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Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard

This Poem is a work of Thomas Gray, one of the greatest scholar in Europe interested in Norse and in the Ossian Poem.
It is an example of the transition in literature from the Classical to the Romantic period;
This can be seen in the title:
Elegy is a typically Classic genre, a composition dedicates to someone who’s dead but the association with the setting – a countryside – and the celebration of normal, simple people is a characteristic of Romanticism.
It represents a transition because of the description of Nature, the particular moment of day that inspires meditation and the theme of Death.
Of these work there are two version with two different vision of Death: the first, Stanzas, is a stoic vision; the second, Elegy, contain an epitaph that says about the poet’s death.

The Elegy is composed by 32 stanzas and every stanzas by 4 lines written in iambic pentameter according to an ABAB rhyme scheme.
This Poem can be divided in parts:
I – II – III stanzas: There’s the description of the rural setting. The poet describes the countryside during the twilight (elencare le caratteristiche nel testo: Campane che suonano, insetti che volano e il buio).
IV – V stanzas: He describes the humble people who lived in the village in the past and the poet says they are sleeping (associazione morte – sonno che si trova in Shakespeare). There’s a peaceful atmosphere and the churchyard induces the poet to meditates on life and death. He describes the daily moment of these simple people, farmer that worked hard for small joys.
VI stanza: the poet talk about the Ambition and grandeur, two abstract ideas, typical of Classic world. There are a lot of personification of… (elencare le personificazioni)
VII stanza: All the things we would like to have are vanity that will be destroyed by Death. The forefathers’ tomb, silent and obscure, are the natural, equally conclusion of their lives.
In the final part he became more personal; describes his funeral and the epitaph on his tomb.
The Melancholy characterizes the all Poem and it’s a Romantic element.


The Romanticism is a literary, artistic and intellectual movement originates in Europe in the first part of 1800. During this period, after the France Revolution that radically change the principle of stability of, for example, the ancient regime, proposing a new ideals of liberty, equality and justice. There is also the Industrial Revolution where the changes in agriculture, transportation and technology has a big effect in social, economical and cultural condition; it becomes in England. In these period are build factories and there is an incremental use of coal and steam power in textile manufacturing.
In the culture, there is a sort of revolt against the norms of Enlightenment and his rationalization of the nature. Passion against reason.
There is a research of “sublime” against “beauty” by Burke that says that the sublime have to give to the observer strong sentiment and passions (in Germany there is the Sturm und Drang) like horror, terror and apprehension.
There is more attention for sentiments and passions and the psychological insight.
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