Thomas Gray - "Elegy written in a country churchyard" and The Epitaph
The poem “Elegy written in a Country Churchyard”, was written by Thomas Gray in 1742, and, consecutively published (in 1751), shortly after the death of his close friend, Richard West.
Gray is observing a country churchyard to the sunset, which impels him to meditate on the nature of human mortality. The poem invokes the classical idea of memento mori, a Latin phrase which states plainly to all mankind, "Remember that you must die". The poet considers the fact that in death, there is no difference between great and common people.
In the first stanza: there is the setting of the poem; the poet set on the top of a hill, is observing a rural sight to the sunset (parting day), that is announced by the sound of the bell, while, a herd of livestock (mandria di bestiame), seen by the poet as a line, is returning to the folds and a very tired farmer is walking homeward slowly, so the poet remains alone with the darkness.
In the second stanza: The poet describes a glimmer sight (not clear) in which even the air is described as having a “solemn stillness” (there is a really strong silent in the air), the poet hears only the buzzing beetle that is trying to fly and the drowsy twinklings (sonnolenti tintinnii) coming from the distant folds (ovili), with this stanza the poet wants to underline the difference between night and day, death and life.
In the third stanza: the poet moves the look toward an ivy-mantled wall of an ancient tower, lighted by the moon, so the night owl that comes out from the tower, is complaining about the moon, that is lightening its reign, because it wants the darkness.
In the fourth stanza: the poet induces our attention on the graves; in the first two lines the poet describes the churchyard, that is full of cypresses and graves covered of turfs and in the last two lines the poet explains that in the graves lay the “Rude Forefathers” (rude: perché contadini/forefathers: antenati) that are in a “Hamlet sleep” (eternal sleep).
In the fifth stanza: the poet makes a sort of meditation on death, he describes a day country landscape, the strong smell of incense, the swallow (rondine) that is twittering, the cock’s shrill that is announcing the day that is coming (we can compare the bell that is ringing as announcing the end of the day to the day cock’s shrill that announces the arrival of the day), with this stanza the poet wants to mean that the sleeping forefathers will never again raise from their “beds”, the term “lowly beds” not only indicates the graves in which people are buried, but also the humble conditions that they endured when they were alive, so nothing can awake the forefathers from their “Hamlet sleep”.
In the sixth stanza: the poet describes a typical family in the moment in which the tired father returns to home from the job and he receives the cares of his wife, while his children compete for receiving the first kiss, but all these things don't really care because sooner or later we die everybody.
In the seventh stanza: the poet describes the job of the happy farmers that after having sowed the fields, they finally reap the crop (mietono il raccolto). In the first two lines the poet just describes the moment of the harvest (raccolto), while, in the last two lines the poet tells about the happiness and the strength of the peasants in working the woods, in fact they cut the trees landing (sferrando) vigorous hits (sturdy strokes).
In the eighth stanza: the poet says not to allow to the ambitious man to mock us, underlining the fact that isn’t absolutely important being in life famous or important because everything dies with us.
In the ninth stanza: the poet says that there is no difference among the rich man and the poor one because, to be beautiful, rich, famous, important it doesn't prevent us from the inevitable hour of the death, in fact all the paths of the glory lead to the grave.
In the first stanza: the poet describes himself as a normal person, whose life was always accompanied by a feeling of melancholy. The poet says to be unknown to the fame and the fortune and that despite his humble origins he was very intelligent, in fact he liked the sciences.
In the second stanza: the poet says the he was so good and so sincere to give to the misery all he had, a tear, and just for his bounty Heaven did him a recompense, a friend.
In the third stanza: reading this stanza we notice that, the poet thinks that life is a transitional period that brings to the death, where God compensates us, such reward consists in an eternal enjoy life together Him.