In the Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard (1751), his masterpiece (= capolavoro) and most famous work, Gray meditates on death and its meaning. The elegy marks a change in the spirit of poetry because of its new attention to the “short and simple annals of the poor”; it becomes the story of simple people who lived a troubled everyday life.
Thomas Gray’s (1716 – 1771) life was surrounded (= circondata) by loss (= perdite)and death, and many people that he knew died painfully (= dolorosamente) and alone.
Gray expresses a gentle and deep (= profonda), personal melancholy in a dramatic and emotional form that reflects the rising (= crescente) interest in Gothic themes and atmosphere.
The poet started to compose the Elegy soon after the news of his friend Richard West’s death in mid
1742. Once finished, the poet sent his work to Horace Walpole who made it circulate widely (= ampiamente) and arranged for its publication.
The poem is about the poet’s thoughts while he is wandering in a country churchyard, at twilight (= tramonto), and meditating upon the obscure destinies of the rude (= rozzi) villagers buried there, whose unknown virtues and talents were, perhaps, greater than in famous people.