Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard
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  • 1. Elegy Written in aCountry Churchyard By Thomas Gray
  • 2. 2Course title: eng2216Teacher: Areej Al-OmraniContents: 1. Mid-Late Eighteenth Century 2. Thomas Gray 3. The background of the poem 4. The poetic form References: 1.Paul Goring, Eighteenth Century Literature & Culture 2.William Harmon, The Poetry Toolkit 3.Cleanth Brooks, Understanding Poetry 4.Jonathan D. Culler, Structuralist Poetics 5.The British Encyclopedia 6.Various websites
  • 3. 3 The Political Features of Mid-Late Eighteenth Century The most striking political feature of the times was the rise of constitutional andparty government. The two main parties were so well balanced that power shiftedeasily from one to the other. To overturn a Tory or a Whig cabinet only a few voteswere necessary, and to influence such votes London was flooded with pamphlets.Even before the great newspapers appeared, the press had become a mightypower in England, and any writer with a talent for argument or satire was almostcertain to be hired by party leaders. Addison, Steele, Defoe, Swift,--most of thegreat writers of the age were, on occasion, the willing servants of the Whigs orTories. So the new politician replaced the old nobleman as a patron of letters. Leaders of Great Britain George II (1683-1760) he is depicted as a weak buffoon, governed by his wifeand ministers. He was born in Germany and German is his first language. He hadno interest in reading, or in the arts and sciences, and preferred to spend his leisurehours stag-hunting on horseback or playing cards. George III (1738-1820) his reputation in America was one of a tyrant and inBritain he became "the scapegoat for the failure of imperialism". He is oftenremembered as "The Mad King" and "The King Who Lost America". Social Life Another feature of the age was the rapid development of social life. In earlierages the typical Englishman had lived much by himself; his home was his castle,and in it he developed his intense individualism; but in the first half of theeighteenth century some three thousand public coffeehouses and a large numberof private clubs appeared in London alone; and the sociability of which theseclubs were an expression was typical of all English cities. Meanwhile country lifewas in sore need of refinement. The influence of this social life on literature wasinevitable. Nearly all writers frequented the coffeehouses, and matters discussedthere became subjects of literature; hence the enormous amount of eighteenth-century writing devoted to transient affairs, to politics, fashions, gossip. Moreover,as the club leaders set the fashion in manners or dress, in the correct way of takingsnuff or of wearing wigs and ruffles, so the literary leaders emphasized formality orcorrectness of style, and to write prose like Addison, or verse like Pope, becamethe ambition of aspiring young authors.
  • 4. 4 Spread of Empire Two other significant features of the age were the large part played by Englandin Continental wars, and the rapid expansion of the British empire. TheseContinental wars, which have ever since influenced British policy, seem to haveoriginated (aside from the important matter of self-interest) in a double motive: toprevent any one nation from gaining overwhelming superiority by force of arms,and to save the smaller "buffer" states from being absorbed by their powerfulneighbors. The expansion of the empire, on the whole the most marvelous featureof English history, received a tremendous impetus in this age when India, Australiaand the greater part of North America were added to the British dominions, andwhen Captain Cook opened the way for a belt of colonies around the wholeworld. Poetry (pre-romanticism) The Pre-Romanticism is a cultural movement in Europe from about the 1740sonward that preceded and presaged the artistic movement known asRomanticism1 . Chief among these tends was a shift in public taste away from thegrandeur, austerity, nobility, idealization, and elevated sentiments of Neoclassicismor Classicism toward simpler, more sincere, and more natural forms of expression.This new emphasis partly reflected the taste of growing middle class, who foundthe refined and elegant art forms patronized by aristocratic society to be artificialand overly sophisticated; the bourgeoisie favoured more realistic artistic vehiclesthat were more emotionally accessible. Inspiration The Pre-Romantic artist, musician, or writer, is an “inspired creator” rather than a“technical master.” Meaning that, they were “going with the moment” or beingspontaneous, rather than “getting it precise.” Among many things that inspired thewriters of this era is the writings of Jean-JAcques Rousseau, a Swiss philosopher whowrote once that people were born free but that everywhere civilization put themin chains. Also they were influenced by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, a Germanwriter whose novel The Sorrows of Young Werther provided the basis for much ofthis age.11800-1840, a partly reaction to the Industrial Revolution, it was also against aristocratic social andpolitical norms of the Age of Enlightenment and a reaction against the scientific rationalization ofnature.
  • 5. 5 Outstanding Figures William Blake (1757-1821) For him, nature in its glorious state epitomized thestate of innocence. It provided a clear vision of how life should be and showed theway for children and adults to behave. Blooming nature, flowers, lambs andshepherds illustrate the Songs of Innocence. By contrast, the Songs of Experienceare characterized by dark forests, sick flowers, and destroyed gardens. Robert Burns (1759-17960), he is regarded as a pioneer of the Romanticmovement, and after his death he became a great source of inspiration to thefounders of both liberalism and socialism, and a cultural icon in Scotland. Horatio Walpole (1717-1797) the father of gothic novel, the novel of mysteryand terror, The Castle of Ortanto, his most famous novel is set in the Middle Ages.There is much paraphernalia of terror and villainy in it, but it was important for thedevelopment of the Pre-Romantic movement. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) an English author who made lasting contributionsto English Literature as a poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editorand lexicographer. Ann Radcliffe (1764-1823) her fiction is characterized by seeminglysupernatural events being explained through reason. Throughout her worktraditional morals are asserted, women’s rights are advocated and reasonprevails.
