Tuesday, 16 February 2010

On this day...

Thomas Gray's 'Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard', was published in 1751. Known as one of the 'graveyard poets' of the late 1700s, along with Oliver Goldsmith, Christopher Smart and William Cowper, Gray wrote the poem in a graveyard of a church Stoke Pages, Buckinghamshire. Its stoic and reflective tone endeared it to the British public upon its publication, and also leant it to being translated into Latin and Greek.

It is still one of the most fequently quoted poems in the English language, and indeed a passage was used by General James Wolfe in the Seven Years War to rouse his troops. Such was the poem's success, it was the most reprinted poem of the 18th century, that Gray was offered the post of Poet Laureate in 1757 upon the death of Colly Cibber, yet he refused. The poem has donated several phrases into the English lexicon, including; 'paths of glory', 'kindred spirits' and 'far from the madding crowd', which Hardy famously used for the title of one of his novels.

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