Study Guide

Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard Allusions

By Thomas Gray

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Literary and Philosophical References

  • Milton" is a reference to John Milton, the seventeenth-century poet who penned Paradise Lost. (59)
  • The Muses—goddesses in Greek and Roman mythology who were responsible for inspiring artists, musicians, and poets. (72, 81)

Historical References

  • The "village-Hampden" referenced here is John Hampden, a Puritan politician who opposed the policies of King Charles I. He refused to pay a tax he thought was unfair. (57)
  • "Cromwell" is a reference to Oliver Cromwell, the guy who ruled Britain after leading the anti-Royalists in the Civil War and bringing about the execution of King Charles I. Cromwell was the head of the short-lived English Commonwealth in 1649-1660. (60)

Pop Culture References

No references to popular culture in this poem, but there are some famous references to this poem in later literature! Thomas Hardy clearly loved this poem—he picks up some of the same ideas and themes in his poem, "Afterwards," and he uses a line of the poem to title his novel, Far From the Madding Crowd. Jane Austen has the irritatingly stuck-up Mrs. Elton quote from this poem in her novel Emma, and William Wordsworth uses Thomas Gray as an example of what NOT to do as a poet in his "Preface to Lyrical Ballads."

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