Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Postcard 80: Thoughts sparked by Gray and a Country Churchyard

Cambridge, where 'Gray's Elegy' may have been composed

'The curfew tolls the knell ...' 

Many of us can recite this much of Gray's 'Elegy written in a Country Churchyard'. How many of us, though, know anything much about the background to the poem? I was delighted to read the interesting feature by Carol Rumens in her 'Poem of the Week' column in 'The Guardian'.

In my mind's eye I do not see Cambridge, a place I know well, for it was my home town for five years. Instead, I picture a rural churchyard, full of greenery and perhaps dominated by a large Yew. This may be because the driveway up to my childhood home ran alongside a scene such as this, and childhood impressions are etched deep in our psyches. The view below captures something similar, although it is in a completely different part of the country. 

A Country Churchyard
This is actually the churchyard (and a beautifully mown one!) at Vowchurch in Herefordshire. It has nothing to do with Gray, but it represents the kind of place I associate with the poem.

St Bartholomew's, Vowchurch, Herefordshire
Vowchurch has interesting literary connections of its own. We visited it once on our way to the Hay Festival (on a rather round-and-about route).

As you approach Vowchurch from the road . . .
Lewis Carroll, of 'Alice' fame, was really Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. His brother, Skevington Hume Dodgson, was the incumbent here from 1895-1910. Their father, Charles Dodgson Senior, was an Archdeacon. You can read about the family on this site.

This beautiful part of Herefordshire, Golden Valley, is also associated with another Lewis, namely C.S. Lewis, creator of the wonderful 'Narnia' stories.

No comments: