Elegaic Poem Structure

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The elegiac poem is structured to express loss and mourning, Alfred Tennyson’s “In Memoriam” and “Lycidas” by John Milton both share these conventional characteristics of the genre. Although Tennyson’s poem deviates slightly from the traditional form and Milton’s Lycidas does not adhere to typical elegiac arrangement, the principle tenets of the genre remain in tact for each work. Both poems effectively represent unfortunate circumstances through lyric form to create the sense of loss and portray the emotional state of the speaker, allowing the reader to sympathize and potentially empathize given the context of the poem in relation to reader. Through careful use of diction, each poem effectively exemplifies the elegiac theme, providing the reader with insight into the speakers’ lamentations and search for closure.

Conventional elegy begins with a mournful tone, commonly caused by the loss of a loved one. Tragic events are precursors for the context of the poem and this motif is apparent in both poems. Tennyson and Milton both use language consistent with this archetype, indicating the loss of a loved one at the beginning of their piece. Beginning excerpt from Tennyson’s poem addresses spiritual being, God, and introducing the idea of death as a theme within the stanza declaring:

Dark house by which once more I stand/Here in the long unlovely street,/Doors, where my heart was used to beat/So quickly, waiting for a hand (Scholes, 514)

The idea of death immediately creates a mournful dark tone, however, following stanza’s indicate a hopeful aspiration for the mourned, furthering the understanding that the reader has about the caring relationship between the speaker and subject. Similarly, Milton’s Lycidas the speaker addresses otherworldly beings:

“Begin, then, Sisters of the sacred well,/That from beneath the seat of Jove/Begin, and somewhat loudly sweep the string” (Scholes, 440)

This commonality between the poems is effective in...
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