  • 6. 6 Characteristics of This Era1. The exaltation of personal feelings and sensitivities. ๏The Neoclassical writers were concerned with the rational, social, and educational poetry whereas the Pre-Romantics fought against that tendency and tried to express their feelings through poetry.2. The vision of nature: ๏ the Pre-Romantic poets wrote about the poetic feelings that nature made them feel. ๏ In nature human beings van feel beauty, tenderness, and melancholy. ๏The Pre-Romantics despise the artificial life of the cities and they would rather retire to the country side. ๏Nature is a reflection of the feelings of the poet.3. Moral and intellectual freedom: ๏The Neoclassical writers strictly followed the tradition. Their main characters do not express their dissatisfaction with society.4. Melancholy: ๏Nature and its reflection produce melancholy feelings based on the ideas that life moves toward death, that happiness is unattainable, and love is unstable. ๏Melancholy reminds human beings that their life has an end.5. The predilection for darkness and sepulchres: ๏It is a way to acquire more intimate feelings that shows the state of the soul. ๏This sort of literature goes back to the Middle Ages, and it is going to portray sepulchres, abbeys, monks, and strange events.6. To write with these new concepts in mind, writers needed to explore other waysof writing. Literature had to abandon its social projection and acquire a moreintimate tone.
  • 7. 7 Thomas Gray His Early Life Born in Cornhill on 26 December 1716, Gray was the fifth of twelve children ofPhilip and Dorothy Antrobus Gray and the only one to survive infancy. He Alsosuffered from convulsions as a child. His mother in partnership with her sister Maryshe kept a millinery,women’s hats, shop in Cornhill. This and the house connectedwith it were the property of Philip Gray, a money-scrivener, who married Dorothy in1706 and lived with her in the house, the sisters renting the shop from him andsupporting themselves by its profits. Philip Gray had impaired the fortune which heinherited from his father, a wealthy London merchant; yet he was sufficiently well-to-do, and at the close of his life was building a house upon some property of hisown at Wanstead. But he was selfish and brutal and given to fits of insanity, abusedhis wife. She left him at one point; but Philip Gray threatened to pursue her andwreak vengeance on her, and she returned to him. From 1725 to 1734 Thomas Gray attended Eton, where he met Richard Westand Horace Walpole, son of the powerful Whig minister, Sir Robert Walpole. Thefour prided themselves on their sense of style, their sense of humour, and theirappreciation of beauty. This little coterie was dubbed "the Quadruple Alliance."Gray was a delicate and scholarly boy who spent his time reading and avoidingathletics. He recalled his schooldays as a time of great happiness, as is evident inhis Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College. In 1734 Gray entered Peterhouse College, Cambridge University. Four yearslater he left Cambridge without a degree because he found the curriculum dull.He wrote letters to his friends listing all the things he disliked: the masters ("mad withPride") and the Fellows ("sleepy, drunken, dull, illiterate Things.") Supposedly he wasintended for the law, but in fact he spent his time as an undergraduate readingclassical and modern literature and playing on the harpsichord for relaxation. Thenhe and Horace Walpole sailed from Dover on 29 March 1739 for a Continentaltour. The two quarreled at Reggio, Italy, in May 1741; Gray continued the touralone, returning to London in September. In November 1741 Grays father died;Grays extant letters contain no mention of this event.
  • 8. 8 His Contribution Thomas Gray is one of the best known of all English poets, and his poems arecounted among the finest in the English language. But his literary output was smallbecause he wrote slowly, striving for perfection. Grays poetry is concerned with the rejection of sexual desire. The figure of thepoet in his poems is often a lonely, alienated, and marginal one, and variousmuses or surrogate-mother figures are invoked for aid or guidance. The typical"plot" of the four longer poems of 1742 has to do with engaging some figure ofdesire to repudiate it, as in the "Ode on the Spring," or, as in the Eton College ode,to lament lost innocence. Sometimes, as in the "Hymn to Adversity," a harsh andrepressive figure is conjured to rebuke excessive desire and to aid in the formationof a modest and humane fellowship, the transposed and social form of sexualdesire. In the "Hymn to Ignorance" a goddess clearly modeled on Popes Dulness inThe Dunciad (1728) is used to rebuke the "I" who longs for the maternal anddemonic presence. In different but related ways these four poems enact thepoets quest for his tutelary spirit, for the muse who will preside over the making ofpoetic and personal identity. Ode on the Spring previews Grays appreciation in the "Elegy" of rustic simplicityagainst the claims of the proud and the great and reveal the inception of a poeticpersona that will be adapted and modified during the coming years. The poemtherefore offers a model for reading Grays early poetry, in which the variousrejections of desire are the major adventure of the speaker of the poems.Gray’s surviving letters also show his sharp observation and playful sense ofhumour. He is also well known for his phrase, "where ignorance is bliss, tis folly to bewise." This is from his Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College This phrase is one ofthe most misunderstood phrases in English literature. Gray is not promotingignorance, but reflecting nostalgically on a time when he was allowed to beignorant, his youth. Gray spent most of his life as a scholar in Cambridge, and only later in his life didhe begin travelling again. Although he was one of the least productive poets (hiscollected works published during his lifetime amount to fewer than 1,000 lines), heis regarded as the foremost English-language poet of the mid-18th century. In1757, he was offered the post of Poet Laureate, which he refused. In July 1768Gray was made professor of modern history at Cambridge, though he neverlectured or published on the subject. The most significant personal event of his lastyears was a brief, intense friendship with a young Swiss student, Karl Victor vonBonstetten. The friendship was apparently complicated by physical desire onGrays part, though no sexual relation is believed to have occurred between them.In July 1771 Gray became ill while dining at Pembroke College; a week later, on 30July, he died. In his Souvenirs (1832) Bonstetten reflected on the poet “I think thekey to the mystery is that Gray never loved; the result was a poverty of heartcontrasting with his ardent and profound imagination, which, instead ofcomprising the happiness of his life, was only its torment.”
