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Poem ” Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard by Thomas Gray”

Full Text: COPYRIGHT 2004 Heldref Publications In the meditation set at the heart of the "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard," which he completed in 1750, Gray notes that deprivation curtails opportunities for evil as well as for good.

He tells how he goes out day after day to the churchyard to find inspiration to write his poems.

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in a Country Church-yard). From the collection of Paul Mellon.

Beginning shortly after the death of his close friend Richard West in 1742, “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” was first published in 1751.

After mentioning that the title is borrowed from Gray's 'Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard' which describes the 'cool, sequestered' life of rural folks, they go on to point out that the title is used in an ironic way since this seemingly ideal rural world is also marked by chaos, disorders, conflicts and deaths.

The setting of a country churchyard automatically gives way to a small and unknown graveyard, and those that inhabit the graveyard are not going to be well known people in the community or in American history....

Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard - Wikipedia

The structure of “Elegy Indited in a Country Churchyard” is homogeneous to the four line stanzas of other poetry encountered throughout this semester.

"Although nearly all the editors state that as a fact that the Elegy was begun in 1742, there seems to be no actual basis for this statement. In Mason's Memoirs of Gray (1775), p. 157, we find: ''I am inclined to believe that the Elegy in a Country Church-yard was begun, if not concluded, at this time also'' (August, 1742). But this is all the genuine evidence I have been able to discover. In Wakefield's Poems of Mr. Gray (1786), p. xi, we find: ''It is highly probable that the Elegy in a Country Church-yard was begun also about this time'' (August, 1742). Later editors state positively that it was begun in 1742 (Mitford, Gosse, Bradshaw, Rolfe, etc.). Mason seems to have had evidence for the 1742 date sufficient to satisfy Walpole, though what that evidence was we do not know. Writing to Mason, 1 December 1773 (Letters, VI, 22), Walpole says, speaking of the forthcoming Memoirs of Gray: ''There are ... errors in point of dates. ... The 'Churchyard' was, I am persuaded, posterior to West's death [1742] at least three or four years, as you will see by my note. At least I am sure that I had the twelve or more first lines from himself above three years after that period, and it was long before he finished it.'' Mason evidently made some satisfactory reply, for two weeks later, 14 December 1773 (Letters, VI, 31), Walpole writes: ''Your account of the 'Elegy' puts an end to my other criticism.'' Then Mason in 1775 made the statement just quoted above. At any rate, 1742 is the traditional date; we know that it was finished at Stoke Poges, in June, 1750 (see p. 70). It is not probable that Gray was steadily working at it all these years, even if he did begin it in 1742. For interesting conjectures as to causes that inspired the poem, see , Life of Gray, pp. 66, 96.
Gray was in no more haste to publish the poem than he had apparently been to complete it. After June, 1750, it was circulated in manuscript among his firends, and only an accident hastened its publication. An editor of the Magazine of Magazines, a cheap periodical, sent word to Gray that he was about to print it, and naturally the author did not care to have a poem of this nature make its entrance into the world by so obscure a by-path. He therefore had it published (anonymously) on February 16, 1751, by the great London publisher, Dodsley.
The Elegy leaped immediately into enormous popularity. Edition followed edition in rapid succession; it was translated into living and dead languages; and - a sure evidence of popularity - it was repeatedly parodied.
The facts as to its publication, etc., may be found in edition of Gray's Works, and in Gosse's Life of Gray, although Mr. Gosse curiously contradicts himself on pp. 66 and 96 of the latter book."

"In August 1746 Gray writes to Wharton from Stoke, ''The Muse, I doubt, is gone, and has left me in far worse company; if she returns, you will hear of her.'' And from the same place to the same correspondent, on the following Sept. 11 (after the account of Aristotle quoted by Matthew Arnold in his Essay on Gray): ''This and a few autumnal Verses are my Entertainments dureing the Fall of the Leaf.'' I know of no poem but the Elegy to which these fitful efforts of the 'Muse' are likely to belong.
Once more from Stoke, on June 12, 1750, Gray writes to Walpole, ''I have been here a few days (where I shall continue a good part of the summer) and having put an end to a thing, whose beginning you have seen long ago, I immediately send it to you. You will I hope look upon it in the light of a thing with an end to it; a merit which most of my writings have wanted, and are likely to want.''
That this 'thing' was the Elegy there can be no doubt. Walpole could not have seen the 'beginning' of it at an earlier date than Nov. 1745, - the date, as I have shown (, p. 7), of his reconciliation with Gray, - except we adopt the extremely bold hypothesis that the Elegy was begun before the quarrel, that is to say before, as far as can be ascertained, Gray had written a line of original English verse."

