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  1. Newbie
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    #1

    Gray's Grammar

    The ninth stanza of Gray's Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard reads:
    The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow'r,
    And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
    Awaits alike th'inevitable hour.
    The paths of glory lead but to the grave.
    "Poetic licence"notwithstanding, shouldn't the verb form in the first sentence be plural, i.e. "Await" rather than "Awaits"?

  2. Piscean's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Gray's Grammar

    Quote Originally Posted by renbri View Post
    "Poetic licence"notwithstanding,
    You can't set aside poetic licence when you are talking about poetry.
    shouldn't the verb form in the first sentence be plural, i.e. "Await" rather than "Awaits"?
    Normally, yes.

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    #3

    Re: Gray's Grammar

    I'm not trying to "set aside poetic licence".
    I'm suggesting that, unless we can defend it on some aesthetic or figurative grounds, i.e. show what the poetic purpose is, the choice of "Awaits" is a simple grammatical error. So, why do you think Gray chose "Awaits"?

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    #4

    Re: Gray's Grammar

    Well, I have two possible answers to that question. The first is grab yourself a time machine and ask him! The second is that I find it very unlikely that the poet himself made a "simple grammatical error". There is a chance that a typo might have been made when it was being copied but if every copy of the poem uses the same word, then it's the word that Gray used. I think we can safely say he used it on purpose but unless you have the aforementioned time machine, you'll never know why.
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

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    #5

    Re: Gray's Grammar

    Quote Originally Posted by emsr2d2 View Post
    Well, I have two possible answers to that question. The first is grab yourself a time machine and ask him! The second is that I find it very unlikely that the poet himself made a "simple grammatical error". There is a chance that a typo might have been made when it was being copied but if every copy of the poem uses the same word, then it's the word that Gray used. I think we can safely say he used it on purpose but unless you have the aforementioned time machine, you'll never know why.
    Not very illuminating emsr.

    The best I can suggest is ellipsis. After he's listed the foolish pretensions of the rich and famous and beautiful, Gray wants us to mentally insert the words "each one" (or something similar), which then allows the singular verb form.
    The trouble for me is that I automatically twitch when subject and verb disagree. Pitiful really.
    Sigh.

  6. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: Gray's Grammar

    In my opinion, the author considered the list ended after "and all that beauty". That leaves "all that wealth..." as a singular.

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    #7

    Re: Gray's Grammar

    I'm afraid that the conjunctive is what ensures plurality. Would you say "The horse , the pig. the sheep, and the cow is a farm animal"?

  8. Piscean's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: Gray's Grammar

    I think you want a conclusive answer to your original question when there is none, renbri.

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    #9

    Re: Gray's Grammar

    In this case, the conjunction is in the wrong place to include "all that wealth". Would you say "the horse, the pig, and the sheep, the cow are a farm animal"?

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    #10

    Re: Gray's Grammar

    No, I'd say "The horse, the pig, the sheep and the cow are farm animals.", which is precisely my point.

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