Comparative Essay: the Elegy

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The poems “In Memoriam,” by Alfred Lord Tennyson and “The Unknown Citizen,” by W.H. Auden are opposite in their general approach and poetic structure and effectively leave different impressions on the reader. Through Tennyson’s lyrical and expressive approach, “In Memoriam” draws our attention to the pain and acceptance of human loss. However, “The Unknown Citizen,” with its non-traditional poetic form and unusual perspective, makes us think about the ways in which we define human importance in modern society. Each of the two poems uses different poetic devices to communicate their messages. Tennyson’s stanzas are written in quatrains following the rhyme pattern of ABBA. Each stanza resolves itself, making it unnatural for the reader to easily move on to the next verse. Through this construction the reader experiences Tennyson’s struggle to move on with life after the resolution of his loss. This resilience is embodied in the reading of the poem due to its great length as a compilation of 131 poems. In contrast, “The Unknown Citizen” follows a sporadic yet witty rhyme pattern throughout its brief 29 lines, including patterns such as ABAB, AA, BB, and ABBCCA which makes it less lyrical. The rhymes in this poem happen seamlessly yet do not distract the reader from the main informative focus of each line. Tennyson’s use of repetition and alliteration within stanzas in poems 8 and 115 communicate the personal and emotional qualities of the poem:

He saddens, all the magic light
Dies off at once from bower and hall
And the place is dark, and all
The Chambers emptied of delight
…………………………………………………………………… Now rings the woodland loud and long
The distance takes a lovelier hue
And drowned in yonder living blue
The Lark becomes a sightless song (Tennyson, 8, 115)
As displayed in these verses, the mood of “In Memoriam” shifts from sadness early on in section 8 towards happiness much later in section 115. The repetition of the word...
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