What does the speaker imagine these humble people might have become if they'd had the opportunity in "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard"?Lines 45-60

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In imagining what the humble people buried in the country churchyard might have become had they been given the opportunity, the speaker uses a series of analogies.  He begins in general terms; he suggests first that one of them, with "heart once pregnant with celestial fire" (line 46), might have been a great ruler or emperor, with "hands, that the rod of empire might have swayed" (line 47).  Another could have been a gifted musician and poet, with his ability to "(wake) to ecstasy the living lyre" (line 48).  Due to their poverty, however, these individuals never had a chance to be educated, and so never were able to attain their fullest potential.

The speaker then uses more specific analogies to illustrate his point, comparing the dead with three of the most powerful and famous men of the previous century.  These men, all opponents of tyranny, are John Hampden, a parliamentary leader who was a defender of the people, John Milton, the author of Paradise Lost, who stood up against the abuses of Charles I, and Oliver Cromwell, military leader and Lord Protector of England, who, despite his own record of atrocities against the Irish, made inroads against dictatorial oppression as well.  The speaker suggests that, having been given the opportunity, there might be some buried in the humble churchyard who could have been as influential as the personages mentioned.  Indeed, he poses the possibility that there may have been one who could have left an even greater, more pure mark on history, someone, for example, with the genius of Cromwell, who would have been "guiltless of his country's blood" (line 60).

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