Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard by Thomas Grey Marks 5

Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard by Thomas Grey Mark 5



1. Q. Describe the evening scene as presented by Gray in his ‘Elegy’.



The opening stanza of Gray’s celebrated Elegy written in a country churchyard. contains the description of the evening scene around the country churchyard (at Stoke Poges), where the rude forefathers of the hamlet lie buried.



It is evening. The ringing of the curfew bell, warning people against keeping their fire-place uncovered, is heard. The ploughman, exhausted with his hard work of the day, walk down the meadow, as his lowing cattle, equally tired, slowly follow. Darkness draws upon the whole churchyard, where the poet sits all by himself. Softly and surely it covers the whole place, and the poet is all lost in the dense, dark night.



This evening scene is a marvel of Gray’s poetic art. The whole scene is made living, as if existing really before the reader’s very eyes. The scene also brings out the poet’s romantic interest in Nature, although he does not spiritualize or philosophise her.



2. Q. Describe the scene of the poor villagers retiring from the day’s toil.



Gray’s Elegy written in a country churchyard contains the poet’s mourning for the death of the rude forefathers of the hamlet. As the poet sits in the midst of their graves with mouldering heaps all around, he muses on their mode of living, when they were alive.



The poet imagines (rather in a romantic vein) how those poor villagers, now dead, used to enjoy daily their happy domesticity. As they returned home, after their hard labour in the field, they were greeted and comforted by the fireplaces that burnt brightly and warmly for them. Their wives were dutifully engaged in their evening task to keep them fresh and comfortable. They were also received cordially by their little children with their indistinct childlike prattle. Those vied with one another to climb up their knees to have the first taste of their paternal kisses. But all this is now no more. The poor villagers are now dead and buried and their domestic happiness can no more be recalled. The burning fireplace or the active house-wife can no more wait for according a cheerful reception to them. No children will run to receive and greet and kiss them. Cruel death has, thus, rudely deprived them of the humble joys of their simple lives.



3. Q. What appeal does the poet make to ‘Ambition’?



In Elegy Written in a Country Churchyardt, Gray implores the people of high positions and aristocratic ranks to be sympathetic and tolerant to the simple and humble living of poor villagers,



The poet has already related, with sincerity and sympathy, the useful toil and the humble joys of the rude forefathers of the hamlet. Ambitious men, with high objectives,


are prone to despise such a poor and humble life. Again, persons, caring for pomp and splendour, money or grandeur only, have a natural instinct to look down upon the poor people whose living is in dire poverty and wretched humility only. The humanist in Gray forbids them to do so. He reminds them of their toil that is useful and productive and their joys, that is simple but genuine. They have not any grand future before them. The poor villagers, like the rude forefathers of the hamlet, live and die unknown. But that is no reason for the men of fortune and honour to taunt and ridicule their plain and uneventful but innocent and laborious existence.



Gray’s appeal to ambitious and fortunate people to view with toleration and sympathy the humble lot of the poor villages bears out the humanitarian zeal that well stamps his poetic creed.



4. Q. “Gray’s reflections on the inevitable human mortality.-Briefly discuss.



The celebrated stanza of Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard moralizes on the inevitable human mortality. He has already made an ardent appeal to the men of pride, position and possession to bear with the uneventful life and the obscure death of the poor, ignorant inhabitants of the village, now lying dead and buried, Here, in this stanza, he reminds those proud and ambition men that death is unsparing and touches and ruins all equally—the rich and the poor.



Men are often found to boast of their high birth and revel in their hereditary prestige. Again, there are big leaders and commanders, demonstrating their power and authority. They feel proud of their own strength and capability, their victory and conquest. Similarly, persons, with physical beauty and glamour, are much admired and extolled, just as those of riches and resources command honour and obedience. Indeed, hereditary renown, military or political power, captivating beauty and unsurpassed wealth can do and get much. Yet, they are all fated to pass away ere long. Death is decreed to all-high birth, kingly power, engaging beauty and immense riches. Indeed, the inevitability of mortality exposes how empty is human vanity for heredity, power, beauty and wealth. After all, all human glories and triumphs, activities and achievements, end in grim but certain death.



5. Q. How does Gray address the persons who are proud of their authority?



Gray addresses the persons, who are proud of their importance and authority, in his famous poem Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard. He implores here such people not to look down upon the rude forefathers of the hamlet, if no memorial is raised over their burial-place.



