Sandburg's Hometown

April 28, 2014

 Illumniated Manuscript of Thomas Gray's ELEGY

An illuminated manuscript of Thomas Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard"
(Hand-written and illuminated by Sidney Farnsworth, 1910)

Gray's "Elegy..."

by Barbara Schock

When Carl Sandburg was in the sixth grade, his teacher was Lottie Goldquist. She emphasized to her students that they should get “the reading habit.” Books could be a comfort in times of stress; a friend in times of loneliness and a teacher in times of need.

Miss Goldquist introduced the class to a poem by Thomas Gray: “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard.” The boys and girls memorized the poem. In those days, it was common to memorize poems and other pieces of literature. The thirty-two stanzas of Gray’s poem required considerable effort.

Thomas Gray was born in Cornhill, London. His parents were Philip and Dorothy Antrobus Gray. Thomas was their fifth child and the only one to survive of the twelve born to them. He was taught by his two uncles who were on the faculty of Eton College. Thomas was not athletic and enjoyed reading and observing the world around him.

Gray went on to Cambridge and started writing poems. In 1742 he began writing “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard.” The graveyard was of St. Giles Church in Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire, where his aunt Mary Antrobus was buried.

The poem was completed in 1750 and first published in 1751. It became very popular and was recognized for its beauty and use of words as well as the themes of death and the afterlife. A number of phrases from the poem have entered the English language and have become commonly used, such as “the paths of glory,” “celestial fire” and “kindred spirit.” The poem was translated into many languages, including Japanese as late as 1882.

In 1898, when Carl Sandburg was in the United States Army, he remembered Gray’s poem and recited it to himself as he paced back and forth on guard duty. Along with millions of stars in the sky, the words of the poem were a consolation to his apprehension about going off to war.

Thomas Gray died July 30, 1771, in Cambridge. He was buried beside his mother in the country churchyard.

Sandburg's Hometown
Date Title
April 28, 2014 Gray's "Elegy..."
April 21, 2014 Off to War
April 14, 2014 Swedish Easter
April 7, 2014 A Father's Face
March 31, 2014 Secret Societies
March 24, 2014 George A. Murdock, Merchant
March 10, 2014 Trade Cards
March 3, 2014 The Demorest Medal
February 24, 2014 Rip Van Winkle
February 17, 2014 Cabbage Soup
February 10, 2014 Lincoln's Birthday
February 3, 2014  The Colonel
January 27, 2014 The Lincoln Penny - A Little History
January 20, 2014 Walking to Work
January 13, 2014  A Small Abode
January 6, 2014 Birth of a Poet
December 30, 2013 Christmas 1880
December 23, 2013 Swedish Christmas
December 16, 2013 The Reporter Sees Santa
December 9, 2013 The Coming of Christmas
December 2, 2013 The Fire Boys Talk
November 25, 2013 Galesburg Will Feast on Turkeys and Cranberries - Thanksgiving 1893
November 18, 2013  Mary Sandburg Johnson
November 11, 2013 Carl Sandburg's Bicycle
November 4, 2013  Lace Curtains 
October 28, 2013 The Front Room
October 21, 2013 A Warm Breakfast
October 14, 2013 Marion D. Shutter
October 7, 2013 Cigars and Consumption
September 30, 2013 Forrest F. Cooke & August Sandburg
September 16, 2013 Forrest F. Cooke, Mayor
September 9, 2013 Dusty Streets
September 2, 2013 Typhoid Fever
August 26, 2013 Coffee and Water
August 19, 2013 A Horse! A Horse!
August 12, 2013 Gaddial Scott
August 5, 2013 The Racetrack
July 29, 2013 John Peter Algeld - Part II
July 22, 2013 John Peter Altgeld - Part I
July 15, 2013 Tramps, Tramps, Tramps
July 8, 2013 Lady Liberty
July 1, 2013 Galesburg's Fourth
June 24, 2013 John H. Finley
June 17, 2013 The World's Columbian Exhibition
June 10, 2013 Fruit Short-Cake
June 3, 2013 Horatio Alger, Author
May 27, 2013 Memorial Day, 1887
May 20, 2013 Professor Jon W. Grubb
May 13, 2013 Beginnings of Lombard University
May 6, 2013 Young Sandburg’s View of Lombard College
April 29, 2013 Thinking
April 22, 2013 Robert Colville, Master Mechanic
April 15, 2013 The Galesburg Opera House
April 8, 2013 Grocery Stores and Sample Rooms
April 1, 2013  A Hearty  Breakfast 
March 25, 2013  The Lost Wallpaper Legend 
March 18, 2013 Martin G. Sandburg
March 4, 2013 The Edison Talking Machine
February 25, 2013 Joe Elser, Civil War Veteran
February 18, 2013 Remember the Maine...
February 11, 2013 Lincoln's Birthday
February 4, 2013 Curiosity