In general terms, laments may be defined as poetry of lamentation performed by improvisation, but following traditional verbal and stylistic patterns. As stylized expressions of mourning, laments as a genre are ancient and possibly universal. Death laments are the most widespread type of lament poetry. Generally a eulogy of the dead, the death lament was performed in the presence of the deceased as part of more elaborate mortuary rituals, and this is the context in which the function of the death lament is best understood. In some societies laments were also sung on individual and collective feasts of remembrance of the dead (see anniversary; songs and singing).