The poor relations or friends of the rude forefathers of the hamlet could not erect anything noteworthy on their graves to keep their memory alive. But they should not be blamed for that inability, caused by their poverty. Proud and powerful people might be scornful or critical of their default, but there is no justification for such an attitude.


In this connection, Gray sharply reminds them of the futility of erecting any grand memorial over the graves of the dead. After all, death is unsparing, and pays no heed to any prayer or persuasion. It does not matter whether monuments are raised or not, whether the deadbodies are buried in the churchyard or inside the church premises, with long corridors and ornamented arched roofs, where high sounding dirges, accompanied with sacred music, played on the organ, by the choir, are heard. Death remains cold and deaf to all such celebrations in honour of the dead. It is, therefore, quite meaningless to find fault with the poor people who could not raise any memorial for their dear dead.



Gray here lays down what is a hard and bitter truth. After all, no ceremonious burial would make any difference in the position of the dead persons who are beyond all the powers and praises of the living world.



6. Q. What does Gray say about the ‘storied urn’ or ‘animated lust?



In his celebrated elegy-Elegy written in a Country Churchyard-, Gray has implored proud and powerful persons to impute no blame to the poor descendants of the rude forefathers of the hamlet for their inability to erect any memorial on their ancestors’ graves. In this connection, he brings out, in this stanza of the Elegy, the hard but universal truth of the futility of all ceremonial burials against the inevitability of death.



The poet refers to the practices of rich and aristocratic poeple to engrave on the urn, in which the ashes of the dead person are stored, his or her name and other relevant details. Some life-like statue of the dead person is also often made and kept as a memory. But the hard fact is that neither the engraved urn nor the life-like statue has any power to bring life back to the dead. Life, once gone from the body, can never be brought back by any ceremony or grandeur. Songs may be sung in honour of the dead person or high tributes, paid to him or her, as a sort of flatttery. But nothing of these has any actual value, for they are of no avail against death. Death is callous and cruel and its cold hand touches and ends, all. Indeed, whatever may be done, a dead man can in no case be restored to life.



7. Q. How does Gray reflect on the mouldering in the graveyard in his ‘Elegy’?



In his celebrated Elegy written in a Country Churchyard, Gray muses on the obscure fate of the rude forefathers of the hamlet. In this connection, he speaks, in the present stanza, of their possibility which could not flourish or develop under the pressure of the repellant situation in their lives.



As Gray looks at the mouldering heaps of the graves, wherein lie buried the poor inhabitants of the village, he is haunted with the thought of what they might have been in a favourable environment. The churchyard wherein lie buried the rude forefathers of the hamlet, is utterly neglected and their graves remain all ignored and slighted. Gray, however, speculates, in a romantic vein, that, among those poor villagers, there might have been some really talented personalites, though their


ability. mighty repressive circumstances did not at all permit them to cultivate their talent or In a favourable situation, some one among them might have been an inspired prophet, with a holy zeal. Some of them might have also turned out to be a emperor, wielding immense power and authority. Even someone among them might have established himself as a captivating music-maker whose musical tunes would appear all alive.



Gray’s reflection here has a universal bearing. What he says does not merely hold good for the rude forefathers who lie dead and buried in the chuchyard of Stoke Poges, but also for all the unfortunate persons who could not be what they might have been because of their grim poverty and extremely incongenial state of life.



8. Q. What comment does Gray make on the village Hampden?



(The add in the same paragraph) The poet goes to make some speculations about their potentialities. In his view, there might be among those poor, humble villagers, some one, for instance, as bold and courageous as John Hampden. Hampden defied the unlawful imposition of the ship-money by the King, without the sanction of Parliament. In the same manner, the poor villager might have fearlessly opposed the cruel landlord of his field for unauthorised activities. The poet also imagines that some other poor villager might be possesed of as high a poetic gift as of Milton, the renowned English poet. But that Milton could not speak out. His poetic gift found no opportunity for cultivating and perfecting itself. Even someone among the poor dead villagers might have reached, like Oliver Crommell, the height of political significance. Of course, he might not be guilty, like Oliver Cromwell, of indulging in the bloody civil war and senseless blood-shed in the country. What Gray emphasizes here is the possibility of the poor villagers, in a congenial situation, to become a dauntless heroic personality, like Hampden, a great poet, like Milton, or a great political leader, like Oliver Cromwell, without his reckless acts of cruelty and blood-shed.





9. Their lot forbade …..mercy on mankind.


…….. Q. Write precisely and critically, what did ‘their lot forbid’ rude forefathers of the hamlet?



