Mason seems to have had evidence for the 1742 date sufficient to satisfy Walpole, though what that evidence was we do not know. The 'Churchyard' was, I am persuaded, posterior to West's death  at least three or four years, as you will see by my note.
Writing to Mason, 1 December 1773 ( of Gray: ''There are ... At least I am sure that I had the twelve or more first lines from himself above three years after that period, and it was long before he finished it.'' Mason evidently made some satisfactory reply, for two weeks later, 14 December 1773 (, VI, 31), Walpole writes: ''Your account of the 'Elegy' puts an end to my other criticism.'' Then Mason in 1775 made the statement just quoted above.
Metrical notation: - |- |- |- |- / - |- |- |- |- / - |- |- |- |- / - |- |- |- |- /Metrical foot type: iambic (- )Metrical foot number: pentameter (5 feet)Rhyme scheme: abab Rhyme (stanza position): cross (abab)Syllable pattern: .10Stanza: quatrain (4 lines)Genre(s): heroic quatrain, elegiac stanza, graveyard school, elegy Theme(s): hopelessness, vanity of life, night, social order, rural life, death ] [Era gia l' ora, che volge 'l disio A' naviganti, e 'ntenerisce 'l cuore Lo di ch' han detto a' dolci amici addio: E che lo nuovo peregrin d' amore Punge, se ode] — squilla di lontano Che paia 'l giorno pianger, che si muore.
[For I see in my thoughts, my sweet fire, One cold tongue, and two beautiful closed eyes Will remain full of sparks after our death.] was begun at Stoke-Poges in the autumn of 1742, probably on the occasion of the funeral of Jonathan Rogers, on the 31st of October. (Price sixpence).'' There was a preface by Horace Walpole.
In the winter of 1749 Gray took it in hand again, at Cambridge, after the death of his aunt, Mary Antrobus. The poem was circulated in MS., and on the 10th of February 1751 Gray received a letter from the editor of the , asking leave to publish it. The text here given is that of the Edition of 1768, which appears to be authoritative and final.
The poet refused, and wrote next day to Horace Walpole, directing him to bring it out in pamphlet form. Gray has appended the following bibliographical note to the Pembroke MS.: - ''Published in Febry. Roberts, & published in 1762, & again in the same year by Rob. A.'' Besides these legitimate editions, the poem was largely pirated; the of 1753. referred to in the notes are that which belonged to Wharton, and is now among the Egerton MSS.
If Dodsley do not do this immediately, he may as well let it alone.''Walpole lost no time, and on the 16th of February the poem was published in a quarto pamphlet, the following being the content of the title-page: - ''An Elegy Wrote in a Country Church Yard. - The poem was at once reproduced in the magazines; it appeared in the ''Magazine of Magazines'' on the 28th of February, in the ''London Magazine'' and in the ''Scots' Magazine,'' on the 31st of March, and in the ''Grand Magazine of Magazines'' on the 30th of April.
Gray has entered the following note in the margin of the Pembroke MS: - ''Publish'd in Febry.
On the 10th of February, 1751, Gray received a letter from the editors of the ''Magazine of Magazines,'' asking permission to publish it.
He thereupon wrote next day to Walpole, as follows: - 11, 1751.''As you have brought me into a little sort of distress, you must assist me, I believe, to get out of it as well as I can. (Price sixpence.)''This then was the first appearance of the ''Elegy'' in print.
After June, 1750, it was circulated in manuscript among his firends, and only an accident hastened its publication.
An editor of the , a cheap periodical, sent word to Gray that he was about to print it, and naturally the author did not care to have a poem of this nature make its entrance into the world by so obscure a by-path.
[For I see in my thoughts, my sweet fire, One cold tongue, and two beautiful closed eyes Will remain full of sparks after our death.] Expanding the poem lines () shows the results of a computationally facilitated analysis of the text.