Oral poetry is a popular genre in Africa, largely due to the poetic nature of the African environment. Almost every activity in African communities calls for one form of poetic expression or the other. Oral poems are usually brought into service in various ways because they are concerned with different human experiences. Elegiac poetry is one of the several poetic forms that exist in Tiv land. It is basically concerned with mourning the dead and consists of funeral songs, eulogies, chants and recitations that are integral to the funeral and memorial rites in the communities. This paper examines the Tiv perception of death, cosmology and the concept of ancestral potency as reflected in their funeral songs. It shows how oral literature acts as an instrument of self–control through the morals it teaches, thereby helping to bring order in the society. In addition to the theme of death, Tiv elegiac poetry is a repository of Tiv culture and tradition. In analysing the thematic concerns of the songs, the paper also highlights the literary and poetic devices employed by the performers in order to achieve the desired effect.
Key words: Elegiac poetry, oral, death, mourn, literature, songs.
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