World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article


Jan Kochanowski with dead daughter in painting inspired by the poet's Laments

A lament or lamentation is a passionate expression of grief, often in music, poetry, or song form. The grief is most often born of regret, or mourning.


  • History 1
  • Scottish laments 2
  • Islamic lament songs: Nauha Khawani 3
  • Musical form 4
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6
  • Sources 7
  • External links 8


Many of the oldest and most lasting poems in human history have been laments.[1] Laments are present in both the Iliad and the Odyssey, and laments continued to be sung in elegiacs accompanied by the aulos in classical and Hellenistic Greece.[2] Lament elements figure 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, (which would later become the Christian Old Testament).

In many oral traditions, both early and modern, the lament has been a genre usually performed by women:[3] Batya Weinbaum made a case for the spontaneous lament of women chanters in the creation of the oral tradition that resulted in the Iliad[4] The material of lament, the "sound of trauma" is as much an element in the Book of Job as in the genre of pastoral elegy, such as Shelley's "Adonais" or Matthew Arnold's "Thyrsis".[5]

The Book of Lamentations or Lamentations of Jeremiah figures in the Old Testament. In art the Lamentation of Christ (under many closely variant terms) is a common subject from the Life of Christ, showing his dead body being mourned after the Crucifixion.

A Lament in The Book of Lamentations or in the Psalms (in the particular Lament/Complaint Psalms of the Tanakh, may be looked at as "a cry of need in a context of crisis when Israel lacks the resources to fend for itself."[6] Another way of looking at it is all the more basic: laments simply being "appeals for divine help in distress".[7] These laments, too, often have a set format: an address to God, description of the suffering/anguish which one seeks relief, a petition for help and deliverance, a curse towards one's enemies, an expression of the belief of ones innocence or a confession of the lack thereof, a vow corresponding to an expected divine response, and lastly, a song of thanksgiving.[8] Examples of a general format of this, both in the individual and communal laments, can be seen in Psalm 3 and Psalm 44 respectively.[9]

The Lament of Edward II, if it is actually written by Edward II of England, is the sole surviving composition of his.

A heroine's lament is a conventional fixture of Rinaldo), "Caro mio ben" (Tomasso or Giuseppe Giordani). The lament continued to represent a musico-dramatic high point. In the context of opera buffa, the Countess's lament, "Dove sono" comes as a surprise to the audience of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Marriage of Figaro, and in Gioachino Rossini's Barber of Seville, Rosina's plaintive words at her apparent abandonment are followed, not by the expected lament aria, but by a vivid orchestral interlude of storm music. The heroine's lament remained a fixture in romantic opera, and the Marschallin's monologue in Act I of Der Rosenkavalier can be understood as a penetrating psychological lament.[12]

Scottish laments

The purely instrumental lament is a common form in Pìobaireachd music for the Scottish bagpipes. "MacCrimmon's Lament" dates to the Jacobite uprising of 1745. The tune is held to have been written by Donald Ban MacCrimmon, piper to the MacLeods of Dunvegan, who supported the Hanoverians. It is said that Donald Ban, who was killed at Moy in 1746, had an intimation that he would not return.[13]

A well-known Gaelic lullaby is "Griogal Crìdhe" ("Beloved Gregor"). It was composed in 1570 after the execution of Gregor MacGregor by the Campbells. The grief-stricken widow describes what happened as she sings to her child.[14]

"Cumha na Cloine" (Lament for the Children) was composed by Padruig Mòr MacCrimmon in the early 1650s. It is generally held to be based on the loss of seven of MacCrimmon's eight sons to an unknown illness, possibly brought to Skye by a trading vessel. Author Bridget MacKenzie, in Piping Traditions of Argyll, suggests that it refers to the slaughter of the MacLeod's fighting Cromwell's forces at the Battle of Worcester. It may have been inspired by both.[15]

Other Scottish laments include "Lowlands Away", "MacPherson's Rant", and "Hector the Hero".

Islamic lament songs: Nauha Khawani

Islamic Lament songs or Nauha Khawani start in 61 A.H., after the incident of Karbalaa, where Husayn ibn Ali killed by the Muslims brutally. After the killing and disrespect of the family of Muhammad. People called Shia started to recite lament songs or Nauha. This is very famous in Middle East and South East Asia, people recite lament poetry in their own language, the famous language are Arabic, Persian, Urdu, Punjabi and Saraeki in which people express sadness or Karbala.

Musical form

There is a short, free musical form of the Romantic Era, called lament. It is typically a set of harmonic variations in homophonic texture, wherein the bass descends through a tetrachord, usually one suggesting a minor mode.

See also


  1. ^ Linda M. Austin, "The Lament and the Rhetoric of the Sublime" Nineteenth-Century Literature 53.3 (December 1998:279-306) traces the literary rhetoric evoking a voice crying.
  2. ^ Margaret Alexiou, Ritual Lament in Greek Tradition (Cambridge University Press) 1974
  3. ^ Alexiou 1974; Angela Bourke, "More in anger than in sorrow: Irish women's lament poetry", in Joan Newlon Radnor, ed., Feminist Messages: Coding in Women's Folk Culture (Urbana: Illinois University Press) 1993:160-82.
  4. ^ Batya Weinbaum, "Lament Ritual Transformed into Literature: Positing Women's Prayer as Cornerstone in Western Classical Literature" The Journal of American Folklore 114 No. 451 (Winter 2001:20-39).
  5. ^ Austin 1998:280f.
  6. ^ Walter Brueggeman, An Unsettling God, (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2009) 13
  7. ^ Michael D. Coogan, A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009) 370
  8. ^ Michael Coogan, A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009) 370
  9. ^ Michael Coogan, A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009) 370
  10. ^ Ellen Rosand, 2007. Opera in Seventeenth-Century Venice (University of California Press), "The lament aria: variations on a theme" pp 377ff.
  11. ^ "Negatemi respiri" and several others are noted by Rosand 2007:377f.
  12. ^ Called "the Marschallin's Act I lament", in Jeremy Eichler, "Lushly Lamenting the Wages of Time and a Lost Golden Age" opera review in The New York Times March 15, 2005.
  13. ^ "MacCrimmon's Lament", Foghlam Alba
  14. ^ "Lullabies and Dandlings", Foghlam Alba
  15. ^ "Pibroch songs and canntaireachd", Education Scotland


  • Richard Church, The Lamendation of Military Campaigns. PDQ: Steve Ruling, 2000.
  • Margaret Alexiou, The ritual lament in Greek tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1974.
  • Walter Brueggeman, An Unsettling God. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2009
  • Michael Coogan, A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009
  • 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 0-393-05788-7) pp. 141–143.
  • Gail Holst-Warhaft, Dangerous voices: women's laments and Greek literature. London: Routledge, 1992. ISBN 0-415-12165-5.
  • Claus Westermann, Praise and Lament in the Psalms. Westminster: John Knox Press, 1981. ISBN 0-8042-1792-0.

External links

  • )MoiroloiGreek lament song (Mοιρολόϊ - from Mani, performed in a funeral
  • )MoiroloiTraditional Greek lament song (Mοιρολόϊ - from Epirus
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.