In his Elegy written in a Country Churchyard, Gray muses on the circumscribed lot of the poor villagers-the rude forefathers of the hamlet-who lie buried in the country church-yard of Stoke Poges. In this context, he, however, brings out how that circumscribed lot proved to be a blessing in disguise to them by preventing them from indulging in the acts of crimes and cruelties.



The hard and oppressive situation of their lives did not definitely allow the rude forefathers of the hamlet to cultivate and activate their virtues and qualities to attain eminence in different spheres. At the same time, it indirectly acted as a boon to them. Because of their poverty and other limitations, they had no seope to entertain any sort of vicious thought or mischievous plan. They never had any recourse to bloodshed or secret murder to fulfil their ambition for winning the sovereign power of the land. They could never be fearfully tyrannical, with the awful, villainous acts that seemed to suspend all feelings of sympathy or compassion. In fact, their human feeling, somehow retained by them, restrained their unkind acts and cruel conduct.



Gray’s idea here is quite interesting and apt, too. His emphasis on the double effect of the circumscribed lot of the poor villagers is striking enough. Again, his concept that their circumscribed lot forbade them to proceed through the path of criminality is certainly original.



10. Far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife……… …… noiseless tenour of their way Q. Discuss in connection with the lines about the rude forefathers.



The present passage is an extract from Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard. The poet has already dwelt on the circumscribed lot of the rude forefathers of the hamlet, that forbade their growing virtues and confined their criminal instincts. Now the poet speaks of their plain, quiet living, in their humble village, without least affected by the turmoil of the world at war.



Their grim poverty and utter ignorance stood as a hard bar to the possible prospects of the poor villagers to attain name and fame, riches and power. But they also had no scope to enter into any contest or conflict to attain power or position. No sinister scheme or heinous plan could be conceived by them to fulfil their high ambition. Infact, they never involved themselves in the mad rivalry or mean confrontation to gain their objective. They did never know or practise how to move away from the right track-from the path of innocence and honesty. In fact, their way of living was all calm and peaceful, far from the vicious effects of jealousy, malice and hypocrisy. Their course of life was all simple, and remained unaffected by the distraction of the crowd and the noises of a striving and aspiring world.



Gray’s stanza is a tribute to the simple, noiseless tenour of poor life. His elegy passes from lamentation to moralization here. Of course, this is the characteristic didacticism of the Augustan world, which the poet has fitted in with his humanitarian zeal.



11. Q. How does Gray justify the crection of some frail memorials on the graves of the rude forefathers of hamlet?



This is what Gray, in his famous Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard, contends to justfy the erection of some frail memorials (prove) on the graves of the rude forefathers of the hamlet. He shows here sharply how a dying person desires deeply to live in the memory of the world he or she is about to leave.



Death is, no doubt, unavoidable. Yet, the dying man wishes to live and to remain alive in the memory of the living world. As a matter of fact, as death approaches, the dying man yearns for a place in the memory of the world wherefrom he is departing, rather with a feeling of sadness. After all, man has an instinctive desire to be remembered after death, despite all that might be bad and bitter in his experience of life. There is, indeed, no one ready to be completely forgotten. Moreover, as the darkness of death draws upon him or her, he or she cannot but cast a regretful look at the living world he or she is to leave behind. The dying person longs for the sight of his anxious relations and friends, sadly watching his or her death. This has a pleasing sensation for him or her by assuring him or her of the remembrance of him or her by the world that appears to him or her, at this moment of parting, so warm and so wonderful.



The passage is deeply touching and has a tragic bearing. The poet brings out here subtly the psychology of a man at the advent of death. The pleasing anxiety at the expectation of being remembered by the living wold is well signified here. A human touch makes the poet’s appeal so moving and so universal.



12. Q. How does Gray conclude his poem ‘Elegy’?



In the concluding stanza of his Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard, Gray refers to the epitaph, written of the village poet. He concludes the epitaph here, with the assertion that it is quite immaterial now to judge his merits or limitations.



The village-poet is now dead and buried and lies peacefully on his mother Earth’s lap. This is no time to drag out his qualities and faults in order to determine what his nature actually was. Let there be no analysis, no scrutiny of his virtues and weaknesses any further. He is now in his state of rest after death, awaiting the final judgement from God. He now reposes in His bosom with expectations and suspense about His judgment and favour.



The personal reference becomes more closely withnessed in these closing lines. The listless youth, muttering his wayward fancies in solitude and dying in quietude and peace, has a good deal of similarity with the author, his way of life, his death and his moral of living.




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