The Curfew Tolls…

spook 1sToday’s creative writing prompt begins with the letter ‘E’, so I’m turning to poetry this week, and I’m looking for an


There’s a very famous one of these, by Thomas Gray, published in 1751, Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard:

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
    The lowing herd wind slowly o'er the lea,
The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,
    And leaves the world to darkness and to me. 

You may recall the torture of having to learn some of this by rote as a child?

In a nutshell, it is a long meditation on mortality and the poet’s reflections after the death of a friend. You can read it in full here

Typically, an elegy is written as a lament for the dead – but today, your poem doesn’t have to mark the loss of a person. You could write your elegy as a reflection on the loss of a place, job, possession, health, building, pet or relationship.  And I bet you could work in some comment about wildlife, ecology, climate or world peace, if you set your mind to it.

Gray’s Elegy is written in iambic pentameter, which might be a challenge for us to mimic in a style acceptable to 21st Century readers. But hunt out the rhyming dictionary if you must.

Your elegy doesn’t have to be as long as Gray’s, though. His was 33 heroic (four-line) stanzas, a total of 132 lines. But you might want to limit your efforts to 40 lines, which is often the limit for most poetry competitions and literary journal submissions.

Call back next week for another creative writing prompt/exercise. There’s a new one every Wednesday at 5pm, Dublin time. More about what this is all about here.