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The Elegiac Mode in Milton and Rilke

Reflections on Death

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Dan Latimer

This study examines the elegiac tradition as a succession of poetic responses to the problem posed to man by death and such consequent dilemmas as divine injustice, vitiated nature, immortality, and esthetic memory. Within this tradition, Milton and Rilke represent antithetical positions, the former, «uranian» poet cancelling tragic antinomies through transcendence of nature, the latter, «tellurian» poet vindicating nature and death by reviving an almost matriarchal consciousness excluding both tragic individualism and transcendence.