The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms - Ross Murfin 2018


Monody: In classical Greek poetry, an ode performed by one voice; now a poem of lamentation, sometimes intended to be sung, in which one individual grieves and mourns for another. Monody may be viewed as a type of dirge or, more broadly, as a type of elegy with one narrator, the mourner.

EXAMPLES: John Milton’s “Lycidas” (1638), written to lament Edward King’s death; Matthew Arnold’s “Thyrsis” (1867), subtitled “A Monody, to Commemorate the Author’s Friend … ,” an elegy on Arthur Hugh Clough. Lines from Herman Melville’s “Monody” (1891), probably written after visiting fellow writer Nathaniel Hawthorne’s grave, follow:

To have known him, to have loved him

After loneness long;

And then to be estranged in life,

And neither in the wrong;

And now for death to set his seal —

Ease me, a little ease, my song!