Study Guide

Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard Death

By Thomas Gray

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Well, Shmoopers, you probably saw this one coming: "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" is a poem that takes place in a cemetery, and it's about how people are remembered after they're dead. So you better believe that death is an important theme! But if this theme gets you down, don't worry—the poem isn't all doom and gloom, and there are plenty of other themes to consider in relationship to this central focus on death.

Questions About Death

  1. What elements of the poem's setting or its opening images tip you off that it's going to be about death and mortality? How do you know? 
  2. At what point the poem do you think the speaker shifts from thinking about the deaths of the villagers in the churchyard to thinking about his own eventual death? Or do you think he's really just musing about his own death the whole time? Why do you think so?
  3. The poem is called an "elegy," or a mournful poem written in someone's memory. Is it an elegy written about the deaths of the villagers, or about the speaker's own death? Or about death in general? How do you know?

Chew on This

Glass half full alert! The presence of so many birds, trees, and other natural elements suggests that death is relieved by the possibility of renewal and new life.

This isn't about the simply country folk. Nope, the poem exists for the speaker to mourn the inevitability of his own death.

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