elegy written in a country churchyard questions

 elegy written in a country churchyard long answer questions

Q. 1. Write a critical appreciation of Gray’s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard?

Ans. Introduction: Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard was published in 1751. It brought Gray into lime light and his genius was recognized. Its success was instantaneous and overwhelming. A dignified elegy in classical diction celebrating the graves of humble and unknown villagers was, in itself, such a novelty that all paid attention to it. Its theme that the lives of the rich and poor alike ‘lead’ but to the grave’ was already familiar. Gray’s treatment made all conscious of their foul s doings and worldly activities. The elegy had the effect of suggesting that it was not only the ‘rude forefathers of the villagers’ he was mourning but the death of all men and of the poet himself. It gave the poem its universal appeal.

Love for Rural Life-Evening at a Village:   Sitting at the churchyard of Stoke Poges, the poet accounts for the rural activities at evening. The evening bell has warned people to cover their fires, put out their lights, and go to bed. The bellowing group of animals is going on tract with farmers walking with tired steps leaving all in darkness

The Plowman homeward plods his weary way

And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

 Interest in Ruins and the Churchyard:

The poet draws a lively word picture of the churchyard. Under rough hedge trees and trees with thick dark green leaves, dry grass moves hither and thither with wind There are graves decaying to dust. Dead bodies of uneducated villagers are laid in graves. The pleasant morning has no importance for the dead in graven. The poet regards the morning as a person, that is, he personifies morning. Personification is seldom used now, but the eighteenth-century poets delighted in it. It is frequently employed in this poem. No music by birds or alarm by the cock would rouse them from their graves

Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,

The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.

Interest for the Dead: The poet feels sorry for those farmers who are no more. Now no stove is burnt for then. The housewives do not care for evening duties and children do not wait for their return. They have no wish for kiss. When they were alive, they used to cut the harvest with his Ekle. Their plough used to break hard soil with their string attacks They used to drive their bullocks quite happily to their field.

How jocund did they drive their team afield!

How bowed the woods beneath their sturdy stroke!

Note of Realism: The poet warns those who are proud enough to blame the poor farmers for not having built memorials for their dead forefathers. It was the custom to bury the poorer people of a village in the churchyard, and the rich or high-born ones in the church. But the poet does not regard it a matter to be proud of for all these vain custom or formalities are meaningless. The loud songs of their false praise cannot make them alive. The funeral urns such as were used by the ancients were frequently decorated with scenes from the life of the deceased or life-like statues can’t call back the dead man to life. The dead body ha to sense to hear speeches of sycophancy made to please the dead.

Can storied urn or animated bust

Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?

Mother of Democracy: In these poor graves those unfortunate persons’ dead bodies are laid who were inspired with divine blessing They were talented enough to hold the sceptre and rule a state. On gag proper opportunity they might have played on a musical instrument thrilled the souls of all listeners. They were devoid of scholarship. They were ignorant of the wide range of knowledge and treasure of time. The discouraging poverty crushed their enthusiasm and disheartened the talent. In such a condition, they remained uneducated and backward.

But Knowledge to their eyes her ample page

Rich with the spoils of time did ne’er unroll;

 Pessimistic Philosophy: The poet asks who is not victim of dead and who gives up the life full of joy and sorrow quite willingly. In fact, nobody welcomes death. Everybody dies with desire of living more. Every dying person has faith on a particular friend or relative and hands over his responsibilities to him. The dying person expects some true tears the eyes of his near and dear ones. Whenever they see his grave, they think about liking and disliking as well as dreams and hopes of the dead. It reminds, of the incomplete wishes of the dead.

On some fond breast the parting soul relies,

Some pious drops the closing eye requires;

 Self-portrait-Note of Subjectivity: The poet fears that nobody would think about him. Gray refers to himself as the writer of this poem He imagines that perchance by a passing thought a gentle man enquires about his welfare. Perhaps a country gallant or the addresses would rep that in the morning he could be seen walking fast. At sun-set he used to visit a cleared place in a wood, not cultivated.

