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Classic and Contemporary Poetry: Explained

ALMOST AN ELEGY, by         Recitation by Author     Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography

"Almost an Elegy" is a poem by Joseph Brodsky, first published in 1972. The poem is a tribute to the poet's friend and fellow writer, W. H. Auden, who had recently passed away.


The poem is structured as a series of observations and memories, with each stanza offering a new detail about Auden's life and work. The first stanza sets the scene, describing the setting of the poem and the speaker's initial encounter with Auden. The second and third stanzas offer more personal anecdotes, highlighting Auden's wit and eccentricities. The final stanza shifts to a more somber tone, as the speaker reflects on Auden's passing and offers a final tribute to his legacy.

Poetic Elements:

  • Form: "Almost an Elegy" consists of four stanzas of varying length, with no consistent rhyme scheme or meter.
  • Imagery: The poem is rich in sensory detail, particularly in the second and third stanzas, which offer vivid descriptions of Auden's character and behavior.
  • Allusion: The poem references several works by Auden, including "September 1, 1939" and "The Age of Anxiety," highlighting his contributions to literature.
  • Tone: The poem's tone is both celebratory and mournful, as the speaker reflects on Auden's life and legacy.


"Almost an Elegy" is a poignant tribute to the poet's friend and colleague, W. H. Auden, capturing both his wit and eccentricities, as well as his contributions to literature. The poem's lack of a consistent form or meter reflects its themes of fluidity and impermanence, while its allusions and imagery create a sense of both intimacy and universality.

Poem Snippet:

"Yet why would he require

any candles? For, with eyes closed,

he could see clearer than we."

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