An elegy is a poem that mourns the death of a person or laments something lost; a meditation on the nature of death
Gray reluctantly published the poem anonymously after hearing of an uncouth publisher who threatened to publish his work.
Gray was extremely private with his writings—publishing was a painful experience followed by unwanted fame.
The poem takes place at dusk within a country churchyard/cemetery. This adds to the symbolic nature of the poem: the setting of the sun in one’s own life.
The Owl depicts those who are intruded upon by daily life or the outside world. Here she hears the beetle’s “droning flight” and the cowbells both of which are reminders of the hurried quality of modern life.
The cemetery is described as a “narrow cell” that houses the bodies of those who once lived in this tiny “hamlet”/bucolic existence.
The Imagined Life of Villagers
Elements of a typical day within this hamlet consisted of the following: waking to the sound of the birds and the rooster crowing, the mother tending the hearth fire and cleaning the house, while the father worked to earn a living only to be welcomed home by his children at the close of day. It is a picture of domestic bliss and solitude: a picture that is no more.
This poem is being written about the anonymous poor who lives in this rural existence.
The poet stresses that all mankind is united in death (see line 36). This is the thematic issue within the work: We all share a common end—the grave.
Just as the soul cannot return to the body, the “mansion” cannot call the “fleeting breath” back home. Death is final.
Man’s Unused Potential
Gray states that talent/virtue is wasted if not seen by the public. He implies that the unknown poor may have been the next revolutionary thinkers (Milton & Cromwell) but due to the circumstances of birth they are forced to remain unfulfilled.
The Restoration’s class/social system underscored the unused potential of this time. The haves were allowed to pursue their dreams of education while the have-nots were forced to speculate on how their lives could/should have been.
Desire of the Lowliest to Be Remembered
The country poor wish and deserve to be remembered. Gray emphasizes that they teach a moral lesson to the living on how to die with dignity.
Everyone, regardless of social standing or position, expect to be remembered and mourned by their loved ones.
The tone is mournful/sad/nostalgic because each death is important to the loved one’s family. Each life matters; all humanity should grieve for those lost to death.
The poem is commemorating the “unhonored dead” who unwittingly participate in the “artless tale” of life and death. The “lines” of this poem reverence the lives of so many that time has passed into anonymity.
In stanza 25, a new speaker is employed to speak about the young poet in the remaining 8 stanzas. This speaker is unidentified to highlight the obscurity of the dead.
As he walks among the cemetery, the young poet recites his verse, rests beside the river, and exhibits a lonely and troubled nature. Until one morning, he too passes into the arms of death.
The epitaph at the end of this work is created for Thomas Gray by Thomas Gray. He remarks upon his merits and frailties as “they alike” serve to represent the story of his life.
The inspiration for this work is linked to Gray’s greatest tragedy: the death of his best friend, Richard West, at the age of 24 from TB
Swift’s Modest Proposal
Satire background and author notes p.620
Use of Persuasive Appeals & Literary Devices
Swift’s plan will eliminate abortion and infanticide (ethical/emotional)
Children are an easily renewable food source (logical)
Children are priced to sell (understatement)
The proposal is called “modest” but is instead outrageous (verbal irony)
The very idea of selling a child for food is a reversal of all that we value (situational irony)
Swift mimics the language of business (parody)
KEY IDEA: Swift claims that society as a whole, including the Protestants, the landlords, the tavern owners and wine merchants, and the poor themselves will benefit. In truth, the poor would suffer horrendously.
“Essay on Man”
Author background p. 610
Essay on Man
A heroic couplet is a pair of rhyming lines that express a memorable thought.
Many of the couplets express a complete thought in a complete sentence, thus making the couplet closed.