  • 9. 9 Gray’s Masterpiece: Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard It is believed that Gray began writing his masterpiece, the Elegy Written in aCountry Churchyard, in the graveyard of the church in Stoke Poges,Buckinghamshire, in 1742, completing it, after several years lying unfinished, in1750. It was sent to his friend Horace Walpole, who popularized the poem amongLondon literary circles. Gray was eventually forced to publish the work on 15February 1751, to pre-empt a magazine publisher from printing an unlicensed copyof the poem. The poem was a literary sensation when published and has made alasting contribution to English literature. It was partly inspired by Gray’s thoughtsfollowing the death of the poet Richard West in 1742. Originally titled StanzasWrote in a Country Church-Yard. Its reflective, calm and stoic tone was greatlyadmired, and it was pirated, imitated, quoted and translated into Latin and Greek.It is still one of the most popular and most frequently quoted poems in the Englishlanguage. In 1759 during the Seven Years War, before the Battle of the Plains ofAbraham, British General James Wolfe is said to have recited it to his officers,adding: "Gentlemen, I would rather have written that poem than take Quebectomorrow." The Elegy was recognized immediately for its beauty and skill. Itcontains many phrases which have entered the common English lexicon, either ontheir own or as quoted in other works. The poem is an elegy2 in name but not in form; it employs a style similar to thatof contemporary odes, but it embodies a meditation on death, andremembrance after death. The poem argues that the remembrance can be goodand bad, and the narrator finds comfort in pondering the lives of the obscurerustics buried in the churchyard. The two versions of the poem, Stanzas and Elegy,approach death differently; the first contains a stoic response to death, but thefinal version contains an epitaph which serves to repress the narrators fear ofdying. With its discussion of, and focus on, the obscure and the known, the poemhas possible political ramifications, but it does not make any definite claims onpolitics to be more universal in its approach to life and death. Later critics tended to praise its language and universal aspects, but some feltthe ending was unconvincing, failing to resolve the questions the poem raised; orthat the poem did not do enough to present a political statement that wouldserve to help the obscure rustic poor who forms its central image.2A type poetry presenting melancholic reflection on morality, framed in narratives involving visits tograveyards and other reminders of death.
  • 10. 10 The Background of the Poem Grays life was surrounded by loss and death, and many people that he knewdied painfully and alone. In 1749, several events occurred that caused Gray stress.On 7 November, Mary Antrobus, Grays aunt, died; her death devastated hisfamily. The loss was compounded a few days later by news that his friend sincechildhood Horace Walpole was almost killed by two highwaymen. AlthoughWalpole survived and later joked about the event, the incident disrupted Graysability to pursue his scholarship. The events dampened the mood that Christmas,and Antrobuss death was ever fresh in the minds of the Gray family. As a sideeffect, the events caused Gray to spend much of his time contemplating his ownmortality. As he began to contemplate various aspects of mortality, he combinedhis desire to determine a view of order and progress present in the Classical worldwith aspects of his own life. With spring nearing, Gray questioned if his own lifewould enter into a sort of rebirth cycle or, should he die, if there would be anyoneto remember him. Grays meditations during spring 1750 turned to how individualsreputations would survive. Eventually, Gray remembered some lines of poetry thathe composed in 1742 following the death of West, a poet he knew. Using thatprevious material, he began to compose a poem that would serve as an answerto the various questions he was pondering. On 3 June 1750, Gray moved to Stoke Poges, and on 12 June he completedElegy Written in a Country Churchyard. Immediately, he included the poem in aletter he sent to Walpole, that said: 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 ones own brains, with all the toil and constraint that accompanies sentimental productions. I have been here at Stoke a few days (where I shall continue good part of the summer); and having put an end to a thing, whose beginnings you have seen long ago. I immediately send it you. You will, I hope, look upon it in light of a thing with an end to it; a merit that most of my writing have wanted, and are like to want, but which this epistle I am determined shall not want. The letter reveals that Gray felt that the poem was unimportant, and that hedid not expect it to become as popular or influential as it did. Gray dismisses itspositives as merely being that he was able to complete the poem, which wasprobably influenced by his experience of the churchyard at Stoke Poges, wherehe attended the Sunday service and was able to visit the grave of Antrobus.
