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A Comparison of Thomas Gray's Elegy (Eulogy) Written in a Country Churchyard and Bryant's Thanatopsis

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A Comparison of Thomas Gray's Elegy (Eulogy) Written in a Country Churchyard and Bryant's Thanatopsis  


   Thomas Gray and William Cullen Bryant both chose to write about nature and death being intertwined. Since Thomas Gray lived in a time of social injustice, he chose to use death to illustrate the problems inherent in a socially stratified society. William Cullen Bryant, on the other hand, lived in a rapidly expanding young nation that cherished the vast amounts of untouched nature and he used death to illustrate how man fits into the universal truth of the earth. However, both men believed that death rendered all men equal in that all went to their final resting place in Mother Nature's bosom. While Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" comes across as a social commentary on the English peasants and Bryant's "Thanatopsis" serves as a catalog of American Romantic beliefs, both believe that one must listen to nature, that death makes all men equal, and that man returns to nature after death.

To compare how the poems minor themes are similar, one must first understand their major themes' differences. "Elegy" differs so greatly from "Thanatopsis" because they came from vastly different times and countries. Gray wrote "Elegy" in eighteenth century England after the death of one of his friends. Influenced by the English Romantics like Gray, Bryant, who spent much of his time out in the wild, wrote "Thanatopsis" in praise of nature's splendor. "Elegy" appears at first to be solely about death but emerges as a social commentary on the plight of the poor. Gray first explains how the commoners delight in the simple life of working in the fields and enjoying their families while "Chill Penury" held them back from gr...


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Brady, Frank. "Structure and Meaning in Gray's Elegy" Thomas Gray's Elegy Written in a

Country Churchyard. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987. 7-17.

 

Carper, Thomas. "Gray's Personal Elegy" Thomas Gray's Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard.

New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987. 39-50.

 

Lonsdale, Roger. "Poetry of Thomas Gray: Versions of the Self" Thomas Gray's Elegy Written in

a Country Churchyard. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987. 19-38.

 

McLean, Albert. William Cullen Bryant. New York: Twayne Publishers, Inc, 1964. 65-81.

 

Smith, Eric. "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" Thomas Gray's Elegy Written in a Country

Churchyard. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987. 51-67.

 

Peckham, Harry Houston. Gotham Yankee. New York: Russell and Russell, 1971. 31-35.

 


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