The elegy began as an ancient Greek metrical form and is traditionally written in response to the death of a person or group. Though similar in function, the elegy is distinct from the epitaph, ode, and eulogy: the epitaph is very brief; the ode solely exalts; and the eulogy is most often written in formal prose.
The elements of a traditional elegy mirror three stages of loss. First, there is a lament, where the speaker expresses grief and sorrow, then praise and admiration of the idealized dead, and finally consolation and solace.
We not only watched a couple of videos that are modern elegies, we analyzed some text as well.
We first started off with Elton John’s “Goodbye, England’s Rose” for Princess Diana:
This was followed by a tribute to Keith Moon written by Roger Daltry (the video is a cover of the piece):
The students then worked in pairs to Analyze “Oh, Captain! My Captain!” by Walt Whitman and “In Memory of W. B. Yeats” by W.H. Auden (you can click on the links to see the poems).
Each was examined both the song lyrics and the printed poems for style and how each demonstrated the three stages of loss as described above.
Students then had to show they understood the elegy by writing one for a character in The Odyssey. Examples of student work is as follows:
“The Gem of My Past” (An Elegy to Anticleia)
My mother, so gentle, with a smile that glows,
I wish to not have seen you in a place so dark.
My heart is in pieces fore your face has appeared,
In this land of death we now must part.
The tears shall drip like sweet-honeyed wine,
For I cannot bare to think your hands are so cold.
The day that you passed is frigid and unforgiving,
And the land you have left will be so bleak to uphold.
Now, my bright mother, you are at rest,
In a place so far and apart from me.
I wish I could have gave one last embrace,
Oh mother, your death has been untimely.
Oh Anticleia, the gem of my past,
Your great memory shines through your eyes,
These moments we share will not be fast.
Your dove soft hands tended the poor,
You made all unwelcome feel loved,
To help all of Greece, you swore.
The gleaming smile you gave had made all feel brave,
And all those you have touched will honor you,
With prayers and wishes by your grave.
My mother, so sweet, please do not cry,
Although we part and must say our goodbyes.
I must warn you of the pain and sorrow I will feel,
But don’t worry for me, I must learn to deal.
The lessons you have taught must live on,
And the memories you left shall not be gone.
I, your son, will return to our land,
And I will cry for you upon the Ithaca’s glowing sand.
Laertes will rest and cry upon my arm,
He will return to the kingdom without any harm.
Your lessons of life will live on,
And all of Ithaca will praise with your song.
So Mother, my love, please sleep and rest,
You have taught me all to pass the test.
I will never live to forget your sensitive face,
Oh Anticleia, I will see you again, with time, in this place
“The Soldier” (An elegy from Odysseus to Agamemnon)
Oh soldier, my comrade who fought alongside,
A soldier whose heart was punctured by his bride
Bravery and valor can no longer help thee
When mischief is in the air, something no one can see
Oh soldier, my beloved comrade
Words cannot describe your heroism
The leadership that only a solider can provide
For many you are a father, including magnificent Greece
Hearken! For many this soldier is still alive
Oh soldier! My comrade,
Immortal in every aspect, exempting physicality
For you songs are sung, hands are raised
Many Achaean men and women,
Still bow down to you and loudly praise
A solider who returns home,
Murdered in his home all bloody and red,
A soldier who can now finally rest
For now he knows that his legacy was never dead
A solider who knows that he has anchored Greece
So that it and its children are safe and sound,
A solider who was a man of men
A solider who is a solider renowned
“Farewell to the Sun” (An Elegy from Melantho to Eurymachus)
A noble prince this world has lost to the bite of cold sharp steel.
Trapped in a cage of cruel stone, your skin grew as cold as the walls that kept you from me.
My sun has dimmed, the sky is dark, and the rosy dawn shall never come.
Today has been the blackest day because my love has gone.
Like footprints in sand you were washed away by the furious tide.
As gentle dew on leaves of green dispels before the day, you were gone.
King of the youths, the pride of Ithaca, how can it be that one so mighty could be felled so easily?
As I sit and watch your still form stain stones vivid red, my heart aches and I cry, “My love has gone!”
Oh inky black! Cruelest color, you are all my waking eyes see.
The night is long when the light is gone, for the stars have all faded.
I shake and scream and curse the heavens, for I have no more to lose.
How can the birds sing and the women rejoice with this empty hole in the world from which my love has gone?
How can it be that the immortal gods on high allowed such beauty to be born?
For you, a mortal, may stand among them, shining with pride like the sun.
And all those who look upon you will weep as I do now.
Beautiful immortal! Mighty prince! Where are you?
Alas, an immortal you are not, and your light has gone out.
Hermes, God of the golden wand, what a precious soul you lead to Hades.
Step lightly on your way, lead well, for my love must not be lost.
Towards salvation he must go, for where else would such a hero belong?
Please wait for me, prince of my heart, for I shall be with you soon.
Your path is lined with the light that had once filled the sky because, like me, it cannot bear to be without you.
Even in death, your spirit must glow, and all others will follow your illuminated steps.
Build a home on the Isles of the Blessed to withstand time, and wait for me on the gentle shores.
I shall kiss you soon.
Year by year the earth will age and the rocks will weather away.
But your memory is as immortal as the gods in the hearts of men.
Noble prince who succumbed to a blade,
Wait, I shall hold you soon.
“My Indefatigable Partner” (Odysseus to Argus)
Upon arrival to a day of judgment,
For my dog, found moribund, caught my eye.
This emaciated heap, to no one’s clement,
Hadn’t been treated, as his body should imply.
Switching gaze to what he had become,
Was much too painful to endure alone.
For just to pat his head, I abstained from.
He wagged his tail, displaying that; indeed his time was a loan,
And was quickly terminated.
You were no less than a brother to thee,
Frolicking in the fields, and hunting as needful.
Skill and speed outmatched; unhindered by the biggest flea,
Your spirit was calm and peaceful.
To loyally wait for your master,
No one more is needed from a companion.
And later in heaven, we shall repeat the past ; we will run faster.
Along rivers and plains; along mountains and canyons.
To those who neglected you, I shall condemn,
For it’s the least I can do, my brother.
I hope that you shall return to be peaceful once again,
While today, they will feel my wrath, my thunder.
Farewell, my friend.