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Gray's “Elegy Written In A Country Churchyard”

2257 words - 9 pages

“Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” is a poem composed by Thomas Gray over a period of ten years. Beginning shortly after the death of his close friend Richard West in 1742, “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” was first published in 1751. This poem’s use of dubbal entendre may lead the intended audience away from the overall theme of death, mourning, loss, despair and sadness; however, this poem clearly uses several literary devices to convey the author’s feelings toward the death of his friend Richard West, his beloved mother, aunt and those fallen soldiers of the Civil War. This essay will discuss how Gray uses that symbolism and dubbal entendre throughout the poem to convey the inevitability of death, mourning, conflict within self, finding virtue in one’s life, dealing with one’s misfortunes and giving recognition to those who would otherwise seem insignificant.
In the poem “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” Gray is symbolizing death using the method of dubbal entendre. In the opening stanza Gray states, “The curfew tolls the knell of parting day, / The lowing herd wind slowly o’er the lea, / The plowman homeward plods his weary way, / And leaves the world to darkness and to me” (1-4). The speaker is literally observing his surroundings as the day comes to an end, noticing the cows slowly moving to the other side of the mountaintop and a tired plowman making his way home leaving him to contemplate in the darkness. However, the underlying connotation in the first stanza is death which Gray symbolizes with the use of the word “knell”. Knelling is the ringing of a bell at a funeral; therefore, the reader can infer in the first line when Gray states, “The curfew tolls the knell of parting day” (1) is about it being time for someone to pass away. Also in line one the “parting day” becomes symbolic to the span of someone’s life. In line three of the first stanza the speaker says there is a weary plowman making his way home, which can be referenced to someone being tired of suffering and making their way to heaven. In line four of the first stanza the speaker says the plowman leaves the world to him and the darkness which is symbolic to someone being left alone to mourn or grieve the loss of someone close to them.
Gray continues on by stating in stanza two, “Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight, / And all the air a solemn stillness holds, / Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight, / And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds” (5-8). In the second stanza the speaker seems to be describing a serene environment where there is peacefulness, darkness and silence. However, death continues to be the theme of this poem as this stanza is about the act of putting someone into their grave site. “Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight” (4) is a reflection of the lowering of the body into the four walls of solid earth. The “glimmering landscape” no longer appears as the casket becomes surrounded by “solemn...

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