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Many poets use poetry to express how they are feeling on particular occasions. So if they were just married or experienced the birth of a child, they may write a bright and happy poem, but if someone has just died, they may write a more somber poem.

An elegy is a type of poem that is typically written after someone died. It offers a way for poets to express the grief they are feeling. Not all elegies are written about people. They may also be written about pets, items, or even more general concepts, such as the loss of innocence or the loss of youth.

The poem "O Captain! My Captain!" by Walt Whitman is a classic example of an elegy. It was written after the death of Abraham Lincoln.

O Captain! My Captain!

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
                         But O heart! heart! heart!
                            O the bleeding drops of red,
                               Where on the deck my Captain lies,
                                  Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
                         Here Captain! dear father!
                            This arm beneath your head!
                               It is some dream that on the deck,
                                 You’ve fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
                         Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
                            But I with mournful tread,
                               Walk the deck my Captain lies,
                                  Fallen cold and dead.

Watch the video below to learn more about elegies.

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