The triumph of this sensibility allied to so much art is to be seen in the famous Elegy, which from a somewhat reasoning and moralizing emotion has educed a grave, full, melodiously monotonous song, in which a century weaned from the music of the soul tasted all the sadness of eventide, of death, and of the tender musing upon self. An Elegy Written in a Country Church Yard, meditative poem written in iambic pentameter quatrains by Thomas Gray, published in 1751.. A meditation on unused human potential, the conditions of country life, and mortality, An Elegy Written in a Country Church Yard is one of the best-known elegies in the language. ", There is a story that the British General James Wolfe read the poem before his troops arrived at the Plains of Abraham in September 1759 as part of the Seven Years' War. A shift in context was the obvious starting point in many of these works and, where sufficiently original, contributed to the author's own literary fortunes. Some of these problems disappeared when that translation was into Classical Latin, only to be replaced by others that Gray himself raised in correspondence with Christopher Anstey, one of the first of his translators into Latin. , In describing the narrator's analysis of his surroundings, Gray employed John Locke's philosophy of the sensations, which argued that the senses were the origin of ideas. The paths of glory lead but to the grave. In the letter, Gray said,, The Stanza's, which I now enclose to you have had the Misfortune by Mr W:s Fault to be made ... publick, for which they certainly were never meant, but it is too late to complain. The Elegy gained wide popularity almost immediately on its first publication and by the mid-twentieth century was still considered one of the best known English poems, although its status in this respect has probably declined since then. Thomas Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” was first published in 1751. Exalt the brave, and idolize success; " He went on to claim that the poem "was very soon to transform his life – and to transform or at least profoundly affect the development of lyric poetry in English". And shut the gates of mercy on mankind, Some Cromwell guiltless of his country's blood. To meet the sun upon the upland lawn. Such publications were followed by multilingual collections, of which the most ambitious was Alessandro Torri's L'elegia di Tommaso Gray sopra un cimitero di campagna tradotta dall'inglese in più lingue con varie cose finora inedite (Verona 1819). And read their hist'ry in a nation's eyes, Their lot forbade: nor circumscrib'd alone. "[The Elegy written in a Country Church-Yard was begun at Stoke-Poges in the autumn of 1742, probably on the occasion of the funeral of Jonathan Rogers, on the 31st of October. Than pow'r or genius e'er conspir'd to bless Call this quality the pathos of a poetic death-in-life, the fear that one either has lost one's gift before life has ebbed, or that one may lose life before the poetic gift has expressed itself fully. As the poem ends, the speaker begins to deal with death in a direct manner as he discusses how humans desire to be remembered. The title had already been used two years before by Irvin S. Cobb in an account of his journalistic experiences at the start of that war. Grav'd on the stone beneath yon aged thorn. " In 1968, Herbert Starr pointed out that the poem was "frequently referred to, with some truth, as the best known poem in the English language. Using that previous material, he began to compose a poem that would serve as an answer to the various questions he was pondering. Immediately, he included the poem in a letter 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 one's own brains, with all the toil and constraint that accompanies sentimental productions. But these thoughts and feelings, in part because of their significance and their nearness to us, are peculiarly difficult to express without faults ... Gray, however, without overstressing any point composes a long address, perfectly accommodating his familiar feelings towards the subject and his awareness of the inevitable triteness of the only possible reflections, to the discriminating attention of his audience. the answer is partly that no study of major English elegies could well omit it. Dost in these lines their artless tale relate; Some kindred spirit shall inquire thy fate, "Oft have we seen him at the peep of dawn, "There at the foot of yonder nodding beech. The cock's shrill clarion, or the echoing horn. Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight.  But the work of two leading artists is particularly noteworthy. His poem was a literary sensation on its publication in 1751 and remains frequently quoted to this day. For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn. , It is also possible that parts of T. S. Eliot's Four Quartets are derived from the Elegy, although Eliot believed that Gray's diction, along with 18th-century poetic diction in general, was restrictive and limited. His listless length at noontide would he stretch, With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture deck'd. He wrote this poem after the death of his friend Richard West.  