Write a critical appreciation of Thomas Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard." 

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lynnebh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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There is a good explanation of this poem right here on eNotes, at the link below.

Essentially, the poem can be summed up by the following line (from the poem):

The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

Note that the poem is "written in a COUNTRY churchyard." This poem, therefore, is about the deaths of common people, farmers, workers, mothers and fathers:

Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield,
Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke;
How jocund did they drive their team afield!
How bow'd the woods beneath their sturdy stroke!

An "elegy" is a poetic lament for the dead, and this poem celebrates the honor of lives that were lived simply, but happily. Just because the people buried in this country churchyard were common people, does not mean that their lives were not important in God's eyes.

As the epitaph on the gravestone says:

No farther seek his merits to disclose,
Or draw his frailties from their dread abode
(There they alike in trembling hope repose),
The bosom of his Father and his God.

Death is a type of rest in which nothing one has accomplished on earth matters. We leave our hopes, our dreams, our "frailties" and our "merits" at the grave as we enter into the "hope and respose" of the Father, God.

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