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What is the explanation of the 18th stanza of the poem "Elegy Written in a Country...

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user8354023 | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 23, 2013 at 10:48 AM via web

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What is the explanation of the 18th stanza of the poem "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" by Thomas Gray?

 

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wordprof | College Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted January 23, 2013 at 8:06 PM (Answer #1)

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"The struggling pangs of conscious truth to hide, >To quench the blushes of ingenuous shame, Or heap the shrine of Luxury and Pride With incense kindled at the Muse's flame." Gray is recounting the unexpressed and un-acted upon thoughts and emotions of average, everyday people, all those who never got their names in history books or anthologies of poetry, the quiet masses, and his main point here in this stanza is that they had opinions and they struggled with their consciences and anguished over staying quiet about their thoughts. They struggled not to voice their opinions but to keep quiet about them; they wrote no poems (“heap the shrine of Luxury and Pride”), and did not rise up in opposition to the injustices, even though they saw them, just as famous rebels and fighters (Cromwell and Milton are mentioned in stanza sixteen). “Ingenuous” means “showing innocence.” Gray is praising all mankind for having ethical and poetic thoughts; even though they were never recognized during their lifetime, they were just as noble as those we honor publicly. This graveyard is filled with their spirit, and Gray is finally giving them the elegy they all deserve; for him they are like "flowers" that did not "waste their sweetness on the desert air", because Gray acknowledges them here.

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