 For thee, who mindful of th ‘unhonoured Dead

Dost in these lines their artless tale relate;

 Love for Death: The enquirer would be told about Gray that he sat there at the foot of distant forest tree that decorates its old fantastic roots an high. He would spend there his dull time at midday and look attentively the stream that flows by it. He used to wander in the distant wood, smiling as in scorn. Being last in his wayward thoughts he would wander. He was a dull sorrowful man, like one cheerless, or an unfortunate man mad with care, or rejected in hopeless love. He would say that daily he used to see Gray on a hill but one morning he missed him on that hull Nor was he seen along the open uncultivated ground, and near his favourite forest tree. Another day came but Gray was not seen even beside the stream Gray was seen neither up the lawn, nor at the wood. The next day he saw some people with dirges and in sad black mourning clothes walking slow through the church- way path. He saw him borne to be buried. He asks those who enquire about Gray to go and read the lines engraved on the stone beneath distant aged thorn-bush.

 The Poetic Virtues of the Elegy: The poem is a first-rate elegy.

  • Its defects are two; bookish poetic diction and excessive use of personification.
  • By nature, the poetry is classical. Yet his imagination is romantic.
  •   It reflects Gray’s love of Nature and melancholy.
  •   His sensibility is true and romantic. So his poetry is the poetry of sentiment which is deep and sincere.
  • The poem is written in elegiac stanzas. Each stanza consists of four lines.
  • The metre is iambic pentameter, and the rhyme scheme is:

a b a b.

According to Dr. Johnson, its images find a mirror in every mind, and its sentiments impress every heart.

Conclusion. The “Elegy” is one of the best poems of the 18th century. It is the sweetest and the saddest poem ever composed by Thomas Gray. “Had Gray written often thus, it had been vain to blame, and useless to praise him.

Q. 2. Discuss Thomas Gray as a poet?

Answer. Introduction: Thomas Gray is a well-known poet of the 18th century. In his days Neo-classicism was on the decline. Romanticism was exciting the heart-beats of some poets, but was still far away. During this period of transition, Gray produced his poetry. He was also melancholy His poetry is, therefore, standard poetry of weighty thoughts and sincere feelings. Yet his poetic out-put is very little. So he is considered a minor poet of striking poetry.

Main Characteristics: The main characteristics of his poetry are follows:

1. Melancholy Note: His poetry is marked by melancholy feelings. They are not unreal. They are genuine and deep also. For example, Elegy Written In A Country Churchyard abounds with melancholy thoughts. His heart was large and his soul was sincere and pensive. So his melancholy entered every poem whose poetic thought touched human misery. He had great sympathy for the poor. He laments their lot as follows:

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 on the desert air

2. His Classical Style: His style is classical. So, the form of his poetry is classical by every critical standard. He confines his themes to human interests. His poetic diction borrows freely from the conventional language of English classicism. For example, he employs “swain” for a rustic, and “hoary-headed” for old. His poetry is also marked by abstract Personification. “Fortune”, “Fame,” “science”, “Misery”, etc., are common sights in his poems. But his classicism is greatly artistic. He aims at two things at once. They are the harmony in tone and the perfection of poetic form. According to Cazamian, he achieves these things to a great degree.

3. Sweet Poetic Music: Another quality of his poetry is sweet poetic music. But the music is grave and slow-moving. He produces such music by adapting his rhythms to his sentiments. He does it with great pains. He is not in a hurry. To illustrate, he began his “Elegy” in 1745 and finished it in 1750. To produce sober classical word-music, he employs all his art. According to one critic, he is the second poet, after Milton, who has succeeded in producing such music. Here are two lines to support this point:

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day

The lowing herd winds slowly o’er the lea.

