Elegy for Ophelia

I took an Early Modern English class last semester and our final project for the class was to write an elegy for one of the characters in Hamlet. I really connected with Ophelia as we were reading the play throughout the semester, so I decided to write my poem about her.

I've never had to write a poem with as many constraints as this one had. We had a grading rubric that was 29 items long and to get full credit, we had to use at least 22 items on the list. Some items were fairly straightforward, like 1 point if the poem is in iambic pentameter, 1 point if it's 14 lines long, 1 point if we included an end-rhyme scheme.

But some of them were quite difficult, especially once the poem was written and we had to now add in poetic devices, words that meant different things in Early Modern English than they do now, sound repetition patterns, phrases from the play, etc. etc. Finding ways to fit in all of those things, though, was like putting the poem through the fiery furnace, and what came out was much better than what went in originally. It forced me to stretch and be creative.

I had so much fun with it and I really think it turned out pretty nice when it was finished, so I thought I would share it here. I hope you enjoy.


The broken branch hath fallen in the brook
And lords and ladies gathered by to look,
To mourn the sad and somber end of thee--
They cannot fathom all that thou didst see.

Still, mermaid-like thou liest in the stream,
Thine arms outstretched, thy song a soulful dream.
Maid, did he love thee? Did he love thee not?
Death is best safety--all thy doubts be naught.

Here's rosemary, for memory, and rue,
And pansies for they bier--take fennel, too.
Insanity had come to ease the way,
To take the sting of death and lies away.

And now thou hath thy rest, thy pain is o'er;
Sleep well, sweet lark--thy story is now lore.

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