Saturday, 3 May 2014

ELEGY WRITTEN IN A COUNTRY CHURCHYARD [ Thomas Gray ]


1.Answer in a paragraph of not more than 100 words
Comment on the use of transferred epithets and personifications in the Elegy  In Thomas Gray’s Elegy there are a number of ‘transferred epithets’. The poem abounds in this figure of speech. He uses “weary way” in the first stanza. ‘weary’ is transferred from the ploughman to ‘way’. Similarly in the line ‘the beetle wheels his droning flight’ the epithet droning is transferred from the beetle to ‘flight’. In the line ‘the passing tribute of a sigh’ the word passing is transferred from the passer-by to ‘tribute’. Similarly the poem abounds in personifications. The abstract nouns like ‘Ambition’, Grandeur, Memory, Death, Knowledge, Luxury and Pride are personified to human being or gods. In the Epitaph, the abstract nouns like Fortune, fame, science, melancholy and misery are personified.

2. What are the pictures of the simple homely joys and the useful toil of the peasants the poem presents before us?
 “Elegy written in a country churchyard” written by Thomas Gray is one of the most famous poems in English literature. The poem is enriched with beautiful epigrammatic phrases. “The paths of glory lead but to the grave”, “The curfew tolls the knell of parting day” are a few of them. An Elegy is a poem lamenting the death of a person. Thomas Gray laments the death of the poor, landless peasants of his hamlet Stoke Poges.  They are dead and buried in the church cemetery for ever awaiting the Judgement Day. So the poet says that “the rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep”. The poet has used a number of effective personifications which add to the beauty of the poem. Gray introduces a suitable atmosphere which is very effective to the Elegy. The church bell ringing the “curfew” is the death bell of the dying day. It is getting dark and the crescent moon appears in the sky. The peace and silence of the churchyard is broken by the droning flight of the beetle, the tinkling noise of the bell from the sheep’s neck and the cry (hooting) of the owl from the disused ivy covered tower.
 Now the poet tells us the story of the “rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep” in the churchyard. Early in the morning they used to wake up by the sweet smelling breeze and other noises such as the twittering of the swallow birds, the sound of the cocks and the horn of the hunters in the surrounding jungle. They enjoyed their work. They cut down trees and made farm. They went to farm with their cattle and ploughed the field, sowed seeds and made very good harvest. They worked hard from dawn to dusk. In the evening when they came back home with their cattle, their children welcomed them with sweet kisses and their wives made very tasty food for them. Thus their life was full of innocent, homely joys. They lived in peace and love. The Bible was everything for them. If they said a lie, it was reflected on their faces and they were ashamed of it. They strictly followed the teachings of the Bible and they died in peace.

3. How does the Elegy reflect Gray’s democratic spirit? In his “Elegy written in a Country Churchyard” Thomas Gray warns the rich and the grandeur people not to laugh at the ‘short and simple annals of the poor’ because the family reputation, the glory of wealth and beauty and the pomp of political power and all other human achievements are short-lived and buried with man in the tomb. These landless peasants are the food producers of England. During his period all poems were written about the glory of kings, landlords and other great men and women. No one dared to write anything about the misery and sorrow of poor people. But Thomas Gray showed democratic spirit when he wrote about the ‘rude forefathers of the hamlet’. These farmers are far greater than the rich and the grandeur people of London city because these rude illiterate farmers have not committed any crime in their lives and they strictly followed the teachings of the Bible and worked hard from dawn to dusk and enjoyed their simple innocent family joys and died in peace.
4. Explain the relevance of the lines:  Full many a gem of purest ray serene
                                                         The dark unfathom’d caves of ocean bear:
                                                          Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
                                                          And waste its sweetness in the desert air.

 Thomas Gray, the great English poet in his poem “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” laments the death of the ‘rude forefathers of the hamlet’. These landless peasants are as pure as the precious gems and gold ornaments hidden in the dark caves of ocean. These peasants had great poetic, administrative and leadership qualities but at the same time they were great moralists of the period. But utter poverty prevented them from going to school to develop their inborn talents. This is why the poet compares their lives to beautiful, sweet smelling flowers of the jungle where their beauty and fragrance are wasted.

5. “The paths of glory lead but to the grave” – Comment.   Thomas Gray in his famous poem “Elegy Written in a country churchyard” warns the rich, the grandeur people of the city not to look down upon the ‘simple, short annals’ of the rude forefathers of the hamlet or their useful work because these hardworking farmers are the food producers of England. Although they lived in poverty, they enjoyed their work and innocent homely joys and kept away from the criminal activities of the city people. The speaker also warns them that family reputation, show of political power and the glories of beauty and wealth are short lived. All these human achievements are buried with man in the churchyard.

6.  Examine with reference to the “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”, Gray’s status as a transition poet
Thomas Gray’s famous poem “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” is a turning point in English poetry because there are many traces of Romanticism in this poem. Although it is a Neo-classical poem, it abounds with the basic qualities of Romanticism. Therefore it is a transitional poem. With its lyrical qualities, its treatment of Nature and rustic life, its melancholy mood, humanism, its emotional and imaginative qualities and above all its democratic spirit, this poem is partly romantic and partly Neo-classical poem of Augustan Age. Neo-classical poetry of Alexander Pope, John Milton and others, we find town life and cultural, artificial values. But in Elegy, we find the rustic life of common man and his day to day expressions. It also deals with the personal pain and frustration of the poet. On the other hand the Neo-classical poetry dealt with the story of the rich, the grandeur and gods and goddesses. But Elegy speaks about the sufferings and pain of the down-trodden, the exploited class by the Feudal landlords. Love of Nature is another important element of this poem. However,the form of Gray’s elegy is more classical than romantic. The poet uses many a number of personifications and ‘transferred epithets and outmoded bombastic phrases which are the hall mark of Neo-classical poetry. The poem is also didactic in nature and gives certain moral lessons about life. Therefore Thomas Gray is a transition poet.
Essay:  The answers of Question No. 2, 3, 5 and 6 are used for essay.

Kjt/19=1=2013

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