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Thomas Gray: Transitional Poet

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1 Thomas Gray: Transitional Poet
Mrs. Cumberland

2 Objectives To become acquainted with the work of Thomas Gray
To examine the elegy To 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 shop Allowed Gray to go to Eton and Cambridge He 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 scholar Explored British museum ( opened 1759) Died in Cambridge in 1771 after a long illness

5 Gray as a Poet Represents 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 pattern Diction 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 poems Spent six years composing the poem Reveals personality in emotional expressions on nature and death.

12 a…Churchyard Reflects 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 person Compare 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 oration Note: 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: lea pasture Line 11: Bower dwelling Line 18: horn horn of the hunter Line 33: The boast of Heraldry Heraldry 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 wait Line 39: fretted vault The ornamental arched ceiling of a church roof Line 41: Storied urn An urn inscribed with the story of the deceased Line 41: animated Life-like

16 “Elegy” Line 43: Provoke Arouse or call forth Line 52: genial
Warm or living Line 57: Hampden John 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 61-64 Direct objects of the word forbade in line 65

17 “Elegy” Line 73: madding Wild, furious Line 76: tenor Even course
Line 79: uncouth strange Line 81: unlettered Muse The spirit of folk art

18 “Elegy” Line 84: moralist Moral man Line 92: wonted customary
Line 93: For thee Probably Gray himself; perhaps the stonecutter poet of this graveyard Line 97: Haply perhaps

19 “Elegy” Line 97: swain Rustic, country youth Line 116: thorn
Hawthorne tree Line 119: science knowledge Line 121: bounty bounteousness

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 tone Scenes of nature Exaltation 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

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