finally, the grief is resolved, usually in the realization that death leads to immortality. Though pastoral elegies differ in their treatment of these traditional themes, the over-all framework is easily discernible.


Intro | Verse Forms | Ballad | Dramatic | Lyric | Epigram | Sonnet
Ode | Elegy | Epic | Blank Verse | Free Verse