  • 11. 11 Graveyard Poetry A type poetry presenting melancholic reflection on morality, framed innarratives involving visits to graveyards and other reminders of death. One of themost celebrated examples of this type of verse is Thomas Gray’s Elegy Written in aCountry Churchyard. With its personal and introspective concerns, such verse hasbeen seen as significant as part of a transitional phase between publicly focusedneoclassical verse and Romantic lyricism, but it is of interest not only as a stepping-stone in literary history. Involving a focus upon loss, and with extensive analyses offeelings, such verse played a part in the wider culture of sensibility. Meter and Rhyme SchemeGray wrote the poem in four-line stanzas (quatrains). Each line is in iambicpentameter, meaning the following: 1..Each line has five pairs of syllables for a total of ten syllables. 2..In each pair, the first syllable is unstressed (or unaccented), and the second isstressed (or accented), as in the two lines that open the poem:.......The CUR few TOLLS the KNELL of PART ing DAY.......The LOW ing HERD wind SLOW ly OER the LEA .......In each stanza, the first line rhymes with the third and the second line rhymeswith the fourth (abab), as follows:a.....The curfew tolls the knell of parting day, b.....The lowing herd wind slowly oer the lea,a.....The plowman homeward plods his weary way, b.....And leaves the world to darkness and to me. Stanza Form: Heroic Quatrain.......A stanza with the above-mentioned characteristics—four lines, iambicpentameter, and an abab rhyme scheme—is often referred to as a heroicquatrain. (Quatrain is derived from the Latin word quattuor, meaning four.) WilliamShakespeare and John Dryden had earlier used this stanza form. After Grayspoem became famous, writers and critics also began referring to the heroicquatrain as an elegiac stanza. The Tone The tone of the poem is sad and melancholic because it is the description ofthe death of common people. The speaker uses sad diction and symbols such asowl, death, grave, sleep also, the owl symbolizes death. The setting The time is the mid 1700s, about a decade before the Industrial Revolutionbegan in England. The place is the cemetery of a church. Evidence indicates thatthe church is St. Giles, in the small town of Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire, insouthern England. Gray himself is buried in that cemetery. William Penn, thefounder of Pennsylvania, once maintained a manor house at Stoge Poges.
  • 12. 12 ThemesDeath: the Great Equalizer.......Even the proud and the mighty must one day lie beneath the earth, like thehumble men and women now buried in the churchyard, as line 36 notes: The pathsof glory lead but to the grave. Lines 41-44 further point out that no grandiosememorials and no flattering words about the deceased can bring him or her backfrom death.Can storied urn or animated bust Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?Can Honours voice provoke the silent dust,Or Flattry soothe the dull cold ear of Death?Missed Opportunities.......Because of poverty or other handicaps, many talented people never receivethe opportunities they deserve. The following lines elucidate this theme throughmetaphors: Full many a gem of purest ray serene,The dark unfathomd caves of ocean bear:Full many a flowr is born to blush unseen,And waste its sweetness on the desert air. Here, the gem at the bottom of the ocean may represent an undiscoveredmusician, poet, scientist or philosopher. The flower may likewise stand for a personof great and noble qualities that are "wasted on the desert air." Of course, onanother level, the gem and the flower can stand for anything in life that goesunappreciated.Virtue.......In their rural setting, far from the temptations of the cities and the courts ofkings, the villagers led virtuous lives, as lines 73-76 point out:Far from the madding crowds ignoble strife, Their sober wishes never learnd to stray;Along the cool sequesterd vale of lifeThey kept the noiseless tenor of their way.
  • 13. 13 Inversion.......For poetic effect, Gray frequently uses inversion (reversal of the normal wordorder). Following are examples:Line 6: And all the air a solemn stillness holds (all the air holds a solemn stillness)Line 14: Where heaves the turf in many a mouldring heap (Where the turf heaves)Line 24: Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share. (Or climb his knees to share theenvied kiss)Line 79: With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture deckd (deckd withuncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture)SyncopeOmitting letters or sounds within a word. Gray also frequently uses a commonplace poetic device known as syncope, theomission of letters or sounds within a word. The lowing herd wind slowly oer the lea (line 2)Now fades the glimmring landscape on the sight (line 5)Save that from yonder ivy-mantled towr (line 9)The swallow twittring  from the straw-built shed (line 18)
  • 14. 14 Figures of Speech.......Following are examples of figures of speech in the poem. AlliterationRepetition of a Consonant SoundThe plowman homeward plods his weary way (line 3) .The cocks shrill clarion, or the echoing horn (line 19)Nor cast one longing, lingring look behind? (line 88) .Now drooping, woeful wan, like one forlorn (line 107) .Or crazd with care, or crossd in hopeless love. (line 108)AnaphoraRepetition of a word, phrase, or clause at the beginning of word groups occurringone after the otherAnd all that beauty, all that wealth eer gave (line 34)Their name, their years, spelt by th unletterd muse (line 81) Evn from the tomb the voice of Nature cries,Evn in our ashes live their wonted fires. (lines 91-92)MetaphorComparison between unlike things without using like, as, or thanFull many a gem of purest ray serene,The dark unfathomd caves of ocean bear:Full many a flowr is born to blush unseen,And waste its sweetness on the desert air. (lines 53-56)Comparison of the dead village people to gems and flowersOr heap the shrine of Luxury and PrideWith incense kindled at the Muses flame. (lines 71-72)Comparison of flattering words to incenseMetonymyUse of a word or phrase to suggest a related word or phraseTo scatter plenty oer a smiling landLand stands for people.PersonificationA form of metaphor that compares a thing to a personLet 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. (lines 29-32)Ambition and Grandeur take on human characteristics.But Knowledge to their eyes her ample pageRich with the spoils of time did neer unroll (line 49-50)Notice that Knowledge becomes a person, a female.Fair Science frownd not on his humble birth, And Melancholy markd him for her own. (lines 119-120)Science and Melancholy become persons.