But as compared to a poem recording personal loss such as John Milton's "Lycidas", it lacks many of the ornamental aspects found in that poem. On 3 June 1750, Gray moved to Stoke Poges, and on 12 June he completed Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard. The pealing anthem swells the note of praise. The reason for this extraordinary unanimity of praise are as varied as the ways in which poetry can appeal. No children run to lisp their sire's return. He portrays English subjects such as farmers, housewives, and cowherds, and the natural world. Thomas Gray started composing the “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” in 1742 and completed it in 1750 at St Poges. Edward Jerningham]", "An elegy, written in the King's Bench Prison, in imitation of Gray's Elegy in a Church-yard : bound manuscript, 1816 July 30. in SearchWorks", "Thomas Gray Archive : Texts : Letters : List of Letters : Letter ID letters.0392", "Thomas Gray Archive : Texts : Digital Library : Poems by Mr. Gray (1775)", "Gray's Elegy in a country church yard; with a translation in French verse; by L. D. To which are added, the following imitations: Nocturnal contemplations in Barham Downs Camp, Evening contemplations in a college, The nunnery, and Nightly thoughts in the Temple. Some were reused in later editions, including the multilingual anthology of 1839 mentioned above. The poem takes the ideas and transforms them into a discussion of blissful ignorance by adopting Locke's resolution to be content with our limited understanding. , The poem most likely originated in the poetry that Gray composed in 1742. , The poem begins in a churchyard with a speaker who is describing his surroundings in vivid detail. Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke; How jocund did they drive their team afield! With Walpole's help, he was able to convince Robert Dodsley to print the poem on 15 February as a quarto pamphlet. The poem is an elegy in name but not in form; it employs a style similar to that of contemporary odes, but it embodies a meditation on death, and remembrance after death.  One example uncollected there was the ingenious double parody of J. C. Squire, "If Gray had had to write his Elegy in the Cemetery of Spoon River instead of in that of Stoke Poges". Even more translations were eventually added in the new edition of 1843. ", An epitaph is included after the conclusion of the poem.  Once Gray had set the example, any occasion would do to give a sense of the effects of time in a landscape, as for instance in the passage of the seasons as described in John Scott’s Four Elegies, descriptive and moral (1757). The poem's composition could also have been prompted by the entrance of Prince William, Duke of Cumberland into London or by a trial of Jacobite nobility in 1746. That wreathes its old fantastic roots so high, The latest database of translations of the Elegy, amongst which the above version figures, records over 260 in some forty languages. ]", "Special Collections and Archives / Casgliadau Arbennig ac Archifau", "Design for an illustration to Gray's 'Elegy', Stanza III. The work was “dedicated to Mrs Coleman of Stoke Park, in memory of some pleasant hours at the very spot where the scene of the elegy is supposed to be laid.” A nearly contemporary cantata was also composed by Gertrude E. Quinton as Musa elegeia: being a setting to music of Gray's Elegy (London, 1885). " He continued: "the truism of the reflection in the churchyard, the universality and impersonality this gives to the style, claim as if by comparison that we ought to accept the injustice of society as we do the inevitability of death. The free tracks you can enjoy in the Poetry Archive are a selection of a poet’s work. Thomas Gray’s “ Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard ” belongs to the genre of elegy. Dost in these notes their artless tale relate,  The revised version of 1768 was that later printed. Originally titled Stanzas Wrote in a Country Church-Yard, the poem was completed when Gray was living near St Giles' parish church at Stoke Poges. The lowing herd wind slowly o'er the lea,  It has also been suggested that parody acts as a kind of translation into the same tongue as the original, something that the printing history of some examples seems to confirm. This was the case with Edward Jerningham's The Nunnery: an elegy in imitation of the Elegy in a Churchyard, published in 1762. ... Will created Poem Analysis back in 2015 and has a team of the best poetry experts helping him analyse poems from the past and present. The French author there was Pierre Guédon de Berchère and the Latin translator (like Gray and Anstey, a Cambridge graduate) was Gilbert Wakefield. Von Powell - I had to check out the churchyard Gray visited which unspired him to write such a long Elegy. Ev'n in our ashes live their wonted fires. The speaker emphasises both aural and visual sensations as he examines the area in relation to himself: A. Richards, following in 1929, declared that the merits of the poem come from its tone: "poetry, which has no other very remarkable qualities, may sometimes take very high rank simply because the poet's attitude to his listeners – in view of what he has to say – is so perfect. ", The poem ends with the narrator turning towards his own fate, accepting his life and accomplishments. 