ELEGY WRITTEN IN A COUNTRY CHURCHYARD

QUESTIONS FROM TEXT - PAGE 437
BY TAYLOR DAVIDSON

1. The "Elegy" falls into clear-cut divisions of thought.
A) What stanzas would you include in each of these first three divisions:
  • THE SETTING: stanzas one through five
  • THE IMAGINED LIFE OF THE VILLAGERS: stanzas 6 through seven
  • DEATH, THE COMMON END OF ALL, RICH OR POOR: stanzas eight through eleven

B) Into what four divisions would you divide therest of the poem?
  1. the unrealized potential of the villagers (stanzas twelve through fifteen)
  2. the meager lives of the villagers (stanzas sixteen through twenty-three)
  3. a debriefing by the speaker (stanzas twenty-four through twenty-nine)
  4. the epitaph reading of the speaker's gravestone (stanzas thirty through thirty-two)

C) How would you describe each division?
  1. The villagers may have been able to do good things in their lives, but they never had the chance to do so. Their lack of money made it difficult to reach these goals and they missed out on the great beauty the world has to offer.
  2. The villagers were never given respect and never had the chance to prove themselves. They kept to themselves and wanted to be remembered just like everyone else does.
  3. The debrief lets the audience know that one day, they will be in the same position in life. The speaker explains how everyone wants to be remembered by the good things they did and the presence they had in the world.
  4. The epitaph explains how life turns in full circle, how people are remembered after they pass based on who they were as people.

D) How do all of the divisions form a logical sequence that progresses from the general ("rude forefathers") to the particular ("A youth")?
  • The connection between "rude forefathers" and "A youth" is made by the speaker who reflects on how his life experiences were the same as were those of the people who have already passed. This also forms a link between the positive or negative experiences in life by the speaker, from his youth as well as his aging, and finally death.

2. Note how Gray uses vivid details to establish the mood of the poem.
A) How does his use of imagery contribute to his restrained expression of sorrow?
  • The imagery used by Gray is very dark and deceptive. Throughout the body of the poem, the images seem quite sad but not sorrowful, as compared to the epitaph in the last three stanzas which highlights the sadness throughout his entire life.

  • "Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tower/ The moping owl does to the moon complain/ Of such as, wandering near her secret bower,/ Molest her ancient solitary reign." lines 9-12 - The appearence of the owl suggests that nightfall is approaching. During these times, nightfall was considered to be linked to death - not a happy time!

B) What effects does he achieve with the verbs tolls, wind, plods, fades, and lull (lines 1-8) ?
  • The verbs seem to highlight the descent into nightfall: the darkening of the sky, the horizon becoming dim, the sounds of the cows returning from the pasture, the stillness of the air, and the overall quietness of darkness. The effect creates a scenario that the audience can imagine, especially of solitude and lonliness, as the speaker begins to speak of a graveyard and the tombstones he comes across.

C) What is the effect of "peep of dawn" and "hasty steps" in lines 98-100?
  • The effect of these two word combinations seems to relate to the image that people remember of this man, specifically to the places where he used to frequent often. They have these memories of him and his favourite places as a part of the memory they keep of him as well as the presence he had a these special places which still linger.

D) What do they contrast with in lines 113-116?
  • Lines 113 to 116 express the image of a man being carried to his grave and the solemn expression of the end of his life. This seems to contrast in regards to this image of the man being depressing, rather than the great memories that people had of his in his favourite places to be. This relates to the idea the people would much rather be remembered for the good things they accomplished in life, rather than the negatives.

E) How does this contrast relate of the elegaic tone and subject matter?
  • An elegaic poem is a reflective poem, simply about death. The two contrasts, as mentioned in the previous question, are showing the two evident sides of death. There are parts of ourselves that we want people to remember based on how we made a positive impact on the world, rather than the negative experiences we had or the negative choices we made that reflect poorly on us.

3. Would the poem have been weaker or stronger if it had ended before the epitaph? Explain your answer.
  • I think that the effectiveness of the poem relies on the epitaph being the last three stanzas of the poem. The epitaph acts like the summary of the poem and leaves the audience with something to think about after reading "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard". The idea of life completing full circle is extremely evident in the epitaph and that provokes thoughts from the audience to be questioned.

4. To what extent does this poem echo Donne's "Meditation 17" (page 271)?
  • Donne's poem, "Meditation 17" conclusivly explains how people are not forgotten after they pass on to the afterlife/to heaven. When people can feel and relate to a loss of a loved one of someone they have an aquaintance to, they are united with God as they reflect on the memories that the deceased has left behind. Donne's poem is more focused towards the influence of religion in his poem but it still reflects the idea of life completing it's full circle and every human's passage from life to death.


EXTRA NOTES:

INVERSION:

The normal order of sentences or lines is Subject, Verb, then Object.

Inversion is to switch the order, for example, to Verb, Subject, Object.

  • This tool can define relations of thoughts or feelings portrayed by the speaker
  • It also reinforces significant ideas and emphasizes the mood of the poem.

Example: "Now fades the glimmering landscapre on the sight," (line 5) where the verb comes before the subject.

CONNOTAVE MEANINGS:
Connotave meanings are used to express the emotions, associations, or attitudes of the poem.
Gray wanted "cultured and educated" people during his time to formulate some respect for the humble villages by using contrast.
Through lines 45-52, he uses words such as neglected, celestial, noble, and genial which are positive connotations. In contrast, he uses the word disdainful in line 31 to show a negative connotation.