Elegies in Country Churchyards

Helen Deutsch

in The Oxford Handbook of the Elegy

Published in print April 2010 | ISBN: 9780199228133
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

 Elegies in Country Churchyards

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This article describes the prospect poem of the eighteenth century; consolation inevitably emerges as a central theme. The poets it explores, Goldsmith and Thomas Gray among them, are sharply aware of the limits of nostalgia and the imprecisions of memory in the evocation of place. It also considers sympathy aroused for the lost ideals of a vanished past mediated via material objects. The power of Gray's poetry infuses the ancient trope of prosopopeia. Gray devalues the Elegy's initial debt to the Christian memento mori to which Mason attributed its popularity. Goldsmith reverses the resignation of the Elegy's melancholy invocation of the landowner's aestheticized prospect, summoning up the ghosts of the pastoral villagers to protest against the continued and very real effects of the enclosure of common lands.

Keywords: prospect poem; Goldsmith; Thomas Gray; Elegy; country churchyards; consolation

Article.  9660 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)

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