Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard

what are the figures of speech in Gray's elegy written in a country churchyard?

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Thomas Gray : Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard

i) Full many a gem of purest ray serene

The dark unfathom’d caves of ocean bear

Full many a flower is born to blush unseen

And waste its sweetness on the desert air

Ans.

ii) Can storied urn or animated bust

Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?

Can Honour’s voice provoke the silent dust,

Or Flattery soothe the dull cold ear of Death ?

Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid

Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire

Hands that the rod of empire might have swayed

Or waked to ecstasy the living lyre (C.U.1967)

Ans. This long passage contains many figures of speech as given below:

i)First two lines and the second and third lines together contain Erotesis or Rhetorical Interrogation. The questions actually confirm the strong negative answer.

ii) Honour , Flattery and Death are examples of Personifications as abstractions are invested with human qualities. They are imagined to behave like human beings. Death seems to have ears.

iii) Mansion is implicitly compared to body and this is an example of Metaphor which consists in the suggestion that the soul resides in the body. But the point of comparison is not stated.

iv) ‘Silent dust’ is an example of Euphemism which is a tender expression used for unpleasant meaning.

v) Heart in the sixth line is an example of Synecdoche . Heart means the man, in the form of the part meaning the whole.

vi) ‘Pregnant with celestial fire’ is an implicit comparison and hence constitutes an example of Metaphor. Implicit comparison is suggested between two dissimilar things child and celestial fire.

vii) Periphrasis occurs in the last two lines: ‘The rod of empire might have swayed’ and ‘waked to ecstasy the living lyre’.These are round about way of expressions.

iv)The boast of heraldry , the pomp of power

And all that beauty and all that wealth e’er gave

Awaits alike the inevitable hour

The paths of glory lead but to the grave( C.U.1964)

Ans. This passage contains many figures of speech which are listed below:

i) Heraldry and Power in the first line, beauty and wealth in the second line are examples of Personification.

ii) ‘And all that’ occurs twice at the beginning of the clauses in the second line and may be regarded as an Anaphora.

iii) The expression ‘Inevitable hour’ is an example of Periphrasis as the simple word ‘death’ is expressed in a round about way. The soft expression is used for ‘Death’ and from this point of view it is an example of Euphemism.

iv)The last line contains an Epigram. It is apparently contradictory that the paths of glory can lead one not to success but to the grave. But this has a deeper truth that nothing , not even glory , is enduring on earth.

v) The letter ‘p’ is repeated in ‘pomp’ and ‘power’ which are two closely placed words. The letter ‘g’ is repeated in ‘glory’ and ‘grave’ which are two closely placed words. Both are examples of Alliteration.

v)For who to dumb forgetfulness a prey

The first line contains an example of Personification because dumb forgetfulness which is an abstraction is invested with human qualities. It is imagined to be preying on men. Dumb forgetfulness is an example of Transferred Epithet because the epithet ‘dumb’ does not properly belong to ‘forgetfulness’ but to men who are forgotten. Similarly, longing look refers to the person and here the epithet longing is shifted from the subject to the object. This is also an example of Transferred Epithet.

It is also an example of Hyperbaton which consists in the inversion of the syntax.

vi) This pleasing anxious being e’er resigned

This is an example of Oxymoron as the two opposite words ‘pleasing’ and ‘anxious’ coexist side by side

vii) Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day

The comparison between the cheerful day and warm precinct is implicit and hence constitutes an example of Metaphor.

Nor cast one longing lingering look behind?(C.U.1987)

viii)The letter ‘l’ occurs in the beginning of ‘longing, lingering and look

This pleasing anxious being e’er resigned

ix)For who to dumb forgetfulness a prey

Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day

Nor cast one longing lingering look behind?(C.U.1987

The whole passage is an example of Erotesis or Rhetorical Interrogation which in the form of a question confirms the negative intention

vi) Chill penury repressed their noble rage,

Ans. a)The first line contains a Personification as abstraction like ‘penury’ is invested with human attributes. Penury , here meaning poverty , is personified and it suppresses the rage of the people.

And froze the genial current of their soul ( N.B.U.2000)

b) The phrase ‘genial current of their soul’ is a round about way of expression for ‘joy’ or ‘happiness’. So it is an example of Periphrasis or Circumlocution.

vii) The curfew tolls the knell of the parting day

Ans. Abstractions like curfew and day are invested with human qualities and are imagined as human beings. The curfew is tolling the knell like a Sexton and the day is dying like a man. So it is an example of Personification.

It is also an example of Metaphor because here the evening is compared to the death.

viii) The lowing herd winds slowly o’er the lea

Herd means cattle. Here abstract is used for concrete and so it is an example of synecdoche.

viii) The ploughman homeward plods his weary way

This is an example of Transferred Epithet because the adjective ‘weary’ is shifted from the ploughman to the way. Here the ploughman is weary at the end of the day, the way is not weary although the epithet is shifted .

ix)And leaves the world to darkness and to me( V.U.1996)

This is an example of Zeugma because here the verb leaves connects two words darkness and me although it is appropriate only for one word darkness.

x) Let not ambition mock their useful toil

It is an example of Synecdoche because abstract is used for the concrete as the word Ambition actually refers to ambitious people.

xi)Nor Grandeur herar with a disdainful smil

It is an example of Synecdoche because abstract is used for the concrete as the word grandeur refers to the rich people.

xii) The boast of heraldry , the pomp of power /And all that beauty , all that wealth e’er gave.

It is an example of Personification because here the abstractions like heraldry , power, beauty and wealth are personified because they show behaviour and feeling like human beings.

And , all - these are examples of alliteration as the same consonant ‘a’ is used at the beginning of the two words.

xiii) Awaits alike the inevitable hour

It is an example of Euphemism as the ‘inevitable hour’ refers to death avoiding harshness of expression.

And drowsy tinkling lull the distant fields

This is an exmple of Metonymy because container is used for the thing contained as fields refer to the cattle and sheep.

Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke.

This is an example of Hyperbaton as the syntax is inverted for poetic effect.

It is also an example of Metonymy as effect for cause is used when the furrow is used for the plough itself.

Or Flattery soothe the dull cold ear of Death?

This is an example of Personification because death is here personified.

Hands that rod of empire might have swayed

This is an example of Synecdoche in which part for the whole is used as hands refer to the ploughmen themselves.

Some village Hampden that with dauntless breast

This is an example of Synecdoche because individual for classes is indicated as Hampden represents a class of courageous leaders and protestors against tyranny.

Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest

This is an example of Synecdoche because individual for classes is indicated as Milton represents a class of famous talented poets.

Here rests his head upon the lap of Earth

The phrase ‘lap of Earth’ is an example of metaphor as Earth compared to a mother implicitly . Head is an example of Synecdoche as part for the whole is indicated because head means the whole body of the dead person.

Dr.Ratan Bhattacharjee