…….”Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” is—as the title indicates—an elegy. Such a poem centers on the death of a person or persons and is, therefore, somber in tone. An elegy is lyrical rather than narrative—that is, its primary purpose is to express feelings and insights about its subject rather than to tell a story. Typically, an elegy expresses feelings of loss and sorrow while also praising the deceased and reflecting on the meaning of the deceased’s time on earth.
…….Gray’s poem reflects on the lives of humble and unheralded people buried in the cemetery of a church. It is generally believed that the cemetery is that of St. Giles Church in the small town of Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire, in southern England. Gray himself is buried in that cemetery.
The elegy is the most natural form of poetry because of its disassociation with metrical form, and lack of requirement of pattern, cadence or repetition. Within the elegy, Strand and Boland point out how the poet is permitted to express loss, mourn for the dead, and list the deceased person’s virtues, while seeking consolations beyond the momentary event.
The elegy is the most natural form of poetry because it heeds to customs and is guided by laws and codes, which are part of the history and tradition of the society in which the poem has evolved. The works of Thomas Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” demonstrate how the elegy is written in a natural form because of the forces guiding this type of poetic writing.
Final Paper Assignment For the last paper, you should focus on a poem or poems. You have several options: Write about one (or two) or the poems we " ve discussed in class, with the aim of bringing some new perception to it. For example, we " ve discussed some poems in pairs because one refers to the other and helps us to understand it-we " ve discussed this in class, but you could take it further ...
~History and Tradition
Thomas Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” is a poem clearly demonstrating the history and tradition of the society. Roberts and Jacobs express how religious, personal, political, and philosophical thought can become integrated into poetry. To begin with, these settings – religious, personal, political, and philosophical thought – become evident clearly by Gray who is able to write freely within his elegy.
Gray is able to express how all must die, and it does not matter if one is rich or poor, noble or a commoner, or a poet or a politician. Gray is also able to elevate the common man with the use of the elegy and freedom of wording and poetic style.
Gray gives clues within the first four stanzas of death by writing about the approaching night. Stanza one states, “The curfew tolls the knell of parting day . . .The plowman homeward plods . . .and leaves the world to darkness and to me.” Stanza two reads, “Now fades the glimmering landscape . . .and drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds,” which are more clues to the approaching darkness.
Then in stanza four Gray writes, “Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tower/the moping owl does to the moon complain,” which demonstrates the night approaching because owls come out into the darkness, and also signifying the wealthy people because of the ivy-mantled tower. Then within stanza four, Gray continues, “Each in his narrow cell for ever laid/The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.”
This undoubtedly and naturally demonstrates the death of the forefathers and the men being put to rest within their tombs. Also, the use of the term forefathers gives clues that these men were of various backgrounds – farmers, politicians, fathers, rich, and poor.
Demonstrating the complexity of character and history with the natural situation and the images of the surroundings while expressing loss, mourning for the dead, while seeking consolations beyond the momentary event, is exactly what Gray captures.
Have you ever noticed the variations in the way men and women communicate? "It's one of the mysteries of life why men and women, speaking the same language, have difficulty communicating with each other " (Balanced Living, 1992). There has been a great deal of study and research in this area of communications. Such study prompted Dr. John Gray to write, "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus." ...
Gray then is able to demonstrate the individual and the emotional issues behind death and dying. He is able, furthermore, to elevate the common man. In stanza five, Gray expresses how these forefathers will no longer be roused from their lowly beds by the breeze of the morning, the swallow twittering, or the cock echoing. Gray then highlights the fact that it does not matter if one is rich or poor. In stanza nine he writes:
The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power
And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave
Awaits alike the inevitable hour.
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.
These lines vividly portray the factual truth that death comes to all – the wealthy and the poor. Within stanza eleven Gray queries, “Can storied urn or animated bust/Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?” Even those that live in mansions, have wealth beyond what the poor can dream of, still die and fall to “the silent dust” as Gray states in line three of stanza eleven.
Gray then describes the many people from various stances in life and how they too die at one point in time. In stanza fourteen Gray writes, “Full many a flower is born to blush unseen” and then in stanza fifteen, “Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,/Some Cromwell guiltless of his country’s blood.” These lines list the deceased person’s virtues, and portray the man who may have never been able to show his talent or a man who fought in war and died without the glory or honor deserving of such a fellow.
~ Openness and Freeness
Written with openness and freeness of the elegy form, these lines are also written in a manner which expresses the history of the time. The countryside, the glory of men of war, and the men with unseen talent are all evidence of a society of people living in a country wrought by laws, rules, and political formation.
Continuing down to stanza twenty-one, he writes, “And many a holy text around she strews,/That teach the rustic moralist to die.” Also, in stanza twenty-nine it reads, “The next with dirges due in sad array/Slow through the churchway path we saw him borne.”
The Persecution of Innocence This essay will examine in detail the wrong doings of society upon the Hutterite people. It will also show how the Hutterian Brethren agricultural expertise has been beneficial to the world. It will explain many accounts of torture and hardship endured by these people. The Hutterian brotherhood has been wrongly persecuted because of their religion and their way of ...
Here is evidence of the religious belief of the people, the belief in an organized state of devoutness. People had a belief in a creator, and were able to express this belief by having scriptures written on their headstone, which Gray retells within his elegy.
Thomas Gray’s poem, “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard,” is a clear image of a poet sitting within a country churchyard retelling his thoughts of what he perceives of the people laid to rest.
Gray is able to relate the setting and the characters in a free manner, a free expression of words, which is easily interpreted and understood by the reader. Gray’s work has the ordered, balanced phrasing and rational sentiments of Neoclassical poetry. This elegy also tends toward the emotionalism and individualism of the Romantic poets.
More importantly, as bookrag.com points out, the elegy idealizes and elevates the common man. These qualities within a poem are only possible within the natural world of an elegy as Strand and Boland highlight, “Because of its public role, the elegy is also one of the forms that can be said to have coauthored by its community.”
Gray has been able to metaphorically demonstrate this co-authorship and powerfully share and salute the people within the countryside in which he overlooked within this remarkable elegy.
~ For Further Reading:
“Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard.” bookrags.com
Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing by Edgar V. Roberts and Henry E. Jacobs
The Making of A Poem: A Norton Anthology of Poetic Forms by Mark Strand and Eavan Boland.