Thomas Gray's poem "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" is a very structured poem with a set number of lines per stanza, and a specific rhyme scheme throughout the entire poem. The poem focuses on Gray's thoughts while he visits a country churchyard, and ends with an epitaph written on one of the tombstones in the churchyard. The setting of a country churchyard automatically gives way to a small and unknown graveyard, and those that inhabit the graveyard are not going to be well known people in the community or in American history. Gray's form and style allow for the reader to see the churchyard he is in, and the metaphors and symbolism he uses open the mind of the reader to view the world in a new way.
The form of the poem is a very standard elegy, consisting of four line stanzas and a rhyme scheme of a-b-a-b for each stanza. The form gives a visual image of a graveyard and all the plots lined up in a straight lines row after row, and in doing so puts the reader into the same setting as he is in. The setting is not only present in the form of the poem, but also in the first few stanzas. The setting is in a churchyard after sunset, and on a very still and quiet night. Gray's word choice to describe the churchyard present a vivid picture, such as "Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight, and all the air a solemn stillness holds..."(5-6). The reader can visualize the images of the sun setting over the land and the stillness of the night air from his perspective in these lines. The rhyme scheme of a-b-a-b gives the reader a mental picture of plots in the graveyard. In the first stanza, for example, the ending words are day, lea, wa...
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...eople in life might never be seen due to the environment that they are living in or born into. The irony of the poem is that the greatest things on earth might not be those things that we can see and hold to be the greatest.
Gray's poem makes a reader examine one's life to truly measure the things that one holds to be great or wonderful, and to look deeper into society to find the truly great things in one's life. Also, he examines that no matter how great a person in life that they will become a just a "shapeless sculpture" (79) with a name, numbers, and a lasting quote that will sum that person's entire life up. Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" is a poem that truly explains that there are far greater things in life than what society holds to be great, and that one must judge for oneself what is great or not based on one's own personal experiences.
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