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Unsung Heroes : The poet reflects on the obscure lives that most of us lead.
Unsung Heroes

Extracted from Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard, by Thomas Gray.

We find in a churchyard people who had the same talents as the great figures of English history and poetry, but not their chance to achieve fame.

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.

But knowledge to their eyes her ample page
Rich with the spoils of time, did ne’er unroll;
Chill penury repressed their noble rage,
And froze the genial* current of the soul.

Full many a gem of purest ray serene
The dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

Some village Hampden, that with dauntless breast,
The little tyrant of his fields withstood;
Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,
Some Cromwell guiltless of his country's blood.**

* In Gray’s time, ‘genial’ was used to describe mild and pleasant climate or weather.

** John Hampden (c.1595-1643) was an English general who challenged King Charles I’s abuse of his authority as King; Oliver Cromwell led England’s shortlived (and bloody) Republic from 1649 until his death in 1658.

Part of Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard, by Thomas Gray (1716-1771).

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Picture: © Stephen McKay, Geograph. Licence: CC-BY-SA 2.0. View original
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