Thomas Gray

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At Eton Gray's closest friends were Horace Walpole, Richard West (son of the lord chancellor of Ireland and grandson of the famous Bishop Burnet), and Thomas Ashton, afterwards fellow of Eton. This little coterie was dubbed " the Quadruple Alliance "; its members were studious and literary, and took little part in the amusements of their fellows. In 1734 Gray matriculated at Peterhouse, Cambridge, of which his uncle, Robert Antrobus, had been a fellow. At Cambridge he had once more the companionship of Walpole and Ashton who were at King's, but West went to Christchurch, Oxford. Gray made at this time the firmest and most constant friendship of his life with Thomas Wharton (not the poet Warton) of Pembroke College. He was maintained by his mother, and his straitened means were eked out by certain small exhibitions from his college. His conspicuous abilities and known devotion to study perhaps atoned in the eyes of the authorities for his indifference to the regular routine of study; for mathematics in particular he had an aversion which was the one exception to his almost limitless curiosity in other directions.

Содержание работы

1.Thomas Gray Biography

2.The Works of Thomas Gray

3.“Elegy written in a Country Churchyard”

4.The Epitaph


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Repetition of a word, phrase, or clause at the beginning of word groups occurring one after the other

And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave (line 34)

Their name, their years, spelt by th' unletter'd muse (line 81) 

Ev'n from the tomb the voice of Nature cries,  
Ev'n in our ashes live their wonted fires. (lines 91-92)

Comparison between unlike things without using like, as, or than

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. (lines 53-56)  
Comparison of the dead village people to gems and flowers

Or heap the shrine of Luxury and Pride  
With incense kindled at the Muse's flame. (lines 71-72)  
Comparison of flattering words to incense

Use of a word or phrase to suggest a related word or phrase

To scatter plenty o'er a smiling land  
Land stands for people.

A form of metaphor that compares a thing to a person

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. (lines 29-32)  
Ambition and Grandeur take on human characteristics.

But Knowledge to their eyes her ample page  
Rich with the spoils of time did ne'er unroll (line 49-50)  
Notice that Knowledge becomes a person, a female.

Fair Science frown'd not on his humble birth,   
And Melancholy mark'd him for her own. (lines 119-120)  
Science and Melancholy become persons.

     .Scholars regard "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" as one of the greatest poems in the English language. It weaves structure, rhyme scheme, imagery and message into a brilliant tapestry that confers on Gray everlasting fame. The quality of its poetry and insights reach Shakespearean and Miltonian heights.   


     As a poet Gray was admired and influential out of all proportion to his ambitions and modest output of verse. The whole of his anthumously published poetry amounts to less than 1,000 lines. He was unquestionably one of the least productive and yet, besides William Collins (1721-1759), the predominant poetic figure of the middle decades of the 18th century, and an important reference point for the Romantic revival which was soon to come. Gray's poetry was strongly marked by the taste for sentiment controlled by classical ideals of restraint and composure that characterized the later Augustans, but prepared the way for the inward emotional exploration displayed by the Romantics of the 1790-1820 generation. He shows sensitive response to natural environment without the sense of organic union with human nature predominant in the later generation. Yet Gray was neither a half-hearted Augustan, nor a timid Romantic, he may rather be considered as the Classicist variant of the transition into the Romantic era. He combined traditional forms and poetic diction with new topics and modes of expression. He almost worshipped Dryden and loved Racine as heartily as Shakespeare. He valued polish and symmetry as highly as the school of Pope, and shared their taste for didactic reflection and for pompous personification. Yet he also shared the taste for sensibility, which found expression in the Romanticism of the following period. In poetry he was regarded as an innovator, for, like Collins, he revived the poetic diction of the past. The adverse judgements of Johnson (Life of Gray [27ff.]), Wordsworth (Preface to Lyrical Ballads [1802]) and others upon his work are, in fact, seldom more than a defence of current literary practice. Gray was in his own time a distinguished practitioner of poetic form, exemplified by his abandonment of the close discipline of the heroic couplet for the greater rhetorical freedom of his odes, a form nevertheless sanctioned by antiquity. A man of studious instincts, of a retiring and somewhat melancholy temperament, he nevertheless set his mark upon his age. And his one poem, the "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard", considered as the representative poem of its age, was to become a lasting contribution to the English heritage. It is no doubt thanks to the "Elegy" that Gray has been able to continuously attract the attention of literary scholarship. It has spared Gray the fate of many 18th-century poets falsely considered as "minor": if reception history is incomplete or ceases and an author drops out of informing the reception and interpretation of an age and other writers, he becomes a relic, a thing of another period altogether, and isolated from literary discourse.

     It had been a lifetime of reading, of reflection, of essentially unsupervised and uncreative study and research in the academic seclusion of Cambridge, diversified only by little outward incident. Gray's favourite maxim was "to be employed is to be happy", and "to find oneself business is the great art of life." In pursuance of this end he made himself one of the best Greek scholars at Cambridge, and cultivated his fine taste in music, painting, prints, gardening and architecture. He was interested in metaphysics, criticism, morals, and politics, and his correspondence includes a wide survey of European history and culture, with criticisms of a fresh and modern cast. 

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