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10/04/2018

"Elegy Written In country Churchyard" as an elegy.


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According to  H. M. Abrams the elegy is  “A formal and sustained lament in verse for the death of a particular person,  usually ending in a consolation.”  It is a kind of lyric, meditative in nature. It begins with a description of gloomy atmosphere that sets the mood of mourning.  “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” is a  famous elegy that deals with the mortality of human beings in General and the  decay of a cherished way of life in particular. It has a pastoral setting, melancholic enough to sustain the grief of the mourner. However, instead of the death of a particular person, it mourns the death of the poor villagers and their simple way of life. It ends traditionally with consolation like any other elegy. In every consideration it is a unique elegy in English.
An elegy begins with the description of nature reflecting a gloomy atmosphere that matches well with the sorrowful mood of the mourners. Similarly,  “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” sets the elegiac mood in the first three stanzas in keeping  with the convention of the elegy. The parting day,   “lowing  herd”,   weary ploughman,   ”glimmering  landscape”,  droning of  beetles,  hooting of the owl, are all used to create an atmosphere  that adequately reflects the desired sorrowful mood suitable for the mourner.
Then, following the tradition, the mourner reveals that he is sorrowful because of the dead villagers buried in the country churchyard. This revelation is followed by a description of the simple pastoral life of the poor villagers. The humble life style of the villagers praised between the fourth and seventh stanzas demands sympathy and respect.
Next, the mourner speaker  accuses the ambitious rich people neglecting these poor villagers and censured their pompous way life. This expression of dissatisfaction at the present way of life another convention of the elegy. After this criticism of the rich, Gray refers to the universal law of death and the ultimate desire of every human heart.
But Gray digresses from the tradition in that he passes on from the villagers to his own fate. He anticipates his own death and hopes that a shepherd will be his mourner. Thus, he merges the universal with the particular. However, he follows the elegiac tradition in closing the poem with consolation. He consoles himself expecting  God’s  forgiveness after his death.
“Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”  is, therefore, an exceptional elegy. It follows the tradition of the pastoral elegy in creating a congenial setting, appreciating the life of the dead, censoring the decay of traditional values, and ending the poem with consolation. But Gray deviates from the tradition in allowing the mourner to lament for all the dead villagers instead of a particular person, in anticipating his own death and his own mourner.

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