The poem was written in the classical style, but has elements of the Romantic poets who relished in the power of the individual, the beauty of nature, and the supernatural among other things. Probably the most important factor pointing to the poem's popularity is that it idealizes the comman man, and brings his importance in the universe to an equal status with those who were wealthy and affluent.
The poem invokes the classical idea of memento mori, a Latin phrase which states plainly to all mankind, "Remember that you must die." The speaker considers the fact that in death, there is no difference between great and common people. He goes on to wonder if among the lowly people buried in the churchyard there had been any natural poets or politicians whose talent had simply never been discovered or nurtured. This thought leads him to praise the dead for the honest, simple lives that they lived.