Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard Questions and Answers
by Thomas Gray

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What are some figures of speech in Thomas Gray's poem "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard"? 

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Thomas Gray's powerful and evocative poem, "Elegy in a Country Churchyard," employs a Neo-classical form while demonstrating poetic techniques of Romanticism. Gray's elegy is written in heroic quatrains of a lofty tone--a stanza of four lines of iambic pentameter having the rhyme scheme abab. It ends with an epitaph, a poetic inscription intended to be on a gravestone. 

Below are some figures of speech that this poem employs. 

Personification: the attribution of human traits to non-human or inanimate objects

  • In stanza 9: "Let not Ambition mock their useful tool." Ambition is capitalized as though it were a name, and it "mocks," which is a human trait.
  • In stanza 9: "The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,/ And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave." "Boast" and "pomp" are human characteristics.
  • In stanza 11: "Flattery" can "soothe," and "Death" possesses a "cold ear." "Flattery" is given the human ability to soothe; Death is mentioned as a person who possesses an ear and refuses to hear.
  • In stanza 12: "Hands" might have been "swayed"--(persuaded). Hands are a human trait, and people persuade.
  • In stanza 13: "Knowledge to their eyes her ample page." The feminine pronoun her is used with the quality of knowledge, thus affording it human qualities.
  • In stanza 22: "Forgetfulness" is "dumb." Because most objects and living things are mute, making it notable that something or someone is unable to speak is personification.
  • In stanza 23: "The voice of Nature." Nature is likened to a person who speaks.

Metaphor: (often) an unstated comparison of two unlike things; one thing is spoken of as though it were something else

  • In stanza 9: "The boast of heraldry" (noble descent, wealth and power) and "the paths of glory" (honor and distinction) "lead but to the grave." Gray makes unstated comparisons of noble descent to the possession of wealth, power,...

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