Elegy

3770 Words16 Pages
Elegy What is this? In a simple sense it's a text about a dead person, or, in this case, persons. Before we look at this particular elegy I want us to think about memorial writing in general. It's clearly quite an important part of a social organisation-the way we control and manage death. And it's also an insight into the way we think about individuals in a wide variety of social contexts: * Grand memorial elegies * Small personal ones we place in newspapers, little poems * Obituaries * Letters of consolation in which the writer sets down memories of the dead person * Epitaphs on headstones and plaques We can recognise in all of these there is no direct contact between the writing and the dead person. We can see this in three ways: 1. Our awareness that this is a special kind of writing that cannot exist without the absence of the death person 2. Our acceptance of the intertextual nature of this writing: that there is a way of doing it which takes its meaning from other similar kinds of writing. An official obituary is very formal and stylised. The more unofficial kink in the newspaper columns is also extremely generic. 3. Our sense that the death of a person distances us from them and allows us to make sense of them as a person But what if we thought about this from another angle. Suppose we consider the possibility that memorial writing is not really a special kind of writing but in fact the norm? That all writing is memorial writing that assumes the death (or absence) of its referents? That even when people are alive this is so confusing that we secret... ... middle of paper ... ...writer and the pictures of an amateur sculptor. 31: Unletter'd muse: Muse is an allusion to nine goddesses in Greek mythology. They inspired people to write, sing and dance. Muse is used here metaphorically to refer to a writer inspired to record his thoughts about the people buried in the cemetery. However, the adjective unletter'd indicates that he is an uneducated writer, perhaps a humble member of the community like those buried in the cemetery. 32. Thee: Gray himself. 33. Some kindred . . .fate: Gray is wondering what people would say about him if he died. 34. Haply . . . lawn: Here Gray begins to speculate about how people would assess him after he dies. 35. Listless length: His body 36: Pore upon: Gaze upon; look upon. 37. The Epitaph: Here Gray writes his own epitaph (inscription on a tomb).
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