4. Romantic Imagination: Inspite of being a classical poet by conviction, he is romantic at heart. But his talent is disciplined. He flies on the wings of romantic imaginations, when his sentiments carry him away. Yet his images are fresh and striking. At times, they are word pictures of great attraction. But generally, they are symbols of sentiments His imagination looks back into the past or the future. His imagination can search any corner of the world to find an image which can support his poetic idea.

5. His Love of Nature: Unwittingly, he has love of nature. Every now and then he gets down to describe a scene of nature. There are several descriptions of Nature in “Elegy”. Here is an extract to support this point: Here we can see that his Nature description is very minute. And it proves his love of Nature.

6. A Great Poet Artist: According to Cazamian, Thomas Gray is a great poet artist of classical principles. He weighs every word or phrase from the point of its poetic value. It should be pure, dignified, beautiful, fluid, and musical. His ear is perfect in this respect. He is a great master of classical versification; his rhythm and cadence are sure and impressive. His metre is iambus. His poetic skill is a rare thing.

Conclusion: To conclude, Thomas Gray is a great poet of transition between classical and romantic ages. He is a conscious poet-artist. His faults are bookish diction and too much use of Personifications. His poetry is classical in form and romantic in spirit. He himself is classical by mind and romantic by soul. Yet his poetic Status is minor because of small poetic out-put.

Q. 3. Account for Gray as a Transitional poet?

Ans. Introduction: Gray, one of the most popular poets in English, belongs to the age of transition. 18th century is known for its neoclassicism. The publication of Thomson’s Seasons marked the rising of romanticism. The romanticism was like a gust of fresh air. Now the interest changed from big cities to small villages from kings and princes to farmers and workers, from queens and high-class ladies to a solitary reaper, from artificial to natural, from reason to emotion or from head to heart.

However, although there was dominance of romanticism yet classicism had still a strong hold. Consequently, the poets’ thoughts and feelings were romantic but expression was classical. Hence, they were called Transitional.

Elements of Romanticism in Gray: Gray has profound faith in Romanticism. As such, he has interest in the following ——

(i) Natural inspired music and poetry,

 (i)    Common man,

(iii) High imagination,

(iv) Strong emotions.

(v) Supernatural.

These are explained as under:

(i) Interest in Common Man: On the Bard Gray challenges Royal authority and stands with Welsh bards. He has profound sympathy for the common, the poor, the sufferer and the helpless. In The Progress of poesy, he writes that unfortunate mankind suffers from hard labour, miserable poverty and intolerable pains.

Disease, and Sorrow’s weeping train,

And Death, sad refuge from the storms of fate

 In Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard he pleads the cause of unfortunate farmers. They suffered on account of poverty and want of proper opportunity although they possessed great talent

Full many a flower is born to blush unseen.

 And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

(ii) High Imagination: Romanticists soar high on the viewless wings of imagination. Gray has profound interest in it. Gray’s faculty of imagination is very high. The old bard in his The Bard illustrates this fact. The old bard who is somehow left alive is allowed to curse the king for such a long period. He goes on cursing Edward’s generation after generation and no soldier kills him. In The Progress of Poesy, the poets became blind for he tried to violate human limits. He made an extraordinary flight on his wings of inspired imagination to know the mystery of the Universe. He dared to see the Almighty and watch his activity. The loss of sight was caused by witnessing dazzling light. He saw; but blasted with excess of light, closed his eyes in endless night.

 (iii) Presentation of Supernatural: Romantics have profound. interest in uncommon or strange and hence in the supernatural. Gray’s interest in the supernatural becomes evident in ‘The Bard’ when the ghosts of dead bards appear before the old bard.

(iv) Elements of Classicism: As Gray is a transitional poet, he has deep faith in classicism also. He shows classical qualities like

 (i) Use of poetic diction,

(ii) Sensuous art,

(iii) Myth-making,

(iv) Symbolism,

(v) Complex structure of odes,

 (vi) Faith in classical traditions.

