|Title||Surname First Name|
|Epitaph for the Western Intelligentsia||Allen, Richard James|
|[the light these books this rain]||Allen, Richard James|
Historically, elegaic couplets were developed by the ancient Greeks as a technical form. Often they were epitaphs — memorial verses for the dead — but just as often they were erotic or satirical. They are made up of alternating lines of dactylic hexameter and dactylic pentameter. The Roman poets followed that pattern. Catullus wrote what is perhaps the best-known elegaic couplet in Latin: ‘Odi et amo. quare id faciam, fortasse requiris? / nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.’ (I hate, I love. How can I do both at once? / I don’t know; but I feel it, and it crucifies me.’)
From the early 1500s in English, term ‘elegy’ came to mean a funeral song or lament. The poem that did more than most to establish this genre in English poetry is Thomas Gray’s ‘Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard’ (1750). Other notable elegies are ‘Lycidas’ (John Milton), ‘In Memoriam A.H.H.’ ( Tennyson), and ‘O Captain! My Captain!’ by Walt Whitman. Among notable Australian elegies are ‘Five Bells’ (Kenneth Slessor), ‘Elegy for Drowned Children’ (Bruce Dawe), and ‘The Sea Cucumber’ (Martin Johnston).