“Each in his narrow cell forever laid, The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep. ” (Lines 15 – 16) This image of the coffin as the cell parallels that of a monk. The cells are enclosed and constrained just as he expresses the villagers feel later on in the poem when he suggests that they do not step forward to receive greatness. He uses the word ‘rude’ to mean not only rustic, unsophisticated people, but also anonymous people. Monks are anonymous and so are those that he speaks of. There are no activities or farming duties to be done, those that once tended the land, now lie beneath it.
“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! (Lines 25 – 28) The “inevitable hour” (Line 35) relates back to the first line of the poem, “The curfew tolls the knell of the parting day”. All people, whether poor and primitive, or influential and rich, all wait this inevitable hour, the hour of death, the hour that everybody regardless of status will one day experience. The hour in which the church bells ring out their mournful tune.
“The paths of glory… ” (Line 36) not only mean those affluent people who have gained it, either through inheritance, status or rank. But to those anonymous people who no – one knew or remembers, they too were glorious, but in different ways. Those glorious people have gone, and can never come back. “Can storied urn or animated bust Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath? ” (Lines 41 – 42) Grays play on words in line 59 again paints a picture in which these anonymous people in their graves are the same as those who could afford to pay for great memorials.
“Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,” (Line 59) Milton was deaf, not blind and was certainly glorious and admired. Gray tries to say that these people have never had the chance to show that they too are intelligent and are worthy of the same mourning as others, because they have been patronised by “… lis’ning senates… ” and “threats of pain and ruin… “. In Line 55, “Full many a flow’r is born to blush unseen,” he strengthens his point by stating that the villagers have just as many qualities, and are just as intellectual as the glorious, but they move about unheard, unseen and anonymous.
These villagers are still human beings and they want to be remembered, just like everyone else, but they want to be remembered for different things and for different reasons.
Bibliography Butt, J. , (1963) The Poems of Alexander Pope. London: Routledge Fairer, D. , Gerrard, C. , (2004) Eighteenth Century Poetry: An Annotated Anthology. 2nd Edition. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Goodridge, J. , (1995) Rural Life In Eighteenth Century Poetry. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Loghrey, B. , (1984) The Pastoral Mode: A Selection Of Critical Essays. London: Macmillan.