25 In the book, Cry, the Beloved Country, written by Alan Paton, some major conflicts follow the story from beginning to end.
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Elegy Written in a Country Church Yard - Thomas Gray …

"And here may be the best place to note after Dr Phelps that the 'whole atmosphere of Collins's Ode is similar to that of the Elegy. Cf. especially stanza 10,

''And hamlets brown, and dim-discovered spires,
And hears their simple bell, and marks o'er all
Thy dewy fingers draw
The gradual dusky veil.'' '
Dr Phelps notes also that Joseph Warton's verses contain some of Gray's pictures, and something of the same train of thought: e.g.:
''Hail, meek-eyed maiden, clad in sober grey,
Whose soft approach the weary woodman loves,
As homeward bent to kiss his prattling babes
Jocund he whistles through the twilight groves.''
add:
''Now every Passion sleeps; desponding Love,
And pining Envy, ever-restless Pride;
A holy calm creeps o'er my peaceful soul,
Anger and mad Ambition's storms subside.''
The latter stanza might well be the form in embryo of the four rejected stanzas quoted infra, n. on . Dr Phelps remarks that ''the scenery as well as the meditations of the Elegy were by no means original: they simply established more firmly literary fashions which were already becoming familiar.''
And certainly if the opening stanzas of the Elegy as we now have them were written as early as 1742, their composition was in no way affected by the poems of Warton and Collins; the same must be said even if the 'autumnal verses' of the letter of Sept. 11, 1746, were the Elegy. The spirit of gentle melancholy was in the air; and in 1746 and 1747 found in three young poets, Collins, Joseph Warton and Thomas Warton, that voice to the world at large which is found again in Gray in 1750. For in 1747 Thomas Warton published anonymously these lines, which he had written in his 17th year (1745):
''Beneath yon ruin'd abbey's moss-grown pile
Oft let me sit, at twilight hour of eve
Where thro' some western window the pale moon
Pours her long-levell'd rule of streaming light;
While sullen sacred silence reigns around,
Save the lone screech-owl's note, who builds his bow'r
Amid the mould'ring caverns dark and damp,
Or the calm breeze, that rustles in the leaves
Of flaunting ivy, that with mantle green
Invests some wasted tow'r:
''
where resemblance to the Elegy is closest of all.
Between these three poets communication of ideas was probable; but at this date even Thomas Warton, with whom he afterwards corresponded, was an absolute stranger to Gray. And Gray is so far from feeling that in any of these there were 'kindred spirits' who might 'enquire his fate' that he writes, Dec. 27, 1746:
'Have you seen the Works of two young Authors, a Mr Warton and a Mr Collins, both Writers of Odes? it is odd enough, but each is the half of a considerable Man, and one the counterpart of the other. The first has but little invention, very poetical choice of Expression, and a good Ear, the second a fine fancy, model'd upon the Antique, a bad Ear, great variety of Words, and Images with no choice at all. They both deserve to last some Years, but will not.'
So little are men conscious of that 'stream of tendency' on which they themselves are borne."

Free Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard Essays and …

"And here may be the best place to note after Dr Phelps that the 'whole atmosphere of Collins's Ode is similar to that of the Elegy. Cf. especially stanza 10,

''And hamlets brown, and dim-discovered spires,
And hears their simple bell, and marks o'er all
Thy dewy fingers draw
The gradual dusky veil.'' '
Dr Phelps notes also that Joseph Warton's verses contain some of Gray's pictures, and something of the same train of thought: e.g.:
''Hail, meek-eyed maiden, clad in sober grey,
Whose soft approach the weary woodman loves,
As homeward bent to kiss his prattling babes
Jocund he whistles through the twilight groves.''
add:
''Now every Passion sleeps; desponding Love,
And pining Envy, ever-restless Pride;
A holy calm creeps o'er my peaceful soul,
Anger and mad Ambition's storms subside.''
The latter stanza might well be the form in embryo of the four rejected stanzas quoted infra, n. on . Dr Phelps remarks that ''the scenery as well as the meditations of the Elegy were by no means original: they simply established more firmly literary fashions which were already becoming familiar.''
And certainly if the opening stanzas of the Elegy as we now have them were written as early as 1742, their composition was in no way affected by the poems of Warton and Collins; the same must be said even if the 'autumnal verses' of the letter of Sept. 11, 1746, were the Elegy. The spirit of gentle melancholy was in the air; and in 1746 and 1747 found in three young poets, Collins, Joseph Warton and Thomas Warton, that voice to the world at large which is found again in Gray in 1750. For in 1747 Thomas Warton published anonymously these lines, which he had written in his 17th year (1745):
''Beneath yon ruin'd abbey's moss-grown pile
Oft let me sit, at twilight hour of eve
Where thro' some western window the pale moon
Pours her long-levell'd rule of streaming light;
While sullen sacred silence reigns around,
Save the lone screech-owl's note, who builds his bow'r
Amid the mould'ring caverns dark and damp,
Or the calm breeze, that rustles in the leaves
Of flaunting ivy, that with mantle green
Invests some wasted tow'r:
''
where resemblance to the Elegy is closest of all.
Between these three poets communication of ideas was probable; but at this date even Thomas Warton, with whom he afterwards corresponded, was an absolute stranger to Gray. And Gray is so far from feeling that in any of these there were 'kindred spirits' who might 'enquire his fate' that he writes, Dec. 27, 1746:
'Have you seen the Works of two young Authors, a Mr Warton and a Mr Collins, both Writers of Odes? it is odd enough, but each is the half of a considerable Man, and one the counterpart of the other. The first has but little invention, very poetical choice of Expression, and a good Ear, the second a fine fancy, model'd upon the Antique, a bad Ear, great variety of Words, and Images with no choice at all. They both deserve to last some Years, but will not.'
So little are men conscious of that 'stream of tendency' on which they themselves are borne."

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