“Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”: A Critique of the British Political Agenda


The Restoration and the eighteenth century brought great changes to the islands of Great Britain. It was a time that witnessed the Act of Union which joined Scotland and Wales to Britain in 1707. Britain achieved political stability and commercial prosperity. New standards of politeness and social behavior prevailed to distinguish between civilized and vulgar citizens. The standards of hierarchy and order helped people participate in and contribute to the emergence of the British Empire and culture. For the sake of expansion, Britain started to drive many of its population and soldiers to settle in its newly occupied territories to encourage the British hegemony in those colonies. For that reason, several English writers, critics, and poets approached the theme of political and social transformation in their literary works. Although Thomas Gray’s poem “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” has been predominantly analyzed as a poem that mourns the death of marginalized poor people, this paper aims to put the poem in its socio-political context. Within a historical framework, this study argues that the poem does not only lament the death of England’s underprivileged individuals but that it also contains a prophecy that started to be fulfilled decades later.


Asad Al-Gahlith, Ahmed Shalabi


eighteenth-century, elegy, Restoration, Great Britain, Thomas Gray, hierarchy