Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield,
Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke;
How jocund did they drive their team afield!
How bow'd the woods beneath their sturdy stroke!
- Now the speaker imagines the kinds of things these guys did back when they were still alive.
- These are country folks, remember (since they were described as "rude," and since we know from the title that this is a "country churchyard"), so they were farmers.
- They often harvested their crops with their sickles (a sickle is a curved knife, like this).
- More farmer lingo in this line: the "furrow" is a long, narrow, shallow hole that you drop seeds into. "Glebe" is an archaic word for farmland. Farmers would cut the furrow into the glebe using a plough, but if the ground is really hard to break into, you might describe it as "stubborn." Here's a pic of a plough cutting a furrow.
- The speaker imagines that the farmers were cheerful, or jocund, as they drove their teams of oxen or mules into the field to plough.
- The woods bowed to the stroke of their axes as they cleared forests to make their farms.
- More personification! Even if you're really handy with an axe, the trees aren't going to bow down to you out of respect. They're just going to fall over.