Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard Analysis – Part 2

Complete Analysis of Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard

This is the continuing analysis of the wonderful poem, “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” by Thomas Gray! This present page provides a detailed analysis of elegy written in a country churchyard from stanza 7 to stanza 11. I’d suggest you to get back to the analysis of the preceding stanzas by clicking here and thereafter continue reading this. ( Only if you haven’t read the previous stanzas’ analysis)

The exceptional choice of worlds, enriching personification, ultimate thoughts about human fate and the very environment in which the poem evolved has made Elegy one of the most enriched poems in English language. This great poem might never have been published if the author was to do it all. Thomas Gray never felt like publishing Elegy.

It was through one of Gray’s friend, the poem was published and something which dismayed the poet, as he didn’t like the journal where it was publisher. Since then Elegy has been a hit among the reader, owning to its classical richness and the universal thought of leaving empty handed, which stir so much emotion! Everywhere Gray’s Elegy resonates!


Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard Analysis Line by Line

Stanza 7

Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield,
Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke;
How jocund did they drive their team afield!
How bow’d the woods beneath their sturdy stroke!

Every day the villagers go to the field to cut the crops with their sickle, make furrows at regular intervals to plant trees and how happily they work on the fields with their fellow villagers, as a team! The hard lumps of earth succumbed to their sickle. The strong stroke of their axe let a lot of branches fall from the woods which they took on their way back to home.

  • Oft: often, Furrow: hollow channel in field, Glebe: earth, Jocund: cheerful, Sturdy: strong, Strokes: blows of axe, Sickle is a crescent shaped harvesting tool. It is swing from right to left to cut the growing plants.


Expressions Captured

Stanza 8

Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,
Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;
Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile
The short and simple annals of the poor.

The narrator expresses his deep sympathy for the villagers of Stoke Poges and informs the readers, let not Ambition mock these people by saying that they were totally useless. They very happy and content with their ‘homely joys.’ Through there was nothing for them in the future, wealth, luxury of anything, but the simple records of these people speaks by itself!

  • Mock: scorn, Toil: work, Destiny obscure: a future which is austere and much depressing, Grandeur: Pompous life; Disdainful: sneering and scornful. Grandeur is used as a personification referring to people who possess abundant wealth and social recognition. Annals refer to simple historical records!


Thoughful Elegy Interpretation

Stanza 9

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow’r,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave,
Awaits alike th’ inevitable hour.
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

You may boast of your bravery, speak of Excalibur and King Arthur, discuss about the power you’ve achieved in your lifetime. You may be the most beautiful men or women of your time with abundance in wealth and riches! However, the entrails of your grave contains only soil and is devoid of all the glory you acquired!
Let not Grandeur (referring to grand people) look at them with contempt and smile at the petty records of life of these people.

  • The phrase ‘Boast of heraldry’ refers to the pride and aristocracy of the rich people. Heraldry is associated with rich family line of the noble personages.
  • Pomp: extravagant ceremonies, rituals of nobles and royals. Boast: pride, The paths of glory resembles to the scintillating career, Grave: death
    The phrase ‘inevitable hour’ is an example of Euphemism, denoting the hour of death, in a smooth tone!


The poem received a great literary sensation amongst literary enthusiast when published by Robert Dodsley.
The life of the people of Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire and the graveyards which brought a reflective soothing tone to the poem was admire by one and sundry.

Symbolism of Life and Death in Elegy

Stanza 10

Nor you, ye proud, impute to these the fault,
If Mem’ry o’er their tomb no trophies raise,
Where thro’ the long-drawn aisle and fretted vault
The pealing anthem swells the note of praise.

The incapability of the rustics to raise a memory or a commemorations over their tomb does make them low. Their tombs are side by side with the rich, under the same ornamented arched floor of the church from where one could also hear the lofty music. All the glories finally find its eternal way into the grave.

  • Gray wrote the ‘elegy’ after the death of his close friend Richard West. Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard seems to be his masterpiece which he completed almost in a span of ten years
  • Impute: attribute. Mem’ry is used as a personification, actually referring to the predecessors remembering them! trophies: memorials, aisle: corridor, swells: lift up, notes: song
  • Where thro’ the long-drawn aisle and fretted vault; The pealing anthem swells the note of praise: This refers to the description of the church which houses the tombs of the privileged people along with the songs of praise. The beautiful phrase ‘fretted vault’ actually refers to a carved vaulted roof of the church. Pealing anthem refers to the music which you’ve often heard in the church.

Personification in Elegy

Stanza 11

Can storied urn or animated bust
Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?
Can Honour’s voice provoke the silent dust,
Or Flatt’ry soothe the dull cold ear of Death?

These people are not to be blamed, if no ornamental edifice rises over their graves. Like the graves of great men, they do not possess the arch and the majestic decorations, neither thousands of people gather and praises about them. Beautiful decoration across the graves of great men and praise worthy speeches will not bring them back to their mansions. The breath of life has left them and they are all dead, neither words of honor nor the tricks of flattery will entertain the cold ears of the dead.

  • Storied: decorated with designs which inscribe the history of the dead person, urn is an utensil used for holding the ashes of the deceased, animated bust: life-like statue, fleeting breath: the dying breath, honour: the echoes of earthy fame, provoke: incite, silent dust: the dead people, soothe: pacify


What Next

Wait! Don’t stretch your arms and legs right now! There’s a bit of more study that you’ve to do!

The Stanzas from 12 to 17 are still awaiting your presence! Some more of Gray’s thoughts that you cannot really miss!

Read the next article: Analysis continues

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