ELEGY WRITTEN IN A COUNTRY CHURCHYARD BY GRAY: DR. HARESHWAR ROY
'Elegy Written In A Country Churchyard' is a very popular dignified and matchless elegy in the annals of English poetry. It is a sincere song of mourning and melancholy is its hallmark. Here the poet has attained the sublimity of
and the harmony of Pope. Milton
The mortality and the frailty of human life is the major theme og this poem. It deals with the lives of simple country folks in a pathetic manner. Here the poet does not lament the death of an individual but he mourns the tragic fate of all mankind. It gives the poem an universal appeal.
In the beginning part of the poem Gray presents a gloomy picture of an evening at some country churchyard. Here there are many graves of unknown villagers. Here the ancestors of the village folks are taking final rest. While they lived they had a hard life of toil and work. The poet says that the rich should not mock their toil.
According to the poet, the death is the greatest leveler. Thus all the rich and the poor share the same fate. They all die. The poet's view is that the paths of glory lead but to the grave. The poet shows great sympathy with the poor in this poem. Here we find the democratic spirit of the poet. He says that they were talented but they could not became popular due to the lack of opportunities. After that the everyday life of the village forefathers has been depicted sincerely.
The concluding part of the poem is fantastic. It has been entitled as 'The Epitaph' Here the poet speaks about himself and mourns his own fate:
'Here rests his head upon the lap of earth
A youth to Fortune and to Fame unknown
Fair science frown'd not on his humble birth,
And melancholy mark'd him for her own.'
Thomas Gray is a transitional poet. In this poem he is a classicist and Romanticist both. The simplicity is the soul of the poem. As a precursor of romantic poetry Gray shows his love for nature. He has presented vivid and lively picture of nature. The description of sight and sound of nature is novel and romantic.
Thus this poem holds a singular position in the history of English poetry.It has a lot of qualities as - simplicity, tenderness, human touch and universal feelings. It has been written in iambic pentameter quatrains. The diction is highly figurative. The use of alliteration has made the poem musical. In short, it is an immortal poem.