“Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
But I with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.”
from Walt Whitman’s ‘O ‘Captain! My Captain
This was probably one of the first elegies I read while at school. Many more followed fueled maybe by a desire to know what is said about the dead once they are no longer around to hear or mind it. The more personal the grief, the more poignant the words become.
As Dr Ampat Koshy points out in this succinct and logical article “if we cannot yet write the code that cheats death we can at least wrest from it works of art that become undying, thus defeating it”
I have another favourite one .. if one can be forgiven for finding reading pleasures in matters of death and bereavement, it is
“Now he is scattered among a hundred cities
And wholly given over to unfamiliar affections,
To find his happiness in another kind of wood
And be punished under a foreign code of conscience.
The words of a dead man
Are modified in the guts of the living”
A stanza from “In memory of W.B. Yeats” by W.H Auden
Read more about “The Elegy” at On The Plum Tree . Thank you Dr. Ampat Koshy and Dr. Niamh Clune