'Stoke Pages' in Buckinghamshire UK (Image above). , The version that was later published and reprinted was a 32-stanza version with the "Epitaph" conclusion. Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tow'r Gray does not want to round his poem off neatly, because death is an experience of which we cannot be certain, but also because the logic of his syntax demands continuity rather than completion. No farther seek his merits to disclose, Both were subsequently included in Irish collections of Gray’s poems, accompanied not only by John Duncombe’s “Evening Contemplation”, as noted earlier, but in the 1775 Dublin edition by translations from Italian sources as well. 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. Now drooping, woeful-wan, like one forlorn,  The later version of the poem keeps the stoic resignation regarding death, for the narrator still accepts death. Hark! "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" is the British writer Thomas Gray's most famous poem, first published in 1751. Nor cast one longing, ling'ring look behind? "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" is composed in heroic quatrains of iambic pentameter. The speaker emphasises both aural and visual sensations as he examines the area in relation to himself:, The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,  Ambrose Bierce used parody of the poem for the same critical purpose in his definition of Elegy in The Devil's Dictionary, ending with the dismissive lines, The wise man homeward plods; I only stay Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree's shade. As the speaker does so, the poem shifts and the first speaker is replaced by a second who describes the death of the first:, For thee, who, mindful of th' unhonour'd dead, It is an elegy in form, written primarily to mourn the death of the villagers, but it mainly mourns the death of simplicity of life. During the summer of 1750, Gray received so much positive support regarding the poem that he was in dismay, but did not mention it in his letters until an 18 December 1750 letter to Wharton. " Patricia Spacks, in 1967, focused on the psychological questions in the poem and claimed that "For these implicit questions the final epitaph provides no adequate answer; perhaps this is one reason why it seems not entirely a satisfactory conclusion to the poem. It is the Approbation which makes it unnecessary for me to make any Apology but to the Author: As he cannot but feel some Satisfaction in having pleas'd so many Readers already, I flatter myself he will forgive my communicating that Pleasure to many more.  Study of the translations, and especially those produced soon after the poem was written, has highlighted some of the difficulties that the text presents. W.Tindal's musical setting for voices was of the "Epitaph" (1785), which was perhaps the item performed as a trio after a recitation of the poem at the newly opened Royalty Theatre in London in 1787. ", In 1882, Edmund Gosse analyzed the reception of Gray's poem: "It is curious to reflect upon the modest and careless mode in which that poem was first circulated which was destined to enjoy and to retain a higher reputation in literature than any other English poem perhaps than any other poem of the world written between Milton and Wordsworth. Gray's life was surrounded by loss and death, and many people whom he knew died painfully and alone. Gray's Elegy, indeed, might stand as a supreme instance to show how powerful an exquisitely adjusted tone may be. Analysis of Thomas Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard By Nasrullah Mambrol on July 7, 2020 • ( 0). 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… The poem argues that the remembrance can be good and bad, and the narrator finds comfort in pondering the lives of the obscure rustics buried in the churchyard. By February 1751, Gray received word that William Owen, the publisher of the Magazine of Magazines, would print the poem on 16 February; the copyright laws of the time did not require Gray's approval for publication. A youth, to fortune and to fame unknown:  These include ambiguities of word order and the fact that certain languages do not allow the understated way in which Gray indicates that the poem is a personalised statement in the final line of the first stanza, “And leaves the world to darkness and to me”. The moping owl does to the moon complain Some village Hampden, that, with dauntless breast,  What we learn from all this activity is that, as the centenary of its first publication approached, interest in Gray's Elegy continued unabated in Europe and new translations of it continued to be made. W. K. Wimsatt, in 1970, suggested, "Perhaps we shall be tempted to say only that Gray transcends and outdoes Hammond and Shenstone simply because he writes a more poetic line, richer, fuller, more resonant and memorable in all the ways in which we are accustomed to analyze the poetic quality. To fiddle-faddle in a minor key. As such, it falls within an old poetic tradition of poets contemplating their legacy. After reading the poem, he is reported to have said: "Gentlemen, I would rather have written those lines than take Quebec tomorrow. The end of the poem is connected to Locke's An Essay Concerning Human Understanding in that the beginning of the poem deals with the senses and the ending describes how we are limited in our ability to understand the world. Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire; Hands, that the rod of empire might have sway'd, But Knowledge to their eyes her ample page. The four stanzas beginning Yet even these bones, are to me original: I have never seen the notions in any other place; yet he that reads them here, persuades himself that he has always felt them. The breezy call of incense-breathing Morn. Gibson, John, with Peter Wilkinson, and Stephen Freeth (eds), This page was last edited on 2 February 2021, at 10:09. To scatter plenty o'er a smiling land, , While parody sometimes served as a special kind of translation, some translations returned the compliment by providing a parodic version of the Elegy in their endeavour to accord to the current poetic style in the host language. The curfew tolls the knell of parting day, The lowing herd winds slowly o'er the lea, The plowman homeward plods his weary way, And leaves the world to darkness and to me. Fair science frown'd not on his humble birth, On 7 November, Mary Antrobus, Gray's aunt, died; her death devastated his family. Samuel Johnson was the first of many critics to put forward the view that Gray spoke in two languages, one public and the other private, and that the private language—that of his best-known and most-loved poem, "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" (published in 1751 as An Elegy Wrote in a Country Church Yard)—was too seldom heard. The manuscript copy contained many ideas which were reworked and revised as he attempted to work out the ideas that would later form the Elegy. , On the difference between the obscure and the renowned in the poem, scholar Lord David Cecil argued: "Death, he perceives, dwarfs human differences. Duncombe's “Evening contemplation” was preceded by a parody of itself, “Nocturnal contemplations in Barham Down’s Camp”, which is filled, like Duncombe's poem, with drunken roisterers disturbing the silence. Roger père et fils", "L'elegia di Tommaso Gray sopra un cimitero di campagna tradotta dall'inglese in più lingue con varie cose finora inedite. Produced by chromolithography, each of its 35 pages was individually designed with two half stanzas in a box surrounded by coloured foliar and floral borders. No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed. He gave to mis'ry (all he had) a tear, The poem, like many of Gray's, incorporates a narrator who is contemplating his position in a transient world that is mysterious and tragic. Furthermore, 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. "One morn I miss'd him on the custom'd hill. Instead of making claims of economic injustice, Gray accommodates differing political views. Gray and Dryden are notable examples. , Many scholars, including Lonsdale, believe that the poem's message is too universal to require a specific event or place for inspiration, but Gray's letters suggest that there were historical influences in its composition. Their growing virtues, but their crimes confined; " Even Samuel Johnson, who knew Gray but did not like his poetry, later praised the poem when he wrote in his Life of Gray (1779) that it "abounds with images which find a mirror in every breast; and with sentiments to which every bosom returns an echo. However, he published it only in the year 1751. Between 1777 and 1778 William Blake was commissioned by John Flaxman to produce an illustrated set of Gray's poems as a birthday gift to his wife. Full many a flower is born to blush unseen, An Elegy. The theme does not emphasise loss as do other elegies, and its natural setting is not a primary component of its theme. Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard is believed to have been written in the church graveyard in Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire in 1750. [The compiler's dedication signed: Alessandro Torri.] Gray remarked to Anstey, “’That leaves the world to darkness and to me’ is good English, but has not the turn of a Latin phrase, and therefore, I believe, you were in the right to drop it.” In fact, all that Anstey had dropped was reproducing an example of zeugma with a respectable Classical history, but only in favour of replicating the same understated introduction of the narrator into the scene: et solus sub nocte relinqor (and I alone am left under the night). But Gray's outline of the events provides the second possible way the poem was composed: the first lines of the poem were written some time in 1746 and he probably wrote more of the poem during the time than Walpole claimed. By Thomas Gray. Or craz'd with care, or cross'd in hopeless love. Some pious drops the closing eye requires; Ev'n from the tomb the voice of Nature cries. ["], The poem concludes with a description of the poet's grave, over which the speaker is meditating, together with a description of the end of the poet's life:, "There at the foot of yonder nodding beech, Poem of the week: Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard by Thomas Gray Schoolchildren used to learn this resonant memorial to humble rustic folk, and they still should A village churchyard.  