  • 15. 15 Assessment of the Poem.......Scholars regard "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" as one of the greatestpoems in the English language. It weaves structure, rhyme scheme, imagery andmessage into a brilliant tapestry that confers on Gray everlasting fame. The qualityof its poetry and insights reach Shakespearean and Miltonian heights.  Biographical Information.......Thomas Gray was born in London on December 26, 1716. He was the only oneof twelve children who survived into adulthood. His father, Philip, a scrivener (aperson who copies text) was a cruel, violent man, but his mother, Dorothy,believed in her son and operated a millinery business to educate him at Etonschool in his childhood and Peterhouse College, Cambridge, as a young man. .......He left the college in 1738 without a degree to tour Europe with his friend,Horace Walpole, the son of the first prime minister of England, Robert Walpole(1676-1745). However, Gray did earn a degree in law although he never practicedin that profession. After achieving recognition as a poet, he refused to give publiclectures because he was extremely shy. Nevertheless, he gained such widespreadacclaim and respect that England offered him the post of poet laureate, whichwould make him official poet of the realm. However, he rejected the honor. Graywas that rare kind of person who cared little for fame and adulation
  • 16. 16 The Poem 1.3The curfew 4 tolls the knell5 of parting day6, 2.The lowing7 herd wind slowly oer 8 the lea9 , 3.The plowman homeward plods his weary way, 4.And leaves the world to darkness and to me.   the  poet  begins  the  poem   with  medita0ons  of  the  darkness  and  the  graves.  The  poet  starts  by   describing  the  disappearance  of  the  day  light   and   the  coming  of  the  darkness  in  the  graveyard  –  so  the  poet  starts  with   the  darkness  to  indicates  and   shows   his  great   sadness.   Then  he  remembers  the  daylight   and  the  happiness  which  disappears  by   the  death  of  the  pastoral  people  gray   praises  the  li;  of   those  people  who  are  simple  and  innocent  .  then  he  shi;s  to  visual  images  the  image  of   the   farmers  coming  back  home  –now  there  were  no  farmers  ,no  animals  and  the  image  becomes  darker  and  darker  ,  so  the  image  becomes  gloomy  and  melancholy  which  is  one  of  the  characteris0cs  of  the  elegy.  In  addi0on,   it   deals  with  personal  experience,   emo0on  and   feeling  s  which  is  a  characteris0c   of  the  pre  –   roman0c   school  the  elegy   of   a  country   church   yard  starts  with  a  personifica0on   gray   personifies  the  day   he  compares  it   to  someone  par0ng,  leaving  and  dying  the  church  bells  are  ringing  to  announce  his  death.  There  is  an  auditory  image  in  the  sound  of  the  church  bells.  They   are  knelling   and  ringing.   We  also  have  kine0c   image  which  is  herd  of  sheep  winding   and  moving  slowly.  We  also  have  melancholic  solitary   personal  tone  when  he  says  to  me  this  is  one  of  the  characteris0c  of   the  pre  roman0c  school.   So  the  first  stanza,  is  considered  an  image  of  the  slow  movement  of  the  life. 5.Now fades the glimmring landscape on the sight, 3 The poem begins in a churchyard with a narrator who is describing his surroundings in vivid detail. The narrator emphasises both aural and visual sensations as he examines the area in relation to himself. 1-12 4ringing bell in the evening that reminded people in English towns of Gray’s time to put out fires and go to bed 5 mournful sound 6 days end; dying day; twilight; dusk. 7 mooing. 8 contraction for over. 9 meadow
  • 17. 17 6.And all the air a solemn stillness holds, 7.Save10 where the beetle11 wheels 12 his droning13 flight, 8.And drowsy tinklings 14 lull the distant folds15;poet  con0nues  describing  the  light  of  the  landscape  a;er  the  departure  of  the  farmers  and  the  animals  .  so   we   have   solitude   landscape   and   lonely   filed   There   isnt   any   sound   except   the   beetle   and   their  wheeling.   The   sound   of   the   beetle   is   something   nega0ve   to   show   the   theme   of   death.   The   poet  expresses  his  feelings  of  sadness.  He  indicates  that  he  loves  loneliness  and  being  in  a  lonely   places.  The  poet  uses  visual  image  depending   on  the  sight  of  the  lights  which  are  about   to  disappear  and  become  dimmer  and  weaker   .another  image  related   to  death  to  death  is  the  sound  of  flying   beetle  at   night.  All  those  images  are  related  to  death  which  is  one  of  the  features  of  the  pre  roman0c  period.  There  is  a  metaphor  in  this  stanza  when  the  poet  compares  the  beetles  thinking  to  the  sound  of  the  mother  who  is  trying  to  tell  her   baby  to  sleep.  This  metaphor  suggests  s0llness.  The  poet  uses  the  leHer  L   in  words  such   as   glimmering,   landscape,   solemn,   s0llness,   beetle,   wheels   and   many   others  to   indicates  the  lulling  mood. 10 except 11 winged insect that occurs in more than 350,000 varieties. One type is the firefly, or lightning bug. 12 verb meaning flies in circles. 13 humming; buzzing; monotonous sound. 14 onomatopoeia. 15Drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds: This clause apparently refers to the gentle sounds made by a bell around the neck of a castrated male sheep that leads other sheep. A castrated male sheep is called a wether. Such a sheep with a bell around its neck is called a bellwether. Folds is a noun referring to flocks of sheep.
