Sunday, March 8, 2009

Elegy Poem: "Elegy Written in a Country Church-yard"

"Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard"

-Thomas Gray


This poem is not a traditional elegy as more often than not elegies are written lamenting the loss of an individual. This poem, on the other hand is mourning of an entire churchyard as well as the speaker himself through his inevitable death.

He begins the elegy with a vivid description of the desolation in his surroundings. Utilizing the elegance common to this structure Gray draws on intense imagery of a sinking sun and a day ending. This powerful idea, the closing of a day, draws on the existentialist interpretations of death. Gray explores the inevitability and they uniformity of death and sets this up through his speaker’s narration in the first three stanzas.

After the ideas of an almost drowsy reality are fully delineated, Gray delves into the actual graves of his churchyard. Throughout the next few stanzas he discusses the inevitable end of all men rich, poor, famous or unknown. Here the existentialism of this poem is blatant as the author talks of the pointlessness of life, if all “in his narrow cell for ever laid” than of what consequence is our lives. This elegy now reveals yet another very unique aspect in the author’s mourning of others through an analysis of life.

Finally the speaker brings himself to a conclusion about his own death. He realizes we are all equal in life as we are in death. Through this he assures himself of a burial among commoners, despite any renown he may acquire. Thus, a very existentialist close to an existentialist piece.

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