This sample essay on Tichborne’s Elegy offers an extensive list of facts and arguments related to it. The essay’s introduction, body paragraphs, and the conclusion are provided below.
Both these poems were written by men imprisoned in the Tower Of London, destined to have their lives cut short as they awaited their imminent execution. As would be expected of the works of doomed men, an element of sadness and despair can be found in both, however these feelings are expressed more strongly by Tichborne.
Tichborne was not even thirty when he was executed and his bitterness at his life ending almost before it is begun can be seen. ‘And now I die and now I am but made:’ He was sentenced to death for being part of a Catholic plot to murder Elizabeth. He wrote this poem just three days before he was to meet with death, and is a poem of lamentation at a life curtailed too early.
I wouldn’t expect much sign of hope in a poem by a man destined to meet his fate in 3 days, but this is probably the first poem I have seen that is totally despairing. Man is a creature that rarely gives up, that lives on hope when there is nothing left, and will struggle towards some higher goal regardless of how futile his efforts are. The tone of Tichborne’s poem is one of regret and sorrow that his life is being ended before it’s time and that what is left of his life will be very unpleasant.
It seems at first that Raleigh’s poem is more of the same – a poem of despair, telling us that our time always comes to an end and we all end up in a grave, sounding almost nealistic. Yet the last line dashes those thoughts and shows the first and only sign of hope in either poem – ‘The Lord shall raise me up, I trust ‘. This really says it all – there is life after death, something more profound than life itself. As for ‘trust’, Raleigh is showing that he puts his utmost faith in God, this hope of resurrection after death remaining in his heart. This shows powerful faith and conviction on Raleigh’s part, and emphasizes the importance of religion in Elizabethan England.
In Elegy For Himself we can tell that its verses are sextains – six lined verses with a rhyming scheme ababcc. What is both interesting and unusual in Tichborne’s structure is the strength of the caesura in every line – the pause in the middle of a metrical line. The poem has 5 beats and adds to the melancholic feeling with its sad, slow rhythm. When I read this poem and truly hear it, I picture a man huddled in the corner of his cell, awaiting death, listening to the slow plodding sounds of the jailor’s feet, who comes to take yet another man to his fate. I also can imagine Tichborne walking slowly to the headsman’s block in time with the poem and placing his head on the block. Then comes the sense of finality ‘and now my life is done. ‘ as the axe swings down.
What we must take into account here though, is that Raleigh was a sixty-six year old man who had lived life to the full, travelling vast distances to places such as America. He had lived a life of fame and glory, riches and happiness, acquainting himself in the highest circles – with her royal highness Queen Elizabeth I. Living to a ripe age (for those days when life expectancy was around 50), and having achieved much in his life, he was content with his life’s accomplishments. Tichborne however, was a young man at the time of writing and doesn’t feel he has accomplished all he hoped to in his life. He talks about the end to his life by referring to the fact that his ‘glass is run’. This glass is most probably an hourglass, commonly filled with sand, which symbolizes a person’s lifetime. By saying it ‘is run’ he indicates his life is over, while the melancholic mood of the poem indicates his frustration and disappointment that he hasn’t achieved all that he wished.
Tichborne includes a number of other images that represent the curtailment of his short life, such as ‘my thread is cut’. Another image Tichborne uses the contrast of his ‘crop of corn’ to the ‘field of tares’. Not only does this line contain these contrasting images to add emphasis, it is also an allusion to the biblical parable. In this parable the corn is represents those who live good lives and the tares represent the evildoers. The parable talks about the punishment of evildoers. As Tichborne died as a Saint and a religious martyr in the eyes of the Catholic Church, this line squeezes a lot of meaning into a very short space. ‘My feast of joy’, another image used by the poet probably refers to the fulfilling religious aspect to his brief life. This ‘feast’ is an obvious contrast to the far smaller-sounding ‘dish of pain’. It may be that this has added meaning, as what I feel that the poet is trying to communicate is that though his life was short, and though he hadn’t done all that he had hoped to, the huge ‘joy’ he gained from religion more than compensated for the pain of his execution.
Tichborne also utilizes a rhyming couplet at the end of each verse (stanza) to emphasize these lines, which is obviously different to Epitaph, as Epitaph only has one verse (stanza).
Elegy For Himself dwells on the past a great deal, bringing about a nostalgic mood, Tichborne lamenting his young life cut short, deprived of any further memories. Epitaph on the other hand, is not a poem reviewing the poet’s long life, but instead a poem written by a man who looks to the future, knowing that he will die and waiting for the Lord to give him new life. It shows the wisdom of a man who looks to what the future holds in store for him as opposed to regretting your past.