A Brief History of Eulogies, and Why They are Used at Funerals

sad woman in the office

A eulogy is a time-honored way of paying your respects at a loved one’s funeral and sharing with mourners how much he or she meant to you. There is a fascinating history behind these much-loved funeral speeches. You can trace their history for yourself by reading below:

Ancient Origins The eulogy takes its roots in ancient Greece , with the noted scholar and poet Callimachus. Callimachus’ writing was not what we now think of as a eulogy; rather, it was a means of expressing powerful emotions, such as those that follow the passing of a loved one, in a shorter form than a full-length epic poem. He called it “elegy.” Readers quickly fell in love with this vivid style of expressing emotion, and soon Roman writers were using the elegy to tell stories and myths.

Mournful Tone The elegy first began to pick up its mournful nature in the 1800s, when English poets like Lord Tennyson and Thomas Gray gave it their own spin. Tennyson, for example, took the traditional emotional context of an elegy and gave it a sorrowful tone in his famous ballad, “The Lady of Shallott.” Similarly, Gray wrote “Elegy Written in a Country Courtyard,” which used the elegy to convey solitude, grief, and foreboding. This take on the elegy inspired more poets of the time to follow suit.

Eulogy Many writers of the Romantic Era tried to use elegiac poetry in a lyrical manner. However, such famous poets as William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge agreed that the elegy worked best as an expression of mourning and lamentation, and lyrical uses of the elegy gradually fell out of favor. As the years went on, the elegy eventually became the eulogy, earning a reputation as a customary means of expressing sorrows and sharing memories of the deceased.

Writing a eulogy can be a challenge, even if you knew the deceased very well. The funeral directors at Mountain View Funeral Home, Memorial Park & Crematory are here to help you write your eulogy, as well as plan all other aspects of a beautiful funeral that your loved one deserves. Call us today at (253) 584-0252 to learn more about our services .

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