Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard by Thomas Gray

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Topics for Further Study

(Poetry for Students)

Do you think the speaker of this poem is sentimentalizing the forgotten people in the country churchyard, or is he giving them the recognition they deserve? Would this poem have the same meaning if it were written in a churchyard in a busy city?

Visit a cemetery near you, pick the tombstone of a person that you do not know, and write a page about what that person might have been like, focusing on the social changes that person may have experienced. What does the length of that person's life tell you? What can you tell from where they are buried?

It could be argued that people in modern society are more likely to remember the accomplishments of poor people than they were in Gray's time? It is just as possible, though, that we are as preoccupied with the famous and wealthy as people in seventeenth-century England were with royalty. Explain what you think about this issue.