illustration of a country churchyward with a variety of gravestones

Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard

by Thomas Gray

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"Full Many A Flower Is Born To Blush Unseen"

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 142

Context: As he ruminates on death, Gray observes that once it has called a man, nothing can ever call him back. And as he thinks of the simple country folk in the graves beneath his feet, he wonders whether some of them, had they not been unlettered and not always striving to maintain their meager way of life, might have been potentially great statesmen, artists, or musicians. Furthermore, through two particularly apt figures of speech, he notes that the creative spirit is sometimes unrecognized:

Full many a gem of purest ray serene
The dark unfathom'd caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flow'r is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.
Some village Hampden, that with dauntless breast
The little tyrant of his fields withstood;
Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,
Some Cromwell guiltless of his country's blood.

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