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Elegy Written in a country churchyard ELEGY WRITTEN IN A COUNTRY CHURCHYARD By Thomas Gray 1716-1771 Thomas Grays Elegy laments the death of life in general while mourning long gone ancestors and exhibiting the transition made by the speaker from grief and mourning to acceptance and hope It was written in 1742 and revised to its published form in 1746 and is one of the three highlights of the elegiac form in English literature the others being Miltons Lycidas and Tennysons In Memoriam It was first published anonymously in 1751 under the title An Elegy wrote in a Country Churchyard Although believed to be started in 1742 the exact date of composition of the Elegy apart from the concluding stanzas cannot be exactly determined The Elegy was concluded at Stoke Poges in June 1750 where Gray was buried The churchyard as described by Gray is typical rather than particular of the five disputed originals Stoke Poges bears the least resemblance to the graveyard in the Elegy The poem starts off dark and dreary often rousing images of death The first four stanzas establish the time and setting of the poem There was a curfew around the time that this was written and the first line supports this It was wrung at eight oclock as a signal for extinguishing fires and marked the end of the day The first stanza also includes a plowmanline 3 who after a hard day is on his way home There is a solemn stillnessline6 which also suggests twilight or some time in the evening Line 15 places the speaker in the poem in a graveyard Each in his narrow cell forever laidline 15 describes people resting eternally in their narrow cells which are usually associated with coffins or the narrow graves that they were placed into The speaker of the poem then goes on to talk about the lost pleasures of the dead Line 21 starts
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