Monday, March 2, 2009

Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard

ELEGY--> "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" is by Thomas Gray. It can be found here.
You can also listen to it here.

Thomas Gray writes his elegy in the same manner of the common elegy--honoring the dead. His elegy consists of four-line stanzas in the rhyme scheme ABAB, CDCD, EFEF etc.

In the first three stanzas of the poem, Gray sets a very somber tone. He describes how he is left with the darkness of the world while almost meditating in this churchyard. He refers to how the "moping owl does to the moon complain" suggesting that the owl is sad as well, affected by the darkness and somber mood of the world around him. While the speaker never directly mentions a funeral or death he suggests it through his diction and tone.

It is not until the fourth stanza where the speaker finally mentions the rows of graves, or "cells for ever laid." In this stanza, the speaker inverts the word order to parallel with what he is saying of the earth around the grave. He says "Where heaves the turf " instead of "Where the turf heaves." In doing this, Gray is providing the image of the overturned earth as a result of digging the grave.

In the next stanzas, the speaker goes on the speak about class and its effectiveness in the afterlife. He warns the rich not to look down on the poor in life because the afterlife does not discriminate according to class. Despite wealth and beauty, everyone dies. So he encourages all of us to live life as a good person. The speaker then talks about all of the things that the poor missed out on in life because of a lack of money and education.

The speaker also reasons that perhaps because he is recognizing the poor people and writing this poem about death and the losses people experience, someone will remember him after he dies. He imagines an old man remembering him. In the end, he wishes to be buried with the common people no matter how famous or rich he may end up being. He is quite aware of his place on the earth and definitely recongizes that no one person is better than another.

Gray uses enjambment many times throughout this elegy. Enjambment is the continuation of a single idea from one line to another. I would not have recongized that this literary device had a specific name if I hadn't looked up the meaning of this word. Gray uses them quite often-for example in the third stanza he says:
"Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tower/ The moping owl does to the moon complain,/ Of such, as wandering near her secret bower, /Molest her ancient solitary reign."
Gray continues one idea across four lines, especially between lines one and two where he puts no grammatical symbols. This literary device pushes the reader to continue from line to line, making the idea flow across the entire stanza.

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