Mark Kleiman has a nomination, from ancient Greece, for “the saddest poem ever written.” There are likely a lot of contenders for this title, and even a quick survey would reveal the emotion’s many different varieties (and do wonders for our readership), so it’s probably not the right thing to start a ranking. In any event, Mark’s post caught my eye because I happened to read the following lines just yesterday evening:
Andromache led the lamentation of the women, while she held in her hands the head of Hector, her great warrior: “Husband, you are gone so young from life, and leave me in your home a widow. Our child is still but a little fellow, child of ill-fated parents, you and me. How can he grow up to manhood? Before that, the city shall be overthrown. For you are gone, you who kept watch over it, and kept safe its wives and their little ones …
“And you have left woe unutterable and mourning to your parents, Hector; but in my heart above all others bitter anguish shall abide. Your hands were not stretched out to me as you lay dying. You spoke to me no living word that I might have pondered as my tears fell night and day.”
That’s from an old translation by S.E. Winbolt, which doesn’t seem to be available on line. The Samuel Butler translation is freely available, though.