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Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard is a poem by Thomas Gray, published in 1751. It is a meditation on death and the human condition, inspired by the burial of a poor, unknown person in a country churchyard.
The poem is written in the form of an elegy, a type of poem traditionally used to mourn the dead. In this case, Gray uses the elegy to reflect on the lives of ordinary people and their place in the world. He laments the fact that these individuals, who may have lived simple but meaningful lives, are often overlooked and forgotten by the world at large.
Gray begins the poem by describing the peaceful, rural setting of the churchyard and the serene atmosphere it evokes. He then introduces the theme of death, describing the graves and tombs that dot the landscape as "humble and homely" but also "dear as the blood" of those who lie beneath them.
As the poem progresses, Gray reflects on the lives of these anonymous people and their potential for greatness. He wonders what talents and passions they may have had, and how their lives might have been different had they been born into a different social class. He also muses on the fleeting nature of life and the fact that even the most ordinary person can have a profound impact on the world.
Gray ends the poem with a plea for the reader to remember and honor these forgotten individuals, even if they are not celebrated or memorialized in the same way as more famous figures. He writes, "For who, to dumb forgetfulness a prey, / This pleasing anxious being e'er resigned, / Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day, / Nor cast one longing, lingering look behind?"
Overall, Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard is a poignant and thought-provoking meditation on death, the human condition, and the value of ordinary lives. It serves as a reminder to appreciate and remember those who may not be celebrated in life, but who have left their mark on the world in their own unique way.
Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard Summary
As a vindication of the poor, this poem does excellent work: like all of the best works of social conscience, it knows how to handle its audience, making our hearts swell with pride for the virtues of the downtrodden. Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid 45 Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire; Hands, that the rod of empire might have swayed, Or waked to ecstasy the living lyre. I find myself unable to go along with this representation of the poem. An elegy is a poem which laments the dead. Gray did not produce a great deal of poetry; the "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard," however, has earned him a respected and deserved place in literary history. Aviya Kushner Aviya Kushner is the Contributing Editor in Poetry at and the Poetry Editor of Neworld Magazine.
The 1750s saw the beginnings of a new dimension to this process, as landowners increasingly turned to private parliamentary bills to facilitate the process of enclosure. Literacy was plainly becoming increasingly important for the individual in his or her negotiations with society. With its mention of the herd, the opening stanza also positions itself in the pastoral tradition—the line of poetry based on songs sung by shepherds. In fact, the labours described are all potentially those of farm workers: Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield. A sustained archeology of the material history of the poem, however, needs to be done.
Elegy Written In A Country Churchyard [d2nv755889nk]
Lines 1-4 In the first stanza, the speaker observes the signs of a country day drawing to a close: a curfew bell ringing, a herd of cattle moving across the pasture, and a farm laborer returning home. On the other hand, it tends toward the emotionalism and individualism of the Romantic poets; most importantly, it idealizes and elevates the common man. I might add that the poor would have had no shortage of tears to shed. This is where the regular rhythm and unyielding rhyme scheme fit in, by assuring readers of the inevitability of this view of the simple country folk and not just a limited view of one select group. Note that at no point in these three opening stanzas does Gray directly refer to death or a funeral; rather, he indirectly creates a funereal atmosphere by describing just a few mournful sounds.
Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard by Thomasâ€¦
In the period 1750 to 1810 Paul Langford estimates that nearly four thousand enclosure acts were passed, whilst C. Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" is noteworthy in that it mourns the death not of great or famous people, but of common men. Note that the final line of this stanza is enjambed; it continues into the following line—and in this case, the next stanza. Just as the earth has been disrupted, the syntax imitates the way in which the earth has been disrupted. . This thought leads him to praise the dead for the honest, simple lives that they lived. Without question, Gray here devalues the public realm for the poor and seeks to confirm familial values of privacy and domestic autonomy.
What does the title "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" mean?
The speaker suggests that this need is so fundamental that even from the grave the buried dead seem to ask for remembrance. As such, they provide an example not so much of how life should be lived, but how its end, death, should be approached. The fact that the poor do not receive material bounty, but give it is also curious. The last date is today's date — the date you are citing the material. How bowed the woods beneath their sturdy stroke! In Foucauldian terms, the discourse is falling available, potentially, to seizure—or recuperation. Their very ashes contain a fire of life that the speaker senses he is missing, and, thus, they are the object of his sympathetic projection.
The poem, then, is an elegy not only for the common man, but for the speaker himself. The poems speaker calmly mulls over death while standing in a rural graveyard in the evening. The plowman is progressing on his journey as day turns into evening. . Nevertheless, the impression recurrently is of labour and labourers rather than farming and farmers.
Explain how "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" is an example of Neoclassical poetry. Describe at least two different ways that this work fits.
In the Elegy, the narrator also feels grief as he walks through a country graveyard and sees the tombs of unsung people who lived good and useful lives. Might Gray have stripped this farmer of topicality because local farm laborers had a history of revolt? Lines 25-28: The dead will also no longer be able to enjoy the pleasures of work, of plowing the fields each day. Such indoctrination would ensure that the poor would learn their place. Assuming that such a thoughtful person would not have been so immodest as to write this epitaph for himself, there must have been some other literate person to remember him. Not surprisingly, the frost triggered enormous increases in wheat and coal prices. The old man would have noticed one morning that the speaker was absent: he was not in any of his favorite spots.
What are some figures of speech in Thomas Gray's poem "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard"?
There is the question of whether the poor, such as the struggling farmers that Gray talks about, have been cast their lot by random chance, or whether they might not actually be collecting exactly what they deserve. Their poverty blocked the way to knowledge, he decides, and the lack of knowledge separated them from vices as well as virtues, so that in the end he does not consider his education a factor in making him better or worse than them either. This, too has been quite widely agreed on by historians: one basic sign of this was patterns of reading: There were many pointers to wide and growing readership in the mid-eighteenth century, including the production of both metropolitan and provincial newspapers, and the multiplication of new tract and book titles generally. Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard Introduction 1. But the acquisition of basic reading skills by those on the margin of middle- and lower-class life, for whom they were coming to be an essential working asset, was a notable feature of urban society. We would expect this sentence to read "Where the turf heaves"—not "where heaves the turf. Why exactly does Gray praise the poor? Note that at no point in these three opening stanzas does Gray directly refer to death or a funeral; rather, he indirectly creates a funereal atmosphere by describing just a few mournful sounds.
Just as significantly, though, Buckinghamshire and Cambridgeshire were situated geographically in that part of the country still largely unenclosed, and thus poised for large-scale take-over by this new mode of parliamentary-authorised enclosure, which re-invigorated the whole trend. In the case of the elegiac stanza form, iambic pentameter helps the poet create a pensive and stately rhythm that mirrors that solemnity of the subject. A narrative of events written year by year, or 2. It is also one of those poems about which there is centred an enduring controversy. Another example of personification is found in line 44: "or Flattery sooth the dull cold ear of Death. Lines 37-40 The speaker also challenges the reader not to look down on the poor for having modest, simple graves. An elegy is a melancholic poem which expresses grief or sorrow for the dead, and Gray's speaker laments the deaths of the impoverished rural people buried before him.