An elegy is a poem of serious reflection, and in English literature usually a lament for the dead. However, according to The Oxford Handbook of the Elegy, "for all of its pervasiveness ... the 'elegy' remains remarkably ill defined: sometimes used as a catch-all to denominate texts of a somber or pessimistic tone, sometimes as a marker for textual monumentalizing, and sometimes strictly as a sign of a lament for the dead".
The Greek term ἐλεγείᾱ (elegeíā; from ἔλεγος, élegos, ‘lament’) originally referred to any verse written in elegiac couplets and covering a wide range of subject matter (death, love, war). The term also included epitaphs, sad and mournful songs, and commemorative verses. The Latin elegy of ancient Roman literature was most often erotic or mythological in nature. Because of its structural potential for rhetorical effects, the elegiac couplet was also used by both Greek and Roman poets for witty, humorous, and satirical subject matter.
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