  • Use of Poetic Diction: Like classicists, Gray has no faith in the simple language spoken by the common people. He uses dignified language in his poems. In Bard the poet uses dignified language decorated with artistic ornaments. The following line exhibits the use of alliteration:

Frowns o’er old Conway’s foaming flood,

 In The Progress of Poesy the use of alliteration is as under

 Awake, Aeollan lyre, awake

And give to repture all thy trembling strings,

Like a Classicist Gray uses archaic words and indirect expressions. In The Bard for poetry he uses Poesy and for ‘Pindar’s lyre he uses the phrase Aeolian lyre. He refers to Shakespeare and Milton in a highly dignified language. In The Progress of Poesy for Welsh he uses Cambria and for wife the phrase half of the heart. He refers indirectly to Shakespeare and Milton. He adopts artificial style while applying artistic devices of myth making and symbolism. He takes interest in the use of excessive personification. In Elegy’ it found frequently in expressions like,

(a) Let not Ambition….

(b) Nor Grandeur hear..

(c) Can Honour’s voice….

(d) But Knowledge to

  • Myth-making and Symbolism: In the Progress of Poesy Gray makes a myth of Milton’s blindness. He that Milton became blind for he made an extraordinary flight on his wings of inspired imagination to know the mystery the Universe. He went beyond the earth to heaven and hell that are surrounded with flames. appeared in front of the Almighty who sits on a throne producing the dazzling shine. Consequently, Milton suffered from loss of sight. Gray takes interest in symbolism. In ‘Elegy’ he writes about the misfortunes of poor villagers in the following words:

 Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,

And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

Here flowers are symbols of poor farmers.

  • Sensuous Art: Gray’s sensuous art enables him to draw lively pictures in words. To illustrate, the poet asks to look at his chariot of poetry running in speed for it is driven by two fast horses. In- fact these two represent Dryden’s use of couplets in his poetry.

Behold, where Dryden’s less presumptuous car,

Two Coursers of ethereal race,

 With necks in thunder cloath’d, and long-resounding pace.

Conclusion: To conclude, Gray is a great transitional poet who displays, on one hand, romantic qualities like interest in natural inspired music and poetry, common man, high imagination, and on the other hand, interest in classical qualities like use of poetic diction, sensuous art, myth making, symbolism, complex structure of odes and classical traditions.

  Elegy written in a country churchyard short question

Q. 1. Write a Thomas Gray as a Romantic poet.

Ans. Elements of Romanticism in Gray: Gray has profound faith in Romanticism. As such, he has interest in the following —

(i) Natural inspired music and poetry,

 (ii) Common man,

(iii) High imagination,

(iv) Strong emotions.

(v) Supernatural.

These are explained as under:

(i) Interest in Common Man: On the Bard Gray challenges Royal authority and stands with Welsh bards. He has profound sympathy for the common, the poor, the sufferer and the helpless. In The Progress of poesy, he writes that unfortunate mankind suffers from hard labour, miserable poverty and intolerable pains.

Disease, and Sorrow’s weeping train,

And Death, sad refuge from the storms of fate

 In Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard he pleads the cause of unfortunate farmers. They suffered on account of poverty and want of proper opportunity although they possessed great talent

Full many a flower is born to blush unseen.

 And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

(ii) High Imagination: Romanticists soar high on the viewless wings of imagination. Gray has profound interest in it. Gray’s faculty of imagination is very high. The old bard in his The Bard illustrates this fact. The old bard who is somehow left alive is allowed to curse the king for such a long period. He goes on cursing Edward’s generation after generation and no soldier kills him. In The Progress of Poesy, the poets became blind for he tried to violate human limits. He made an extraordinary flight on his wings of inspired imagination to know the mystery of the Universe. He dared to see the Almighty and watch his activity. The loss of sight was caused by witnessing dazzling light. He saw; but blasted with excess of light, closed his eyes in endless night.

