Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard
by Thomas Gray
Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard Memory and the Past Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Line)
Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid
Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire; (45-46)
The speaker imagines more about what the lives of the villagers were really like. Maybe—just maybe—there was a poet (someone whose heart was filled with "celestial fire") who lived here who just never had a chance to publish his or her work, and so we have no record of them. This kind of memory is purely hypothetical, of course—it's all a big "what if."
Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,
Some Cromwell guiltless of his country's blood. (59-60)
Another hypothetical: what if a poet as awesome as John Milton (who wrote Paradise Lost) had lived and died here, totally unknown and undiscovered? What if someone with the passion and ambition of Oliver Cromwell (the guy who ran the English Commonwealth after the assassination of King Charles I) lived and died here, but never had a chance to fulfill his ambitions?
Their name, their years, spelt by th' unletter'd muse,
The place of fame and elegy supply: (81-82)
Instead of a fancy monument or a literary biography, all these dead villagers get is a simple tombstone—badly spelt—with their names and the years that they lived and died. According to the speaker, does this mean that we should forget about them?