The Elegy written in a Country Churchyard
The “elegy written in a country churchyard” is a poem written by Thomas Gray in 1742 and published in 1751. It represents the transitional poem between classicism and romanticism, because it contains classical elements that concern the form an also new romantic elements that concern the setting, the relationship between man and nature and the realtionship between death and life. Furthermore, in this poem we have the exaltation of the solitude as an existential condition and the exaltation of the simplicity, of the simple life, of the simple people, not of the heroes. So we have a deviation from the court literature, from the aristocracy, typical of classicism.
In the first stanza we can see the setting of the poem: it’s evening, the sun is going down and the countryside is becoming an empty space because every animal and every person is going home. It’s coming the darkness; so there is the rise of a lot of auditory images because now the poet can’t see anymore and he started to listen the sound of the countryside. He gets walking and arrived in a cemetery. In the entrance of the cemetery there is a tower and there is a owl which is annoyed by the presence of this wondering poet. The poet starts to think about the relationship between life and death and about the function of the graves. He think that maybe between these graves there would be someone who had the vocation for politics or for poetry, but the Story has never told about them because of their poverty. According to the poet, these persons are important the same. In fact, he underline the importance of the hidden beauty; for example the beauty of a pearl which is on the ocean floor or the beauty of a flower who spread its perfume into the desert. The destiny of these persons has prevented them to became famous, to reach the power with homicides and to feel shame or frustration (According to Gray, the Story is a series of offences).
The poet think that the graves have the function of attract a sigh in the alive people , even if these graves are dedicated to poor people and are written by an illiterate muse (because the graves are full of literary mistake).
According to Gray it’s important that the graves give a message of hope to the alive persons, teaching them how to die. Thomas Gray sets the perfect image of the romantic poet who is a wondering poet, who is in contact with nature and who is an emotional person.