Archive for August, 2011

In A Churchyard

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd winds slowly o’er the lea,
The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

The beginning of Thomas Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Church Yard” has one of the best beginnings of any poem that I know.

It can be read in full here:


It came to mind again today as I helped my wife tend the grave of her father in a country churchyard near our home. The church itself, St John’s, has long been abandoned by the Church of England authorities, finally closing in 1995 when services were transferred to what was the village hall, just a stones throw away.

The churchyard though is still in use and there is the usual mix of well tended graves along with those that are as abandoned as the old church. It is situated on the very edge of the village with open fields to one side where horses graze and the manor house can be seen in the distance.

It was a warm sunny afternoon and we worked quietly removing dead plants and weeds. Other people came and went; three generations, grandma, son, and grandson paying their respects at a neighbouring plot.  The only sound to disturb the peace, apart from the gentle clip clop of horses hooves on the lane outside the gate, was a contractor with a petrol strimmer.

We finished by replenishing the vase with fresh flowers and then took time to visit the other family graves and paid our respects to my wife’s grandparents and uncles.

I’ve never relished the idea of being buried, coming from a family where cremations have been the usual method of despatch, but I can think of worse places for my mortal remains to rest than a country churchyard.

My own poem on the subject can be found here:


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