  • 18. 18 9.Save16 that from yonder17 ivy-mantled18 towr 10.The moping19 owl does to the moon complain 11.Of such, as wandring near her secret bowr 20, 12.Molest21 her ancient solitary reign22.the  poet   presents  another  thing  that  is  in  the  scene.   He  no0ces  the  owl  which  is  a  symbol  of  death.  We  don’t  have  human  beings  other  than  the  poet.  We  have  an  owl  and  dead  people  in  the  graveyard.  The  owl  making   a  sound  complaining   to   the  moon   against  the  poet.  This  is  because  the  poet   is  wondering  in  the  churchyard  and  disturbing   it.   The  poet   uses  a   personifica0on  when  he  compares  the  moon  to  human  being  which  is  listening  to  complaint.   It   is  also  a  visual  image.   It   is  one  of  the  features  of   the  graveyard  school  which  is  found  in  the  pre  roman0c  movement. 13.Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-trees shade, 16 except 17 distant; remote. 18 cloaked, dressed, or adorned with ivy. 19 gloomy; grumbling. 20 bower, an enclosure surrounded by plant growth—in this case, ivy. 21 bother the owl while it keeps watch over the churchyard and countryside 22 Her ancient solitary rein: metaphor comparing the owl to a queen.
  • 19. 19 14.Where heaves the turf 23 in many a mouldring24 heap, 15.Each in his narrow cell25 for ever laid, 16.The rude26 forefathers of the hamlet27 sleep.the   poet  men0ons  the  word   grave  for  the  first   0me.   He  starts  to   look  down  and  finds  the  graves  of  those  people  buried  there  forever.  So  he  starts  to  speak  about  the  simple  rus0c  people  who  are  buried  in  the  grave.  We  have  visual  images  have  in  describing  the  church  graves,  the  tombs  and  the  dead  farmers.  Then   the   poet   describes  the   grave  to  narrow   cell   which   means  the  tombs.   He   also   uses  the  word  sleep   it   is  a  significant   word   because   sleep   means  half   death.   The   poet   is  going   to   speak   about  death  .he  speaks  also  about   the  life  before  death  so  he   succeeds  in  using  the  word   sleep  to  show  the  idea  of  death. 23 Where heaves the turf: anastrophe, a figure of speech that inverts the normal word order (the turf heaves). 24 mouldering (British), moldering (American), an adjective meaning decaying, crumbling. 25 metaphor comparing a grave to a prison cell. 26 robust; sturdy; hearty; stalwart. 27 village
  • 20. 20 17.The breezy call of incense-breathing Morn28, 18.The swallow 29 twittring from the straw-built shed, 19.The cocks shrill clarion30, or the echoing horn31, 20.No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed.gray  compares  THE  TALENTS  OF  THE  POOR  TO  (GEM)  hidden   in   the  ocean  or  flowers  in  the  desert  .  the  poet   starts  to  remember   things  used   to  happen  in  the  past   when  those  dead  people  were  alive.   He  adds  that  those  will  never  bring  people  to  life  again.   He  uses  the  word  lowly  bed  to  emphasizes  that  the  death  of  those  people  and  they  aren’t   going   to  awake  from  their   death.  The  poet  uses  onomatopic     words  such  as    twiHering  of  the  swallow   because  the  swallow  twiHers  early  in  the  morning  when  the  bird  sing.  now  they  are  dead  and  they  cant  hear  the  singing  of  the  birds  anymore. 28Breezy call of incense-breathing Morn: wind carrying the pleasant smells of morning, including dewy grass and flowers. Notice that Morn is a metaphor comparing it to a living creature. (It calls and breathes.) 29 Insect-eating songbird that likes to perch. 30 cock-a-doodle-doo. 31The words may refer to the sound made by a fox huntsman who blows a copper horn to which pack hounds respond. 
  • 21. 2121.For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn,22.Or busy housewife ply her evening care:23.No children run to lisp their sires return,24.Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share32 .25.Oft did the harvest to their sickle33 yield,26.Their furrow 34 oft the stubborn glebe35 has broke;27.How jocund36 did they drive their team afield!28.How bowd the woods beneath their sturdy stroke!29.Let not Ambition37 mock their useful toil,30.Their homely joys, and destiny obscure38;3931.Nor Grandeur40 hear with a disdainful smile32.The short and simple annals 41 of the poor.32Climb his knees the envied kiss to share: anastrophe, a figure of speech that inverts the normalword order (to share the envied kiss).33 Harvesting tool with a handle and a crescent-shaped blade. Field hands swing it from right to leftto cut down plant growth.34 channel or groove made by a plow for planting seeds.35 earth.36To maintain the meter, Gray uses an adjective when the syntax call for an adverb, jocundly.Jocund (pronounced JAHK und) means cheerful. 37 Personification referring to the desire to succeed or to ambitious people seeking lofty goals.38 the humble fate of the common people; their unheralded deeds.39Lines 29-30: anastrophe, a figure of speech that inverts the normal word order (let not Ambitionobscure their destiny and homely joys).40 personification referring to people with wealth, social standing, and power.41 historical records; story.
  • 22. 2233.The boast of heraldry42, the pomp43 of powr,34.And all that beauty, all that wealth eer 44 gave,35.Awaits alike th inevitable hour.36.The paths of glory lead but to the grave45.37.Nor you, ye proud, impute46 to these the fault,38.If Memry 47 oer their tomb no trophies raise,39.Where thro48 the long-drawn aisle and fretted vault40.The pealing anthem49 swells the note of praise.42Proud talk about the aristocratic or noble roots of ones family; snobbery. Heraldry was a sciencethat traced family lines of royal and noble personages and designed coats of arms for them.43 ceremonies, rituals, and splendid surroundings of nobles and royals.44 ever.45General meaning of stanza: Every person—no matter how important, powerful, or wealthy—ends up the same, dead. 46 Assign, ascribe.47Memory, a personification referring to memorials, commemorations, and tributes—includingstatues, headstones, and epitaphs—used to preserve the memory of important or privilegedpeople.48Where thro . . . the note of praise: Reference to the interior of a church housing the tombs ofimportant people. Fretted vault refers to a carved or ornamented arched roof or ceiling.49 Pealing anthem may refer to lofty organ music.
