Based upon the ancient Greek origin of the elegy, a traditional mourning poem, the roots of elegaic poetry were founded by Renaissance poets Ben Jonson, Alexander Pope and John Donne. These roots define the proper elegy and the more vast elegaic poem covering several emotions in response to death.
For centuries, various poets and authors have enhanced upon elegaic poetry through both poems and literature, with numerous famous writers focusing at least part of their careers upon this writing style, including Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Tennyson, Whitman and Yeats. Twentieth-century writers like W.H. Auden, Allen Ginsberg and Wallace Stevens created numerous poems in memory of loves lost along with some specifically entitled for funeral presentation.