Percy Bysshe Shelley, for example, who as a schoolboy was given the exercise of translating part of the Elegy into Latin, eventually wrote his own meditation among the graves in 1815. The bosom of his Father and his God. , In the Victorian period, Alfred, Lord Tennyson adopted many features of the Elegy in his own extended meditation on death, In Memoriam. The epitaph describes faith in a "trembling hope" that he cannot know while alive. They have been so applauded, it is quite a Shame to repeat it.  In 1793 there was an Italian edition of Giuseppe Torelli's translation in rhymed quatrains which had first appeared in 1776. With the exception of certain works of Byron and Shakespeare, no English poem has been so widely admired and imitated abroad and after more than a century of existence we find it as fresh as ever, when its copies, even the most popular of all those of Lamartine, are faded and tarnished. Thomas Gray may have begun writing Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard as early as 1746. Bids every fierce tumultuous passion cease; Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard by Thomas Gray. In his poem “Elegy Written In A Country Churchyard,” Thomas Gray says, “The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow’r, / Awaits alike th’ inevitable hour” (33-35). The stanza form, quatrains with an ABAB rhyme scheme, was common to English poetry and used throughout the 16th century. It is easy to point out that its thought is commonplace, that its diction and imagery are correct, noble but unoriginal, and to wonder where the immediately recognizable greatness has slipped in. The curfew tolls the knell of parting day, The lowing herd wind slowly o'er the lea, The plowman homeward plods his weary way, And leaves the world to darkness and to me. This is followed with the poet narrator looking through letters of his deceased friend, echoing Gray's narrator reading the tombstones to connect to the dead. Although universal in its statements on life and death, the poem was grounded in Gray's feelings about his own life, and served as an epitaph for himself. Dost in these lines their artless tale relate; Prev Article.  And finally, at the other end of the century, Alfred Cellier did set the whole work in a cantata composed expressly for the Leeds Festival, 1883. Or draw his frailties from their dread abode, The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep. Robert Toft, Bel Canto, a performer’s guide, Oxford University 2013, "An elegy on a pile of ruins: By J. Cunningham", "Love among the Ruins by Robert Browning", "The political passing bell; an elegy. After analyzing the language of the poem, W. Hutchings declared in 1984, "The epitaph, then, is still making us think, still disturbing us, even as it uses the language of conventional Christianity and conventional epitaphs. The draft sent to Walpole was subsequently lost. The poem concludes with an epitaph, which reinforces Gray's indirect and reticent manner of writing. If chance, by lonely contemplation led, It would be difficult to maintain that the thought in this poem is either striking or original, or that its feeling is exceptional. Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere,  In 1809, H. P. Houghton wrote An evening's contemplation in a French prison, being a humble imitation of Gray's Elegy while he was a prisoner at Arras during the Napoleonic wars (London 1809). This pleasing anxious being e'er resign'd.  Although Walpole survived and later joked about the event, the incident disrupted Gray's ability to pursue his scholarship. Gray was a versatile poet. I mean not to be modest; but I mean, it is a shame for those who have said such superlative Things about them, that I can't repeat them. This contemplation provokes the speaker's thoughts on the natural process of wastage and unfulfilled potential. Anstey did not agree that Latin was as unpliable as Gray suggests and had no difficulty in finding ways of including all these references, although other Latin translators found different solutions, especially in regard to inclusion of the beetle. The threats of pain and ruin to despise, It may be that there never was; it may be that in the obscure graveyard lie those who but for circumstance would have been as famous as Milton and Hampden. 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