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10/06/2018

The diction and imagery of “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard ”.

   Thomas Gray was the poet of a time when a transition from Neo-classical ideals to that of romanticism  was taking place. Naturally, the trends of classicism and romanticism run in his poems. Within the classical framework the diction and the imagery he uses here are functional. His selection of words and choice of imagery successfully create the desired elegiac mood  and convey the intended meaning.  Gray uses a grand style in this  “Elegy”. Though there are monosyllabic or disyllabic words, there are also  tri-syllabic and multi-syllabic words arranged in such a way that they impart a flair of grandiose to the diction, for example,  “glimmering”  ”Ambition”,  ”heraldry”,  ”celestial”,  ”Forgetfulness”  and the like. Moreover, he piles up epithets in Greek manner. For example,  “parting day”,  ”lowly bed”,  ”blazing hearth”,  ”fretted vault”,  ”fleeting breath”,  ”ignoble strife”  are all original and startling expressions made by epithets plus nouns. He has also made use of personifications in  classical manner. For instance,  “Ambition”,  ”Grandeur”,  ”Memory”,  ”Death”,  ”Knowledge”,  ”Pride”,  ”Melancholy”,  ”Misery” and so on, are personifications in the style of the Augustan poets. These epithets and personifications do not harm the elegance of the poem. They rather add poetic charm to the poem.  The imagery of the poem is vivid and highly suggestive. For example,in the setting of the melancholic mood,the atmosphere of the evening has been evoked by a number of word pictures. They are: the herd walking down following a winding path over the grass land, the villagers returning home after day-long hard labour with tired steps, the fading light of the sun, the sounds of the beetle, owls and bell. All these images are clear and vivid and contribute to the melancholic mood of the poem. Similarly, the images of the unknown gems and flowers are highly suggestive. The images of the churchyard beneath the old elms and the image of the poet lying under a tree near a brook at noon are really vivid and suggestive. All these images, rich in associative meaning, create a suitable atmosphere for mourning and heighten the poetic effect.  So, the diction and imagery chosen for the poem are functional rather than decorative. They are well-matched with the melancholic mood of the elegy. They create a proper atmosphere and convey the sublime  feelings of the speaker.  The poem has both classical and romantic elements in it. The grave tone, the didacticism, the heroic verse lines and the formal diction are classical elements. On the other hand, choice of nature as setting, selection of common people as characters, melancholic note, criticism of social vanities and nostalgic note are romantic elements. The poem is mainly objective but there are a few subjective touches. It is a unique creation rich in varieties. It is traditional yet innovative.


Thomas Gray was the poet of a time when a transition from Neo-classical ideals to that of romanticism  was taking place. Naturally, the trends of classicism and romanticism run in his poems. Within the classical framework the diction and the imagery he uses here are functional. His selection of words and choice of imagery successfully create the desired elegiac mood  and convey the intended meaning.
Gray uses a grand style in this  “Elegy”. Though there are monosyllabic or disyllabic words, there are also  tri-syllabic and multi-syllabic words arranged in such a way that they impart a flair of grandiose to the diction, for example,  “glimmering”  ”Ambition”,  ”heraldry”,  ”celestial”,  ”Forgetfulness”  and the like. Moreover, he piles up epithets in Greek manner. For example,  “parting day”,  ”lowly bed”,  ”blazing hearth”,  ”fretted vault”,  ”fleeting breath”,  ”ignoble strife”  are all original and startling expressions made by epithets plus nouns. He has also made use of personifications in  classical manner. For instance,  “Ambition”,  ”Grandeur”,  ”Memory”,  ”Death”,  ”Knowledge”,  ”Pride”,  ”Melancholy”,  ”Misery” and so on, are personifications in the style of the Augustan poets. These epithets and personifications do not harm the elegance of the poem. They rather add poetic charm to the poem.
The imagery of the poem is vivid and highly suggestive. For example,in the setting of the melancholic mood,the atmosphere of the evening has been evoked by a number of word pictures. They are: the herd walking down following a winding path over the grass land, the villagers returning home after day-long hard labour with tired steps, the fading light of the sun, the sounds of the beetle, owls and bell. All these images are clear and vivid and contribute to the melancholic mood of the poem. Similarly, the images of the unknown gems and flowers are highly suggestive. The images of the churchyard beneath the old elms and the image of the poet lying under a tree near a brook at noon are really vivid and suggestive. All these images, rich in associative meaning, create a suitable atmosphere for mourning and heighten the poetic effect.
So, the diction and imagery chosen for the poem are functional rather than decorative. They are well-matched with the melancholic mood of the elegy. They create a proper atmosphere and convey the sublime  feelings of the speaker.
The poem has both classical and romantic elements in it. The grave tone, the didacticism, the heroic verse lines and the formal diction are classical elements. On the other hand, choice of nature as setting, selection of common people as characters, melancholic note, criticism of social vanities and nostalgic note are romantic elements. The poem is mainly objective but there are a few subjective touches. It is a unique creation rich in varieties. It is traditional yet innovative.

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