2 Objectives To become acquainted with the work of Thomas Gray To examine the elegyTo study an example of the literary transition from Neoclassical to Romantic literature
3 Thomas Gray Born in London on December 26,1716 His father was a violent-tempered man who worked as a scrivener ( public copyist or writer, such as a notary)His mother supplemented income by keeping a shopAllowed Gray to go to Eton and CambridgeHe studied classical literature
4 Gray traveled for three yrs. after graduating. Never married Professor of modern history and languages at Cambridge.Spent time as a poet and scholarExplored British museum ( opened 1759)Died in Cambridge in 1771 after a long illness
5 Gray as a PoetRepresents a transition from the Neoclassical couplet of Pope to the more expansive verse forms of the Romantic poets
6 Gray as a Poet ( continued) Four-line stanza form with abab rhyme scheme and iambic pentameter became known as the “elegiac stanza”in honor of his “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”
7 Gray as a Poet ( continued) Alternating rhyme of this verse differs from the classical couplet form, but preserves the emphasis on following a patternDiction has much of the precision and polish of the Neoclassical school.
8 Shows Romantic tendencies in the spirit and themes of his poetry more than in his form.
9 His depiction of nature and the common life anticipates later Romantic poets like Wordsworth
10 Gray’s focus on the life of the common people and the effect of nature upon one’s mood are characteristic of the Romantic poet.
11 Elegy…in a …Churchyard Most famous of his poemsSpent six years composing the poemReveals personality in emotional expressions on nature and death.
12 Elegy..in a…ChurchyardReflects Pope’s epigram, “What oft was thought, but ne’er so well expressed”
13 Definitions Elegy: Eulogy: A poem lamenting the death of a friend or a famous personCompare Tennyson’s “In Memoriam” or Whitman’s “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom”Eulogy:A speech or writing extolling the virtues and services of a person- especially referring t a funeral orationNote: Gray’s “Elegy” does not refer to a particular death, but rather reflection of the lives of people buried in the churchyard and, by extension, of humankind in general.
14 Poetic diction/classical and topical allusions in “Elegy” Line 2: leapastureLine 11: BowerdwellingLine 18: hornhorn of the hunterLine 33: The boast of HeraldryHeraldry is the study of family cots of arms; thus the phrase refers to the pride of having a great family.
15 “Elegy”Lines 33-36:The subject is “hour”; the verb is “wait”; lines 33 and 34 are the direct object of waitLine 39: fretted vaultThe ornamental arched ceiling of a church roofLine 41: Storied urnAn urn inscribed with the story of the deceasedLine 41: animatedLife-like
16 “Elegy” Line 43: Provoke Arouse or call forth Line 52: genial Warm or livingLine 57: HampdenJohn Hampden ( ), a British landowner who resisted the tax assessment to maintain the fleet of Charles I, thus becoming the hero of England’s Civil War, in 1642.Lines 61-64Direct objects of the word forbade in line 65
17 “Elegy” Line 73: madding Wild, furious Line 76: tenor Even course Line 79: uncouthstrangeLine 81: unlettered MuseThe spirit of folk art
18 “Elegy” Line 84: moralist Moral man Line 92: wonted customary Line 93: For theeProbably Gray himself; perhaps the stonecutter poet of this graveyardLine 97: Haplyperhaps
19 “Elegy” Line 97: swain Rustic, country youth Line 116: thorn Hawthorne treeLine 119: scienceknowledgeLine 121: bountybounteousness
20 READ “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” Answer discussion questions
21 Reflect The poem is Neoclassical in style Poetic in diction Regular iambic pentameter lines“The curfew tolls the knell of parting day…”Poetic in diction“storied urn”“the dull cold ear of Death”The poem is Romantic in toneScenes of natureExaltation of humble country folk and gentle melancholy tone
22 Additional Activities Read “Elegy” and Edward Young’s “Night Thoughts” or Robert Blair’s “The Grave” and compare their views on death with Gray’s
23 One of Gray’s contemporaries is William Collins One of Gray’s contemporaries is William Collins. Read Collins’s “ode to Evening” and compare its Neoclassical and Romantic elements with those of Gray’s “Elegy”
24 Two modern elegies are “Elegy for Jane” by Theodore Roethke ( ) and “Elegy for William Hubbard” by Tony Connor ( 1930-) Compare the subject matter of these two elegies with Gray’s poem