Thomas Gray: Poems
Immortality in Thomas Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard"
Thomas Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" is a melancholic poem that considers the possibility of immortality for the people buried in the churchyard the speaker visits. Although previous sections of the poem explore different ideas, such as the speaker's remorse for those who passed their earthly lives ignobly and seemingly without consequence, "Elegy" closes with five strong quatrains and the epitaph, which emphasize Gray's belief in the (at least figurative) immortality of the dead. The poem's other seemingly unconnected themes appear connected to the main theme of life after death. Finally, the poem considers the nature of the speaker's own immortality as a possibility in either a physical or figurative sense. Ultimately, "Elegy" argues that the dead do seem to live and achieve a kind of immortality.
For the first twelve quatrains of the poem, the speaker appears content to bemoan the presence of death which cancels out of all the small pleasures of life. Somber adjectives such as "solemn," "lowly," and "fleeting" permeate his descriptions of dying, and emphasize on the simple pleasurable experiences of everyday life:
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