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In the seventeenth stanza of "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" by Thomas Gray,...

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kfang56 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted September 15, 2012 at 8:24 PM via web

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In the seventeenth stanza of "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" by Thomas Gray, what possible blessing does the poet mention the lack of fame and opportunity may have afforded the humble?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted September 15, 2012 at 8:53 PM (Answer #1)

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In the seventeenth stanza of "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard", by Thomas Gray, the lack of fame and opportunity for the poor is seen as both advantage and disadvantage from different perspectives. Although the humble do not have the scope for the great and glorious deeds that are performed by the powerful and wealthy, neither do they have the opportunity for great sins. Thus their situation:

...  nor circumscribed alone
Their growing virtues, but their crimes
          confin'd;

This echoes a common Christian notion that "blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." Although the limited scope for great deeds may seem a misfortune from a worldly point of view, in fact, worldly fame and fortune are not important after death, and thus in the setting of a graveyard, God's giving the humble limited opportunities for committing evil is actually a blessing.

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