A lament or lamentation is a song, poem or piece of music expressing grief, regret or mourning. Many of the oldest and most lasting poems in human history have been laments. Laments are present in both the Iliad and the Odyssey, in Beowulf, in the Hindu Vedas, and in ancient Near Eastern religious texts, including the Mesopotamian city laments such as the Lament for Ur and the Jewish Tanakh (or Old Testament). In many oral traditions, both early and modern, the lament has been a genre usually performed by women.

Lamentations are used as a short title for the Book of Lamentations or Lamentations of Jeremiah from the Old Testament. In art the Lamentation of Christ (with many closely variant terms) is a common subject from the Life of Christ, showing his dead body being mourned after the Crucifixion.

The purely instrumental lament is a common form in Pìobaireachd music for the Scottish bagpipes.

Sources Cited

  • Margaret Alexiou, The ritual lament in Greek tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1974.
  • H. Munro Chadwick, Nora Kershaw Chadwick, The growth of literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1932-40), e.g. vol. 2 p. 229.
  • Andrew Dalby, Rediscovering Homer (New York: Norton, 2006. ISBN 0393057887) pp. 141-143.
  • Gail Holst-Warhaft, Dangerous voices: women's laments and Greek literature. London: Routledge, 1992. ISBN 04151216555.
  • Claus Westermann, Praise and Lament in the Psalms. Westminster: John Knox Press, 1981. ISBN 0804217920.

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