For members of denominations of certain religions, the eulogy will be a familiar form. A eulogy is a piece that is spoken after someone passes away. An elegy is very close; however, it is a poem that primarily serves the purpose of a lament or a requiem for a recently deceased person.
Therefore, the main difference is the form in which the words are written. Furthermore, in its primitive form, elegies were not always simple, short pieces about the death of a loved one.
Some very famous authors composed elegies in their day, and other authors were made famous by their elegies.
Examples of elegy by these individuals include:
Elegies have been around for thousands of years. The earliest example of an elegy is Idllys by Theocritus, written in the third century B.C. This was an extremely long composition, of which he used a few examples of elegy throughout. About 200 years later or so, Propertius composed an entire collection of elegies, appropriately entitled Elegies. However, all of his pieces did not center around death, and he wrote many short pieces in praise of love as well.
Around the same time period, Ovid composed his elegies Amores, Ars Amatoria, Heroides, Fasti, Tristia, Epistulae ex Ponto. However, the elegiac form did not really begin to shape into what it is today until later in history.
In 1476, the Spanish poet, Jorge Manrique composed Stanzas on His Father's Death. A selection of the middle stanza reads as thus:
"Thither the mighty torrents stray,/Thither the book pursues its way,/And tinkling rill,/There all are equal; side by side/The poor man and the son of pride/Lie calm and still."
Manrique is making the point that no matter who people are during their lives, they are all fated for the same place: the grave. He felt that his father lived a wonderful life, but he laments that he is now in the same place as every other person.
The elegy has survived thousands of years of both minor and major changes, yet the form is still in use today.
To conclude, some more modern examples of elegies are useful for bringing the form into the present and giving hope for its future.
However, once again, the distinction between elegy and eulogy must be remembered. If one composes a poem about a recently deceased person, then it may be considered an elegy. However, a eulogy is a speech that one gives, perhaps at the cemetery in the case of a Jewish burial, and perhaps at the funeral mass in the case of a Catholic cemetery.
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