"Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard"
Thomas Gray, 1751
From when I was a small boy, I have always liked to wander about a cemetery and read the inscriptions on the stones, and wonder what the people who lay there were like, and what kind of life they led. Sometimes you find a small clue in the dates: this woman must have died in childbirth; this man with the grave-marker of a veteran was just the right age for having fought in the Civil War. Sometimes the epitaph is revealing. My wife chose for her mother a verse from Scripture that applied also to the woman’s fierce loyalty: “Great is Thy Faithfulness.”
In our poem this week, Thomas Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard,” we accompany the poet as he looks at the gravestones of men who died far from the great and remembered actions in the world, far from seats of government and power, far from the universities and their funds of knowledge. Yet Gray understands that, as far as natural talents are concerned, and the dispositions of the soul that might make much of those tale…
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