illustration of a country churchyward with a variety of gravestones

Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard

by Thomas Gray

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"The Paths Of Glory Lead But To The Grave"

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Context: Following the evocation of the twilight atmosphere at the beginning of the "Elegy," Gray imagines that beneath the green grass of the churchyard sleep "The rude forefathers of the hamlet." The everyday sounds of morning "No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed." No more shall they go about their homely tasks of plowing their land or maintaining their homes. Their lives and their work may have been simple and commonplace, but they were nonetheless worth while. The poet cautions against deprecating what these simple people did and reminds us that death comes to all men:

Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,
Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;
Nor Grandeur hear, with a disdainful smile,
The short and simple annals of the poor.
The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow'r,
And all that beauty, all that wealth, e'er gave
Awaits alike th' inevitable hour.
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

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"The Rude Forefathers Of The Hamlet Sleep"