Peter Sacks explores the functions as well as the forms of convention in a book that is both an interpretive study of a genre and a series of close readings of individual poems. Moving from Spenser's "Astrophel" of 1595 to Yeats's "In Memory of Major Robert Gregory" of 1918, Sacks examines such elegiac motifs and conventions as the use of pastoral contexts, the employment of repetition and refrains, sudden outbursts of vengeful anger, and assertions of deflected sexual power. These and other elements of the elegy, he argues, are more than mere features of a conventionalized aesthetic design, they emerge as elements in the performance of the task of mourning. Book jacket.
Sacks's careful readings, full of suggestive and learned observations ranging from the lexical to the mythic, give this booka cumulative effect that is almost as moving as the elegies themselves. * Journal of Modern Literature. *