 (iii) Presentation of Supernatural: Romantics have profound. interest in uncommon or strange and hence in the supernatural. Gray’s interest in the supernatural becomes evident in ‘The Bard’ when the ghosts of dead bards appear before the old bard.

Q. 2. Write a note on Thomas Gray as a classicist.

Ans: As Gray is a transitional poet, he has deep faith in classicism also. He shows classical qualities like

 (i) Use of poetic diction,

(ii) Sensuous art,

(iii) Myth-making,

(iv) Symbolism,

(v) Complex structure of odes,

 (vi) Faith in classical traditions.

  • Use of Poetic Diction: Like classicists, Gray has no faith in the simple language spoken by the common people. He uses dignified language in his poems. In Bard the poet uses dignified language decorated with artistic ornaments. The following line exhibits the use of alliteration:

Frowns o’er old Conway’s foaming flood,

 In The Progress of Poesy the use of alliteration is as under

 Awake, Aeollan lyre, awake

And give to repture all thy trembling strings,

Like a Classicist Gray uses archaic words and indirect expressions. In The Bard for poetry he uses Poesy and for ‘Pindar’s lyre he uses the phrase Aeolian lyre. He refers to Shakespeare and Milton in a highly dignified language. In The Progress of Poesy for Welsh he uses Cambria and for wife the phrase half of the heart. He refers indirectly to Shakespeare and Milton. He adopts artificial style while applying artistic devices of myth making and symbolism. He takes interest in the use of excessive personification. In Elegy’ it found frequently in expressions like,

(a) Let not Ambition….

(b) Nor Grandeur hear..

(c) Can Honour’s voice….

(d) But Knowledge to

  • Myth-making and Symbolism: In the Progress of Poesy Gray makes a myth of Milton’s blindness. He that Milton became blind for he made an extraordinary flight on his wings of inspired imagination to know the mystery the Universe. He went beyond the earth to heaven and hell that are surrounded with flames. appeared in front of the Almighty who sits on a throne producing the dazzling shine. Consequently, Milton suffered from loss of sight. Gray takes interest in symbolism. In ‘Elegy’ he writes about the misfortunes of poor villagers in the following words:

 Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,

And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

Here flowers are symbols of poor farmers.

  • Sensuous Art: Gray’s sensuous art enables him to draw lively pictures in words. To illustrate, the poet asks to look at his chariot of poetry running in speed for it is driven by two fast horses. In- fact these two represent Dryden’s use of couplets in his poetry.

Behold, where Dryden’s less presumptuous car,

Two Coursers of ethereal race,

 With necks in thunder cloath’d, and long-resounding pace.

 Q. 3. Discuss Thomas Gray as an Elegiac poet.

Answer. Elegy-Meaning: Initially the term elegy included war song, political poems, love song and lamentations for the dead. Then the themes, selected were serious as well as gay. In fact, it was the form, and not the theme, that distinguished this type of poetry. The readers regarded any poem written elegiac as an elegy. Thus, any poem having a dactylic hexameter line with the next line in a dactylic pentameter would be called an elegy, It implies that the first line will have one long syllable and two short, six times and the second only five times.

However, now it is the theme that makes a poem an elegy whatever may its metre be. Thus, a poem with mournful or sadly reflective theme may be called an elegy. Gray is one of the elegiac or melancholy poets in English literature Whatever he has written is elegiac in tone. He came in the grip of melancholy when he was twenty and continued to be under its effect till his death. It influenced all his work. He acknowledged it and wrote to West, “Mine…is a white melancholy, or rather leucocholy, for the most part, which though seldom laughs or dances not even amounts to joy or pleasure.”

Factors: There were many factors that contributed to the elegiac note in the poet. Some were as under

(i) His weak constitution,

(ii) His adversity,

(iii) His inability to find his beloved,

 (iv) The influence of the gentle melancholy’ of his age,

(v) “The sense of tears inhuman life,’

  • The philosophic attraction in pathos,
  •  The sad aspects of life observed by him, and
  • The tendency to brood over the problems of human life.

The Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard shows Gray as a great elegiac or melancholy poet.

 (1) The tone of the Elegy suggests his romantic sympathy for poor, illiterate villagers.

(2) The human note present in the poem is elegiac and philosophical. It is an impersonal elegy as there is hardly any personal touch in the Elegy. In spite of his reference to himself towards the end of the poem, there is no “monologue of the soul.” It is an expression of his sympathy for the poor. It is pathos of the race, not of individual which tinges his contemplations with melancholy. The glow of melancholy touches our heart. The poet takes us into confidence to plead the cause of the poor villagers. He makes us realise the possible loss of genius when he says:

Chill penury repressed their noble range,

Aid froze the genial current of the soul.

Q. 4. Describe the scene of the churchyard as seen by the poet.

Answer. The poet is sitting all alone in the churchyard. It is evening time and the animals, after grazing in the grass-fields for the whole day are returning slowly. The farmers are also moving slowly towards their homes after the hard work all the day. The dusk of the evening is now changing into the darkness of night. The wind stops and there is complete solitariness. This silence is disturbed by the sound of the flight of the beetle or the ringing of the bells in the neck of the animals which they move in their sleep. From the distance, he hears the hooting of the owl sitting on the top of tower. The elm and yew trees are spread in the churchyard and under them the graves of the dead villagers are visible where they are lying for ever.

Q. 5. What capacities does the poet imagine in the dead villagers?

Answer. The poet thinks that these villagers lived unknown and died unsung, though they had great capacities and could do commendable works to achieve popularity. He asks the people of the city not to be proud of their power or wealth because nothing can save man from death. Many of these villagers were charged with heavenly inspiration. Some of them would have wielded the spectre of sovereignty in their hands or would have played upon the lyre with such a masterly skill that they would have melted the hearts of all with joy. Some humble man would have fearlessly resisted the tyranny of his landlord with courage and determination. There might have been someone who was as great a statesman as Cromwell but would have remained fortunately innocent of the guilt of the blood of his countrymen. But in spite of all these great capacities, they could not become anything because they remained uneducated all their life as they were extremely poor.

Q. 6. How does the poet eulogise the poor villagers?

 Answer. The poet has greatly praised these poor villagers and tells that they are much greater even than the people of the city. Their ambitions were quite simple which they gained easily and for them they never committed any crime. They never felt any shame for any of their act and their life was as peaceful as the silent cool valley. They were always away from the mad chase of their ambitions which we find in the life of the city. He compares them to the gem hidden in the depth of the ocean or a sweet beautiful flower which blossoms in the loneliness of the forest and then fades away in the evening and there is nobody to enjoy it.

Q.7 What does the poet say about himself?

Answer. Singing about the poor villagers, the poet becomes autobiographical and talks about himself in the later part of the Elegy. He imagines that the day will come when like those late villagers, he will also leave the world. Then some of his relatives would come to the village to know about him the villagers will tell that the poet was often seen moving lonely in the forest under the trees, sometimes he would talk to himself like a lonely and dejected person. Sometimes he would smile on himself, lie down under the tree or drink water from the river flowing nearby. But one day, he was not seen at his favourite place. The third day, his dead body was seen being carried towards the churchyard. Thus, death seems to have overpowered him also like the rustic forefathers.

Q. 8. Summarise the Epitaph attached to the Elegy.

Answer. Gray has written his own epitaph at the end of the Elegy which reveals that his melancholy mood has fully overpowered him. Here he says that the poet lies in the lap of the mother earth in his grave. He was never a favourite of his fortune nor did he get any fame. He was poor and humble but knowledge always blessed him. He had a sincere soul and had love and sympathy for everybody. God was his affectionate father. His merits made him hopeful of getting the mercy of God and he is looking for the day of Judgement, when he would be face to face with God, his father.

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