  • 23. 2341.Can storied50 urn or animated bust 5142.Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath52?43.Can Honours53 voice provoke the silent dust,44.Or Flattry soothe the dull cold ear of Death54?45.Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid46.Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire55 ;47.Hands, that the rod of empire56 might have swayd,48.Or wakd to ecstasy the living lyre57 .50Storied urn: Vase adorned with pictures telling a story. Urns have sometimes been used to holdthe ashes of a cremated body.51 sculpture of the head, shoulders, and chest of a human.52Storied urn . . . breath? Can the soul (fleeting breath) be called back to the body (mansion) bythe urn or bust back? Notice that urn and bust are personifications that call.53Can Honours . . . Death? Can honor (Honours voice) attributed to the dead person cause thatperson (silent dust) to come back to life? Can flattering words (Flattry) about the dead personmake death more "bearable"?54General meaning of stanza: Lines 41-45 continue the idea begun in Lines 37-40. In other words,can any memorials—such as the trophies mentioned in Line 38, the urn and bust mentioned inLine 41, and personifications (honor and flattery) mentioned in Lines 43 and 44—bring a personback to life or make death less final or fearsome?55 Pregnant with celestial fire: Full of great ideas, abilities, or goals (celestial fire).56Rod of empire: scepter held by a king or an emperor during ceremonies. One of the humblecountry folk in the cemetery might have become a king or an emperor if he had been given theopportunity.57Wakd . . .lyre: Played beautiful music on a lyre, a stringed instrument. In other words, one of thepeople in the cemetery could have become a great musician if given the opportunity, "waking up"the notes of the lyre .
  • 24. 2449.But Knowledge58 to their eyes her ample page50.Rich with the spoils of time did neer unroll59 ;51.Chill Penury repressd their noble rage,52.And froze the genial current of the soul60.53.Full many a gem of purest ray serene, 6154.The dark unfathomd caves of ocean bear:55.Full many a flowr is born to blush unseen,56.And waste its sweetness on the desert air62.58 Knowledge . . . unroll: Knowledge did not reveal itself to them (their eyes) in books (ample page)rich with treasures of information (spoils of time).59Knowledge . . . unroll: Personification and anastrophe a figure of speech that inverts the normalword order (knowledge did neer enroll)60Chill . . . soul: Poverty (penury) repressed their enthusiasm (rage) and froze the flow (current) ofideas (soul). 61 61 As the poem continues, the narrator begins to focus less on the countryside and more on hisimmediate surroundings. His descriptions begin to move from sensations to his own thoughtsabout the dead. As the poem changes, the narrator begins to emphasise what is not present in thescene, he contrasts an obscure country life with a life that is remembered. This contemplationprovokes the narrators thoughts on waste that comes in nature. 53-7362 Full . . . air: These may be the most famous lines in the poem. Gray is comparing the humblevillage people to undiscovered gems in caves at the bottom of the ocean and to undiscoveredflowers in the desert.
  • 25. 2557.Some village-Hampden 63, that with dauntless breast58.The little tyrant of his fields withstood;59.Some mute inglorious Milton64 here may rest,60.Some Cromwell65 guiltless of his countrys blood.61.Th applause of listning senates to command,62.The threats of pain and ruin to despise,63.To scatter plenty oer a smiling land,64.And read their histry in a nations eyes66,65.Their lot forbade: nor circumscribd alone66.Their growing virtues, but their crimes confind;67.Forbade to wade through slaughter to a throne,68.And shut the gates of mercy on mankind67 ,63 John Hampden (1594-1643) a Puritan member of Parliament, frequently criticized and opposedthe policies of King Charles I. In particular, he opposed a tax imposed by the king to outfit theBritish navy. Because he believed that only Parliament could impose taxes, he refused to pay 20shillings in ship money in 1635. Many joined him in his opposition. War broke out between thosewho supported Parliament and those who supported the king. Hampden was killed in battle in1643. Gray here is presenting Hampden as a courageous (dauntless) hero who stood against theking (little tyrant)64 John Milton (1608-1674), the great English poet and scholar.65 Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658), general and statesman; lord protector of England.66The subject and verb of Lines 61-64 are in the first three words of  Line 65, their lot forbade.Thus, this stanza says the villagers way of life (lot) prohibited or prevented them from receivingapplause from politicians for good deeds such as alleviating pain and suffering and providingplenty (perhaps food) across the land. These deeds would have been recorded by the appreciatingnation.67General meaning: Their lot in life not only prevented (circumbscribd) them from doing gooddeeds (like those mentioned in Stanza 16) but also prevented (confind) bad deeds such as killingenemies to gain the throne and refusing to show mercy to people. 
  • 26. 2669.The struggling pangs of conscious truth to hide,70.To quench the blushes of ingenuous shame,71.Or heap the shrine of Luxury and Pride72.With incense kindled at the Muses 68 flame69.73.Far from the madding crowds ignoble strife,74.Their sober wishes never learnd to stray;75.Along the cool sequesterd vale of life76.They kept the noiseless 70 tenor of their way71.77.Yet evn these bones from insult to protect,78.Some frail memorial still erected nigh,79.With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture deckd,80.Implores the passing tribute of a sigh72.68 One of the nine Greek sister goddesses who inspired the arts.69 General meaning: This stanza continues the idea begun in the previous stanza, saying that thevillagers lot in life also prevented them from hiding truth and shame and from bragging or usingpretty or flattering words (incense kindled at the Muses flame) to gain luxuries and feed their pride.70 Noiseless tenor of their way: quiet way of life.71General meaning: The villagers plodded on faithfully, never straying from their lot in life ascommon people. (2) Madding: maddening; furious; frenzied.72 General meaning: But even these people have gravestones (frail memorial), although they areengraved with simple and uneducated words or decked with humble sculpture. These gravestoneselicit a sigh from people who see them.
  • 27. 2781.Their name, their years, spelt by th unletterd muse73 ,82.The place of fame and elegy supply74:83.And many a holy text75 around she76 strews,84.That teach the rustic moralist77 to die.85.For who to dumb Forgetfulness a prey,86.This pleasing anxious being eer resignd,87.Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day,88.Nor cast one longing, lingring look behind78?89.On some fond breast the parting soul relies,90.Some pious drops the closing eye requires;91.Evn from the tomb the voice of Nature cries,92.Evn in our ashes live their wonted fires 79.73 Unletterd muse: Uneducated writer or engraver.74 Their . . . supply: Their name and age appear but there are no lofty tributes.75 probably Bible quotations.76 muse. See the second note for Stanza 18.77 pious villager78General meaning: These humble people, though they were doomed to be forgotten (to dumbForgetfulness a prey), did not die (did not leave the warm precincts of cheerful day) without lookingback with regret and perhaps a desire to linger a little longer .79 General meaning: The dying person (parting soul) relies on a friend (fond breast) to supply theengraved words (pious drops) on a tombstone. Even from the tomb the spirit of a person cries outfor remembrance.
  • 28. 2893.For thee, who mindful of th unhonourd Dead8094.Dost in these lines their artless tale relate81;95.If chance, by lonely contemplation led,96.Some kindred spirit shall inquire thy fate82,97.Haply83 some hoary-headed swain84 may say,98."Oft have we seen him at the peep of dawn99.Brushing with hasty steps the dews away100.To meet the sun upon the upland lawn.101."There at the foot of yonder nodding 85 beech86102.That wreathes its old fantastic roots so high,103.His listless length 87 at noontide would he stretch,104.And pore upon88 the brook that babbles by.80 80The narrator focuses on the inequities that come from death, obscuring individuals, while hebegins to resign himself to his own inevitable fate. As the poem ends, the narrator begins to dealwith death in a direct manner as he discusses how humans desire to be remembered. As thenarrator does so, the poem shifts and the first narrator is replaced by a second who describes thedeath of the first. 93-10081For thee . . . relate: Gray appears to be referring to himself. Mindful that the villagers deservesome sort of memorial, he is telling their story (their artless tale) in this elegy (these lines).82Lines 95-96: But what about Gray himself? What if someone asks about his fate? Gray providesthe answer in the next stanza.83 Perhaps; by chance; by accident84 Hoary-headed swain: Gray-haired country fellow; old man who lives in the region. 85 bending; bowing.86 86 The poem concludes with a description of the poets grave that the narrator is meditating over,together with a description of the end of that poets life. 101-11687 Listless length: his tired body.88 Pore  upon:  Look  at;  watch.
  • 29. 29105."Hard by yon wood, now smiling as in scorn89,106.Muttring his wayward fancies 90 he would rove91,107.Now drooping, woeful wan, like one forlorn,108.Or crazd with care, or crossd in hopeless love.109."One morn I missd him on the customd hill,110.Along the heath and near his favrite tree;111.Another came92; nor yet93 beside the rill94 ,112.Nor up the lawn, nor at the wood was he;113."The next95 with dirges 96 due in sad array114.Slow thro the church-way path we saw him borne.115.Approach and read (for thou canst read) the lay97,116.Gravd on the stone beneath yon aged thorn."89 Wood, now smiling as in scorn: personification comparing the forest to a person.90Wayward fancies: unpredictable, unexpected, or unwanted thoughts; capricious or flightythoughts.91 wander.92 another morning came.93 Nor yet: But he still was not.94 small stream or brook95 the next morning.96 funeral songs.97 short poem—in this case, the epitaph below
  • 30. 30THE EPITAPH98117.Here rests his head upon the lap of Earth118.A youth to Fortune and to Fame unknown.119.Fair Science frownd not on his humble birth,120.And Melancholy markd him for her own.121.Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere,122.Heavn did a recompense as largely send:123.He gave to Misry all he had, a tear,124.He gaind from Heavn (twas all he wishd) a friend.125.No farther seek his merits to disclose,126.Or draw his frailties from their dread abode,127.(There they alike in trembling hope repose)128.The bosom of his Father and his God99.98An epitaph is included after the conclusion of the poem. The epitaph reveals that the poet whosegrave is the focus of the poem was unknown and obscure. The poet was separated from the othercommon people because he was unable to join with the common affairs of life, and circumstancekept him from becoming something greater. 117-12899General meaning: Here lies a man of humble birth who did not know fortune or fame but who didbecome a scholar. Although he was depressed at times, he had a good life, was sensitive to theneeds of others, and followed Gods laws. Dont try to find out more about his good points or badpoints, which are now with him in heaven. 117-128