10 of the Best Elegies Everyone Should Read

A collection of writings that are the clearest example of why certain feelings can only be drawn out in the words of the poet

Interesting Literature

The best elegies in English

The Oxford English Dictionary defines an elegy as ‘A song or poem of lamentation, esp. for the dead; a memorial poem’. Death, and memorialising the dead, has long been a feature of poetry. Here are ten of the best elegies from English poetry, from the Middle Ages to the 1980s. What would you add to our list of the greatest elegiac poems in English? (Shelley’s Adonais, by the way, would have been number 11 on this list if we’d extended it beyond a top ten.)

Anonymous, Pearl. One of the first great elegies in the English language, Pearl was written by an anonymous poet in the late fourteenth century – probably the same poet who also gave us Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. A lament for a child who has died, and a classic example of the medieval dream-poem, Pearl

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