Grief and Emotional Suffering in the Elegiac Poems by Jeremias de Decker and Michiel de Swaen, c. 1650-1700
Keywords:elegy, poetry, emotional suffering, Counter-Reformation, Pietism, death
Both Protestantism and Catholicism of the seventeenth century experienced the influence of theology that stressed the importance of inner devotion, which went hand in hand with a strong emphasis on the emotional experience of faith. In dealing with death, however, the discourse of comfort was still dominant, designed to suppress the pain of loss rather than bringing that feeling to the fore. This ‘emotional regime’ also affected funeral elegiac poems in which feelings of joy and delight about the deceased’s heavenly destination dominate the initial period of grief. This article aims to understand whether these emotional regimes induced a form of emotional suffering and, if so, to what extent this was visible in contemporary funerary poetry: did, for example, it stick to grief and the inner pain of loss instead of suppressing it? The essay focuses on the elegiac poems by Jeremias de Decker (1609-1660) in the Dutch Republic and by Michiel de Swaen (1654-1707) in French Flanders. It examines the striking differences between the elegies written after the passing away of a public person, such as befriended priests and preachers, and the poems about a death in the private sphere in which poetry functioned more as a means of emotional refuge.
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Copyright (c) 2021 Cornelis Van der Haven
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