"The Rape of the Lock" and "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" are both long poems written in the eighteenth century. Aside from this basic description, almost everything about them is different. "The Rape of the Lock" is a satire and a mock epic. It uses the grandiose language of Homer and Virgil, with extended similes and metaphors, to emphasize the trivial nature of the incident it describes, the theft of a lock of hair. "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" states in its title that it is an elegy, though in form it more closely resembles a mid eighteenth-century ode. It is a meditation on death, much more somber and philosophical in tone than "The Rape of the Lock."
One might say that the subjects of both poems are compared to their disadvantage with heroes. In "The Rape of the Lock," however, aristocrats and courtiers in contemporary England are contrasted with the great heroes of the Iliad and the Odyssey. These courtiers are from noble, if not quite royal, backgrounds and they differ from the Homeric heroes principally in being idle and trivial. Gray's "mute, inglorious Milton" and "village Hampden," by contrast, might have heroic qualities and abilities but have been prevented by an accident of birth from achieving heroic stature in the world.