When I went for a dance lesson with Tom yesterday, I brought him Naked by David Sedaris.
He was looking at the back cover and said "What does elegiac mean?"
"Thank you very much", says he. "What's an elegy?"
I said, well, like Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard."
"So, then, is it like a eulogy?"
"I don't think so...I don't know" I replied.
A eulogy, or eulogizing, as you know, is saying nice things about somebody after they're dead. Its origins seem to be Latin, eulogium, and before that, Greek, "eu" or praise, and "logy" or speech.
Now, elegy. It may be a poem written in a certain kind of couplet, but it is also a song or poem as a lament for a deceased person; a song or poem of mourning. It may be from the Phrygian, or back through French and Latin to the Greek "elegeia", or mournful song.
I think the reference in the review of Sedaris's book meant that he was looking back at the past, some at his mother, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in one of the stories. Modern elegies may be written out of a broad sense of loss and metaphysical sadness.
[Image link here]