Elegy written in a country Churchyard: analysis - Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard This poem is one of the best known in the language and indicates very clearly the transition in literature from the Classical to the Romantic period.This can be seen in the title ( the “elegy” is a typically classic genre, even if the interest in the countryside and ordinary people is a feature of Romanticism. This elegy is a poem celebrating the lives of simple country people buried in a churchyard.
The inner structure of the poem is based on an alternation of descriptions and reflections, the former being sometimes so precise and visually rendered as to suggest paintings.
The poem is made up of 32 stanzas, each stanza of four lines written in iambic pentameters according to an ABAB rhyme scheme. This stanza form is simple and low moving.
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This pattern was dear to neoclassical poets as it enabled them to avoid the risk of monotony inherent in using only one the two models. In spite of this traditional device, the poem offers some novelties above all in the ambivalence of its content. At first sight the gentle Miltonic melancholy and peaceful setting seem to be in keeping with a contemporary taste for the pastoral poetry of Virgil or Theocritus.
In fact neoclassical idealization of poor country life conceals the denunciation of what poverty means in terms of hardship and wasted potential, so that the “rude forefathers” come to be seen in the double role of both happy people and victims of nature and society. Their tombs, silent and obscure, become therefore the natural conclusion of an equally silent and obscure life, symbolized by the “buried gem” and the “unseen flower” (st.14).
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The gentle melancholy consequently turns into a more general sense of frustration which involves the poet himself and culminates in the final epitaph. The poem , modelled on the twenty-fourth Ode of Horace's First Book of odes, can be divided into three “moments”. Stanzas 1-14. It is evening and the poet is alone in a country churchyard, the sigh of the tombs of the “rude forefathers of the Hamlet” call up in the poet's mind images of humble country life.