What neo classical qualities do you find in Gray's poem?
Thomas Gray was a late eighteenth century poet. He used high sounding gaudy phrases and cliches which characterise neo classical poetry. He is not spontaneous in his expressions rather overburdens his style with personifications and rhetorical flourishes.
The "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard,"has earned Thomas Gray a permanent place of poetic reputation and dignity in literary history. The poem was written at the end of the Augustan Age and at the beginning of the Romantic period, and the poem has characteristics associated with both literary periods. On the one hand, it has the ordered, balanced phrasing and rational sentiments of Neoclassical poetry. On the other hand, it tends toward the emotionalism and individualism of the Romantic poets; most importantly, it idealizes and elevates the common man.
The elegy is characterized by neoclassical elements. Although like the Romantics , the poem is written in iambic pentameter ,Gray employs personification with eloquent classical diction in the manner of the neoclassical poets. There is a compliance and conformity to the classical form of an elegy as Gray gives his individual estimate of the world, which is, however, a Romantic expression.The pace of iambic pentameter is dignified, and Gray makes skillful use of monosyllabic words and long vowels in his elegy. Personification is also a neo-classical trait which Gray utilizes:
"The boast of hearldry, the pomp of power,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
Awaits alike the inevitable hour:
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.
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.