More than that, however, it is also quite representative of the theme that dominates those others poems. Thomas Gray, English poet whose “An Elegy Written in a Country Church Yard” is one of the best known of English lyric poems. If we were all famous then there would be no famous or we would have to invent a new category of super-famous. Perhaps in this neglected spot is laidSome heart once pregnant with celestial fire;Hands, that the rod of empire might have sway’d,Or wak’d to ecstasy the living lyre. The paths of glory lead but to the grave. These gravestones of the poor show that their desire to be remembered after death is a desire common to all men. This, in summary, is what the ‘Elegy’ is about. Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield,Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke;How jocund did they drive their team afield!How bow’d the woods beneath their sturdy stroke! It doesn’t mourn West or any one other individual, but is instead more of an ode, which sees Gray meditating on death and the lives of simple rustic folk. (In the same year that Gray’s friend died, he coined the nonce-word ‘leucocholy’, for ‘a white Melancholy’ which ‘though it seldom laughs or dances, … THE EPITAPH Post was not sent - check your email addresses! If these obscure farm labourers are truly like flowers that ‘blush unseen’, i.e. Or craz’d with care, or cross’d in hopeless love. Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard. Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smileThe short and simple annals of the poor. Or wak’d to ecstasy the living lyre. (Similarly, ‘lea’ is echoed in ‘leaves’. Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid If chance, by lonely contemplation led, And froze the genial current of the soul. He wrote this poem after the death of his friend Richard West. The Thomas Gray Archive is a peer-reviewed digital archive and research project devoted to eighteenth-century poet, letter-writer, and scholar Thomas Gray (1716-1771), author of the acclaimed "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" (1751). Their sober wishes never learn’d to stray; Fair Science frown’d not on his humble birth, But the germ of the poem actually goes back to 1742, when the young poet Richard West – a friend of both Gray and Walpole – died, while only in his mid-twenties. Thank you for sharing! Read by Alexander Scourby. What’s more, as Empson also highlights, ‘a gem does not mind being in a cave and a flower prefers not to be picked; we feel that man is like the flower, as short-lived, natural, and valuable, and this tricks us into feeling that he is better off without opportunities’. And pore upon the brook that babbles by. But really, the gentle play of assonance and alliteration in the entire stanza is majestic. Thomas Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” was first published in 1751. Instead of being fresh and new, his visions of Nature are discreet and pretty. Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard by Thomas Gray Introduction “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” is one of Thomas Gray’s most popular poems Structurally, this poem is not an elegy as it is not written in elegiac couplets that involve a hexametric line structure followed by a pentametric line, but thematically, it is an elegy since it is set in a graveyard and expresses sorrow for loss and death. Poetry of the classical age, written under the inspiration of Alexander Pope, is purely related to the depiction of urban life, the fashions of the ladies and the manners of the Court. Thomas Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" was first published in 1751. Far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife,Their sober wishes never learn’d to stray;Along the cool sequester’d vale of lifeThey kept the noiseless tenor of their way. Nor up the lawn, nor at the wood was he; “The next with dirges due in sad array Some stars are bright, others faint and millions more invisible. Brushing with hasty steps the dews away Haply some hoary-headed swain may say,“Oft have we seen him at the peep of dawnBrushing with hasty steps the dews awayTo meet the sun upon the upland lawn. As the title suggests, "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" is an elegy that mourns the death of the people of the village that lie buried in a country churchyard. Where heaves the turf in many a mould’ring heap, Their name, their years, spelt by th’ unletter’d muse, If Mem’ry o’er their tomb no trophies raise, Such questions inevitable and everlasting as they are, do rise in the mind when one reflects on Death, and they can never lose their freshness, never cease to fascinate and move us. Types of Nouns with Examples, 50+ English Idioms with Meanings and Example Sentences. For Empson, the poem – whether intentionally or not on Gray’s part – appears to be conservative in its message, arguing that the status quo is the natural way of things (no matter how much the quo, to borrow from Laurence Peter, may have lost its status). Then it proceeds to speak of the poor people – the ancestors of the rustic population of the neighbourhood who lay deep buried under the elm and the yew in the country churchyard. "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" presents a good example of this transition. The poet’s thoughts turn to the poor; he forgets the find tombs inside the church and thinks only of the mouldering heaps” in the churchyard outside. Grav’d on the stone beneath yon aged thorn.”. Gray completed ‘Elegy in a Country Churchyard’ in 1750 and sent the poem to his friend Horace Walpole (the inventor of the Gothic novel and coiner of the word ‘serendipity’), who circulated it among his literary friends before Gray published the poem in 1751. Or busy housewife ply her evening care: There are some feelings and thoughts that cannot grow old. He published it on 15 February 1751, one day before a pirated edition was due to be published without Gray’s permission. By Thomas Gray. Molest her ancient solitary reign. And read their hist’ry in a nation’s eyes. Here rests his head upon the lap of EarthA youth to Fortune and to Fame unknown.Fair Science frown’d not on his humble birth,And Melancholy mark’d him for her own. Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere, “There at the foot of yonder nodding beech Consider the use of vowel sounds in that opening stanza: Was there ever a better description of the weariness of the evening after a hard day’s work, brilliantly capturing the time of day when simple labouring folk would retire home after toiling in the fields all day? Mauldin and commented: An analysis of the most important parts of the poem Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard by Thomas Gray, written in an easy-to-understand format. Gray may, however, have begun writing the poem in 1742, shortly after the death of his close friend Richard West. The poem begins by describing the approach of evening with its darkness and its silence, which is unbroken except for some such sounds, as those of the droning of the beetle, the tinkling of sheep’s bells and the hooting of the owl. Approach and read (for thou canst read) the lay, (There they alike in trembling hope repose) Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share. The ‘country churchyard’ referred to in the poem’s title belonged to St Giles’ parish church at Stoke Poges in Buckinghamshire, although it’s likely that Gray had written much of the poem before he moved to Stoke Poges. An elegy, by strict definition, is usually a lament for the dead. Enter your email address to subscribe to this site and receive notifications of new posts by email. Gray wrote a sonnet on the death of his friend, but it would be the ‘Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard’ – an elegy not just for West but for all promising folk who toil away in obscurity and never had a chance to fulfil their potential – that would prove his lasting legacy. No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed. Yet ev’n these bones from insult to protect,Some frail memorial still erected nigh,With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture deck’d,Implores the passing tribute of a sigh. Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere,Heav’n did a recompense as largely send:He gave to Mis’ry all he had, a tear,He gain’d from Heav’n (’twas all he wish’d) a friend. Critical Overview. (Confusingly, although Gray’s ‘Elegy’ isn’t an elegy in the strictest sense but more of an ode, his other most famous poem, ‘Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat, Drowned in a Tub of Goldfishes’, is more of an elegy than an ode.). Now fades the glimm’ring landscape on the sight, Nor you, ye proud, impute to these the fault,If Mem’ry o’er their tomb no trophies raise,Where thro’ the long-drawn aisle and fretted vaultThe pealing anthem swells the note of praise. The plowman homeward plods his weary way, Poem "Elegy Written In A Country Churchyard By Thomas Gray" In poetry, the tone of the poem denotes the voice that the poem is read in. The versification of Gray possesses exquisite musical sweetness and about his diction he himself tells that “the style i have aimed at is extreme conciseness of expression yet pure perspicuous and musical.” Gray’s style has the dignity of Milton and stately march of his verse resemble that of Dryden. Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" takes place—you guessed it—in a country churchyard. Gray’s version of an elegy is slightly different—he writes about the inevitability and hollowness of death in general, instead of mourning one person. Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile It is indeed,a cry of human sympathy. Elegy written in a Country Churchyard By Thomas Gray : Critical Appreciation. The bosom of his Father and his God. Image (bottom): St Giles’ churchyard at Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire (credit: Michael Garlick, 2016), via geograph.org.uk. Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day, If Gray had not written “Elegy in a Country Churchyard” there is a good possibility his name would not be found in literature textbooks across the world. “Hard by yon wood, now smiling as in scorn,Mutt’ring his wayward fancies he would rove,Now drooping, woeful wan, like one forlorn,Or craz’d with care, or cross’d in hopeless love. Hands, that the rod of empire might have sway’d, And waste its sweetness on the desert air. The poem is an elegy of the common man. That teach the rustic moralist to die. But, then, their humble lot, while preventing the development of their virtues, limited the nature and extent of their vices as well, so that they were saved from becoming bloody usurpers or merciless tyrants. His listless length at noontide would he stretch, To meet the sun upon the upland lawn. This is, in the last analysis, the true meaning and heart of Gray’s ‘Elegy’: whether or not it’s a good thing that so many promising talents go unnoticed and uncultivated, many people pass lives of quiet dignity and rustic simplicity. But Knowledge to their eyes her ample page William Empson, in an influential reading in his 1935 book Some Versions of Pastoral, thought not. Sorry, your blog cannot share posts by email. The poet is standing inthe church yard. He discarded four stanzas of an early version, which were probably read by his friend Horace Walpole, and planned to title the work simply “Stanzas” until his friend William Mason suggested … It exhibits the gentle melancholy that is characteristic of the English poets of the graveyard school of the 1740s and ’50s. Th’ applause of list’ning senates to command,The threats of pain and ruin to despise,To scatter plenty o’er a smiling land,And read their hist’ry in a nation’s eyes. No children run to lisp their sire’s return, On some fond breast the parting soul relies,Some pious drops the closing eye requires;Ev’n from the tomb the voice of Nature cries,Ev’n in our ashes live their wonted fires. As I live in a place where even the ordinary tattle of the town arrives not till it is stale, and which produces no events of its own, you will not desire any excuse from me for writing so seldom, especially as of all people living I know you are the least a friend to letters spun out of one's own brains, with all the toil and constraint tha… He wrote elegant lyric and dramatic poems, Latin translations, odes and … The last three stanzas of the poem have been written in italic type and given the title "The Epitaph". And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave, Thomas Gray (26 December 1716 – 30 July 1771) was an English poet, letter-writer, classical scholar, and professor at Pembroke College, Cambridge.He is widely known for his Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard, published in 1751.. Gray was an extremely self-critical writer who published only 13 poems in his lifetime, despite being very popular. wrote a sonnet on the death of his friend, Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat, Drowned in a Tub of Goldfishes, 10 of the Best Poems about Churches | Interesting Literature. He is singing the praises of the unsung heroes of England, those who pass their lives in anonymity; but does he seem to be saying that these people would be better off if their talents were recognised, or if people from humble backgrounds had more opportunities? Empson cites the following stanza: As Empson points out in his analysis of this stanza, Gray’s analogy with the natural world – with gemstones and flowers – makes English society’s lack of social mobility seem natural, even inevitable. And shut the gates of mercy on mankind. To quench the blushes of ingenuous shame, Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke; How bow’d the woods beneath their sturdy stroke! It is a poem, which has reached the hearts of mankind. Yet ev’n these bones from insult to protect, The pealing anthem swells the note of praise. Haply some hoary-headed swain may say, Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree’s shade,Where heaves the turf in many a mould’ring heap,Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep. The cock’s shrill clarion, or the echoing horn, I still can quote large chunks of it. 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