Thomas Gray as a Graveyard poet and few of his significant works

Thomas Gray was not only an English poet but a letter writer and a classical scholar. As a profession he had chosen professorship at Pembroke College, Cambridge. In spite of having popularity, in his lifetime, he has published only 13 poems which means that he was a self- critical writer. His uniqueness shows in his decision when he refused the position of Poet Laureate in the year 1757. He was widely acknowledged as a pre-romantic writer because his poetry is named as Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard (1751). It seems that his reputation as a poet revolves around this poem. But, he has also written and published a few other important poems which will be discussed in this article along with his masterpiece. So, let’s look into them –

Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard (1751)

Originally it was titled as Stanzas Wrote in a Country Churchyard which pines about the lost humanity. It was actually inspired by two important people in his life – one is his aunt and the next one is a fellow poet,Richard West. This poem is filled with melancholy which affirms the death of rural lives and values in the context of the growing Industrial Revolution. It parallelly portrays the passing of the poet’s own life and a sense of loss in the life and ambition of the villages. This elegy is often associated with the ‘Graveyard school of poetry’.

Ode on the Death of a Favorite Cat

Presumably, through this poem, the poet mourns the death of Horace Walpole’s cat who was very dear to him. This female cat is named Selima who ‘reclined’, ‘gazed’ at the lake of goldfishes and unfortunately, she was drowned in the same lake and died. This poem also compares the plight for a cat with the tragic fall of some epic heroes.

On the Death of Richard West

As the title clearly confirms, this poem was written for his dear friend and fellow poet, Richard west. It was published posthumously by William Mason, who was the executor of Thomas Gray.

Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College

This poem is basically famous for a few lines which are still widely quoted in English literature, ‘Where ignorance is bliss, / This folly to be wise’.

Finally, we want to end the discussion with one of the famous lines from his masterpiece –

“The paths of glory lead but to the grave.” …


Sohini is a journalism and mass communication enthusiast from Kolkata with an extreme interest in creative writing. Focused on entertainment, health and lifestyle, her stories could make your net surfing much more interesting.
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