Graveyard School of Poetry in the 18th Century

Graveyard school of poetry:

Graveyard Poets, also called Churchyard poets are poets who wrote a type of mournfully reflective poetry with emphasis on the brevity of life and on the sepulchral (and the hope of immortality) which had some vogue in 18th c. England, and in the latter half of the century was a widespread phenomenon in Europe.

These poems express the sorrow and pain of bereavement of those left behind, evoke the horror of death’s physical manifestations, questions about the afterlife, and suggest the transitory nature of human life.

It was possibly part of a reaction against Augustan principles of decorum (q.v.) which did not favour anything melancholy or self-indulgently piteous. They are also considered pre-Romanticists, ushering in the Romantic literary movement by their reflection on emotional states.

One of the earliest examples is Thomas Parnell’s Night-Piece on Death (1721). The best-known works are Edward Young‘s Night Thoughts (1742) and Robert Blair’s The Grave (1743), Thomas Gray‘s Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard (1750) and Ugo Foscolo’s De’ Sepolcri (1807).

Also read: What is a Pastoral Elegy? Its Characteristics and Examples